So I’m onto the ‘important’ chapter of ‘How to Talk So Kids Listen’, which is ‘Alternatives to punishment’.
This is the chapter that got me interested, because as I said, Curly Headed Boy turning 7 has been tricky. Initially we succumbed to the fear that we hadn’t been clear enough with him and he ‘should be learning to behave by now’ etc etc. But that just increased the anger, defiance and overall shouting levels in the house.
I’m not a fan of smacking, although sorely tempted! We hadn’t really used ‘time out’ much apart from as purely a calming down mechanism. We had associated ‘treats’ like TV, computer, chocolate snack etc to good behaviour that has to be earned. But we’d started to have to ‘take away’ things when we couldn’t get through to CHB and we seemed to just not be getting through to him at all.
So far chapter 1 about stopping disagreeing with our kids feelings and chapter 2 on how to get them to do what we want, has made a big difference in my relationship with both kids.
Alternatives To Punishment
The idea seems to be instead of being a doormat or being too punitive, finding a way to be assertive and fair.
Here is what they suggest:
1) Point out ways to be helpful: i.e. what you want them to do, rather than what you don’t want them to do
2) Express your disapproval without being mean: i.e. don’t use the word ‘you’ (see previous chapter reviews)
3) State your expectations: what you want them to be doing
4) Show the child how to make amends: e.g. clear up the mess
5) Offer a choice: e.g. behave nicely or I split you two up (dinner time!)
6) Take action: i.e. don’t just threaten, do something about it and follow through
7) Allow the child to experience the consequences of their misbehaviour: e.g. because you were so naughty on the dog walk yesterday, I’m not bringing you today
I’m less convinced about ‘offering a choice’. I remember an epic tantrum from Little Dimples when I explained she could either go in the pushchair or hold my hand as we were on a busy St Albans street. She proceeded to throw herself on the pavement and scream for what felt like an hour, whilst I was powerless to do anything and apart from stand there as people with disapproving stares walked by. I’d forgotten there was that THIRD option; create mayhem! Obviously it’s only going to work where they don’t think of that clever 3rd option.
I like No7; so often punishments are totally unconnected from the misbehaviour. It makes sense for the child to understand consequences of their actions, rather than punishment.
I know from personal family experience that use of the cane at school did not stop a child from being naughty; it’s more that the child looked on it like an excuse to do it again, because they could be ‘absolved’ by the caning. Did you know that a large percentage of parents who use physical punishment, find the children turning on them when they are big enough?
My parents were much older than most and very strict with me. I’m not sure that being well behaved out of fear is the way to go either. If possible, I would prefer that our kids behaved well because they respect and love us; with only a dash of fear ;o)
From my training I know that ‘sorry’ doesn’t mean ‘I’m gutted I did it, I won’t do it again’, it more likely means either ‘I’m gutted I was caught’. I teach my kids to say ‘sorry’ because society expects it, but I also know that it means very little.
For more complicated problems they suggest a Problem solving approach.
1) Talk about your child’s feelings (see chapter 1)
2) Talk about your feelings and needs (see chapter 2)
3) Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution by ..
4) Writing down ALL ideas without evaluating first
5) Then agreeing on which suggestions you like/dislike and which you plan to follow through on
6) Don’t permit the child to blame or accuse you or anyone else at any point
Remember to chose a time that works for both of you to discuss it; there is no point trying when either CHB or LD are in a mood.
I really liked this statement “I’m not interesting in blaming anyone for what happened in the past. I am interested in seeing an improvement in the future”; I’m really sure that taking responsibility for their part in how their lives turns out is a REALLY important thing for our kids to learn for a healthy future. Responsibility is very different from blame; it’s something that we can do something about.
Now this one I haven’t tried yet, so it will be interesting to see how it works, especially as it’s meant to help with problems between siblings. At the moment it seems that if the Big Hairy Northern One and I happen to both be busy doing chores, the kids will ALWAYS kick off.
Have you been trying out the ideas in my summaries over the past few weeks? I’d love to know if it has made a difference for you and if you’ve bought the book now?
Don’t forget to add a link in the comments if you have reviewed this book too.
Next week is ‘encouraging autonomy’; no problem of that with Little Dimples!
Here are my reviews of the other chapters: