The Art of Positive Discipline

I had a whiny little girl in my office the other day. It was clear to me the mother had gotten used to all that irritating behavior. Not that she liked it. Just put up with it. You could see she was unhappy and stressed. I stopped my conversation with her and turned to her daughter. “Laura,” I said, “You’re going to have to stop whining because I can’t hear your mommy.” That only worked for about three minutes. So [drumroll, please] in came the consequence. Use Natural Consequences I told her, “I know you really want to leave. However, I need to speak to mommy. And I will speak to mommy. But if I can’t hear her or she can’t hear me, I’ll have to stop and wait for you to quiet down before we can continue. So your noise will make the whole visit take that much longer.” Well, folks, you could hear a pin drop. That child just turned into an angel in front of my eyes! Her mom beamed, I’ll tell you. And by the way, she was only four. She understood. Clear as a bell. Clever Way To Explain Time Out Some time later, she–quietly–started kicking the chair. I chose not to address her again because that would have paid entirely too much attention to her misbehavior. As she was sitting right next to her mom, I said to the mother: “Now that is a good illustration of when to use time out. You put her in that corner right there for four minutes. Get a big portable kitchen timer and set it.” The...

5 Strategies for a Better Parent Child Relationship

Here’s an excerpt from a textbook. It’s about a parent who is not in synch with his or her child: “Such a parent would have moments of intrusiveness that appeared to be emotional invasions into the infant’s state of mind. These were generally not hostile in nature; a parent might suddenly grab a happliy playing child and shower him with excited hugs and kisses without warning, disrupting the child’s focus of attention and state of mind. That is, the parent would try to be connected, but in a way that was not contingent to the child’s communication.” #1- How To Get In Synch The parent is not on the same page. Yes, parents have to move over to their child’s page, not the other way around, starting in infancy. Parents who have no history of being treated with any sensitivity at all will have a hard time with this. But–here’s the clincher–giving up is not an option! That’s one more job of a parent. Here is how to practice getting more and more able to “read” what page someone is on (You can do this with adults or children; doesn’t matter): Step 1: Guess what they’re thinking/experiencing at the moment and explain to yourself why you think so. Step 2: Check it out with the person. In a very casual way, just say, “You know, I want to be a more aware person. I’m trying to understand you a little better, so I hope you’ll help me. What I’m trying to do now is guess how you feel and why. Can I run by you what I came up...

Parenting: 11 Rules of Positive Discipline

For children to want to listen, they must feel loved. Discipline without love is worthless. For children to grow up to love themselves, they must learn responsibility. Both love and discipline are necessary for healthy, happy children. Rule #1 – See The World Through His Eyes One thing they do which backfires is to minimize what is important to their child. If being in the in-crowd is important and she wasn’t asked to a party, that hurts. If he wasn’t chosen for the team, that hurts. Don’t ever act like it’s not and they should get over it. That would be the same as telling you, “Oh, your boss fired you today? Well, it’s not important! Get over it!” Each person is entitled to see the world through his or her own eyes. Rule #2 – Give Constructive Criticism with Plenty of Praise Let’s ask the following question: How necessary is constructive criticism? To answer it, imagine you are helping a child with math. What will work better, pointing out how he got the idea right in two or three places, or saying over and over, “that’s wrong, that’s wrong”? The truth is, he does need to be told when he does it wrong, just so he doesn’t accidentally think it is right. But you know from experience that he will become demoralized if everything seems to be wrong. SOMETHING’s got to be right! John Gottman, the eminent researcher, found that people need 5 positives for every negative. So, yes, you sometimes can’t avoid constructive criticism, but make sure there’s 5 constructive praises for every one of them. What...

Teaching Children To Be Organized

I overheard a snippet of family conversation between one of my adult children and her Life Partner which went like this: Life Partner: “So, do you have our flight number and departure time?” Adult Child: “I couldn’t find it. It’s somewhere in the luggage but the baby is sleeping and I can’t venture to wake him up.” This little bit transported me back in time. I could see myself standing at the doorway of one of my children’s rooms, long ago, shaking my head at the mess and heaving a deep sigh. With my oldest, the Adult Child in question, I listened to the experts who said, “The child’s room is his or her domain. Leave the children alone about it’s condition.” Kids Have To Be Taught Organization Why, why, I wonder, didn’t I think of myself as enough of an “expert”  back then to realize that this is a big bunch of bunk? Sure, the child’s room is, indeed, his or her personal fiefdom, but how is a child supposed to learn the high-level skill of organizing that room if it’s not taught? By osmosis? I was lucky by the time I got to my third child. He was so colossally disorganized that I had no choice but to scrap the gurus’ brilliant—but wrong—advice and take upon myself the painstaking job of helping him develop an organized mind. In fact, the project was launched precisely three days before his Bar Mitzvah. He was expecting friends to sleep over for the occasion and the word, “chaotic” would have been an understatement for the condition of his room. There wasn’t...

Parents, Have You Done Your Trust Building?

She sits sullenly looking at the floor. They all do, the teenagers roped into therapy by angry parents. “It isn’t enough that she isn’t doing her homework; it turns out she’s online with boys behind my back,” growls Mrs. Portnoy. “She’s only 14 and I’m scared to death what she’s getting into.” Sylvia continues to stare at the floor. Not a sign of life. Mrs. Portnoy continues, “I’ve pleaded, I’ve argued, I’ve yelled…” Sylvia suddenly comes somewhat alive, remarking, “‘Screamed’ is more like it.” For some reason, the teens seem to have found the subtle distinction between yelling and screaming. I’m always impressed with that—and saddened, too, that they should have had so much exposure to the two forms of expressed anger that they can make such fine distinctions. “Yes, that’s right,” glowers Mrs. Portnoy, “because nothing I say or do works.” “We both try,” Mr. Portnoy pleads, perhaps slightly embarrassed by his wife’s forcefulness. There I sit, compelled to be diplomatic towards the poor Portnoys who truly want the best for their child, are clueless how to get it, and—worst of all—are causing much of the problem their child is facing. I must be loving and gentle with the Portnoys in helping them because if I’m the least bit challenging, the least bit confrontative, the least bit offensive (and people can take easy offense when hearing that they did something wrong), they’re out the door and Sylvia will be resigned to an awful life: a life of self-doubt, low self-esteem, confusion, and self-hate. She may also get involved in drugs, gangs, or early pregnancy. This is not an...

