Parenting Cliffs Notes: “Me, Me, Me Epidemic”

how-to-be-a-parentparenting

This book was so fascinating to me that I took notes on every tip described in it.  This is geared towards older children, but I already started using some of the age appropriate techniques with A from about 18 months on.

Mind, Body, and Soul Time

Set aside 10 minutes once or twice a day to spend with each child to be fully present and do whatever your child loves to do. When you take time each day to emotionally connect with your child and get into his world, communication improves.  By giving kids what they ARE entitled to – your unconditional love and some undivided time and attention each day, you’ll feel confident not giving in to demands for things they are not entitled to.  Pick a name to call this special time, turn off all distractions.

Ignore Undue Attention

Use this if kids interrupt your conversation, or if they speak to you in a whiny voice (“I will no longer pay attention to your whiny voice – when you talk to me in your normal voice, I’ll be happy to talk to you”).  Teach your kids the kinds of things they can interrupt for (someone is hurt), and offer redos while they are learning.  Also, if your 5 year old has waited patiently for 5 minutes while you are on the phone, it is fine to pause your conversation or whatever you are doing to listen – be realistic.

Pull Over and Wait

If kids fight in the car, tell them it distracts you and you are not going to put your family at risk while driving so you will pull over and wait.  Be proactive by engaging kids in conversation in the car so that they are less tempted to argue with each other.

Sail Out of the Wind

Don’t engage in a power struggle.  You can’t stop your child’s emotions or tantrums, but you can remove yourself from the situation.  Warn your children “I’m no longer going to argue with you about my decisions, and if you don’t speak to me respectfully, I will leave the room.  When you’re calm and can have a respectful conversation, I will be happy to talk with you.”  Next time a power struggle begins, remove your sail by leaving the room or silently refuse to participate.  Ignore, ignore, ignore.

Control the Environment

Arrange a physical space so that kids can successfully do things for themselves, and limit access to things that are off-limits.  If you don’t want your kid asking for cookies, keep them out of sight.  If you want your five year old to get her own cereal for breakfast, keep the bowls, spoons, and napkins and cereal at her level and fill a child-sized pitcher for milk.

Asked and Answered

Use this when your child thinks your answer is up for negotiation.  Teach your child what “asked and answered” means by saying “Have you ever heard of Asked and Answered?  Did you ask me whether you can _____?  Did I answer your question?  Do I look like the kind of parent who will change her mind when you ask me the same thing over and over?  Asked and Answered”.  Next time, you can calmly just say “Asked and Answered” in a pleasant voice.

Take Time for Training

A key to reversing our kids’ notions that we need to do everything for them is to empower the to do it themselves.  Find an age appropriate task that your child might be interested in learning (how to make toast, for example).  Make it an exciting and positive experience.  Don’t criticize!