Teaching Your Child Kindness

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News They played on the floor, the contented toddlers, surrounded by crushed candy wrappers, smashed candy pieces and other telltale signs of a party. One little one toddled over towards Menachem, and engrossed in his own efforts to get the little piece out of the container, dropped the whole container. Menachem, who had recently turned two, was involved in munching his own sweets, but he saw the action, and without missing a beat—or a bite—reached over, picked up the fallen candy container, and handed it to the other toddler before the recipient could cry. From the sidelines, I watched, astonished. Most kids would keep the fallen goodies. Most kids would truly believe it was theirs, and most parents would excuse the miscreant. “After all,” they would reason with perfect logic, “he’s only a baby.” But will that kid learn to share? Will he learn “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is not mine”? At what point will he learn that? Will his parents make the same excuses for him at ten? At fifteen? And the most important question: Where do they see their own role in the teaching process? Is the child supposed to somehow, by osmosis, pick up the concepts of civilized society all by himself or do they see themselves as involved in making it happen? Menachem already knows the answer. He couldn’t explain it to you, but what he did is called “kindness.” A two-year old who does what he did so automatically has already been inoculated against being mean, selfish, cold, or criminal 45 years from now....

8 Secrets For Getting Your Defiant Child To Cooperate

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News “She stands there and sasses me,” the poor young mother cried. “She won’t go to time out. What can I do?” Time out is an effective way to turn behavior in school-age children around, but it must be part of a comprehensive program of positive discipline. Here are secrets that you would not have realized are absolutely necessary to get your child on your side.  Secret #1 -Time Out Is Painful. It Is A Partial Rejection Of The Child. It Can Therefore Only Be Instituted Successfully When You Are Connected to Your Child In a negative environment, the child is simply going to tune out the purveyor of that negativity. Can you blame her? No one wants a steady dose of unpleasant interaction. Either the child will tune out, leave, or sass. Those are the three sure signs that the environment has been negative.   The antidote is to build on a foundation constructed with a strong connection with your child. The relationship with your child, if it’s good, has the resilience to overcome little bouts of negative experiences such as routine punishments and scoldings. Take the time to listen to your child. That is the single most important building block of a good relationship. After all, is it quite fair for you to expect him to listen to you when you don’t listen to him? The theory that children don’t like to talk to their parents is nonsense. I raised four and there were no such obstacles between us. Right now, it may be he won’t tell you anything but...

For Successful Parenting, Tell Your Inner Child to Just Keep Out of This

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, p. 15 “I can’t do anything with her,” Mrs. Porter said plaintively, “I am absolutely starting to lose it.” “Starting?” her husband asked with genuine surprise and a roll of the eyeballs. “Listen,” he confided in me, “my wife’s just as bad as our seven-year old when they get going. You should hear them.” “Tell me more,” I said to Mrs. Porter. “To be honest,” she admitted, “he’s right. I don’t know how it all degenerates, but something inside me goes haywire every single time Sabrina acts up, and all the wonderful parenting tricks you’ve taught us go right outside the window.” Brain Efficiency Accounts For Automatic Reactions — But They May Be Out Of Place In Adult Interactions “Guess what?” I tell them, “You’re not alone. Your brain is causing this and we can get you out of it!” It’s at this point that I explain a little bit about how the human brain works and why the best mechanisms it has to offer can mess you up later on in life. Efficiency is one of the most outstanding characteristics of the human brain. In neurobiological terms this means that when childhood memories are recorded for future use, those memories are stored in very rough categories. “Harmful,” for example, could describe the face of a toy doll that resembles a frightening dog. As a child, when you’d see the doll-face, you might have gotten scared because it resembles the scary face of the big dog. As an adult, there’s no logical reason in the world why you should become momentarily...

You’re Going To Be A Role Model For Your Child So Be A Good One

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, p. 22. My son hunches over that computer day after day and I fear he’ll develop a curvature. “Exercise!” I say and I get the rolled eyeballs. “Where in the world does he get that from?” I wonder. Ha! I know the answer only too well. He gets his focus on his work from yours truly. He gets putting his work first above exercise from yours truly, too. I remember the time he decided to lift weights. I was ecstatic. “Now the mold will be broken,” I thought. Now, he’s taking care of his health unlike his mother who always had to force herself to exercise. (Let’s not talk about his father who never even got far enough to consider forcing himself to exercise, let alone doing it.) I was so wrong. When push came to shove, he stopped pushing and his work came first. Not two minutes to work out. “Can’t you lift weights for ten minutes?” I ask. “Surely you can make ten minutes.” “Won’t mean a thing, ten minutes,” he sighed, exasperated with his nagging mother. Just like me. If I can’t find a half hour to take my wonderful walk, I admit the truth, I just skip it. And we all know, especially me, how important that walk is. Especially at my age. But what about at his age? “Wait a minute, DrDeb,” you’re probably saying, “Aren’t you proud that your son has such a great work ethic?” Oh, I am. I am. I’m just saying that being a great role model is a double-edged sword. They...
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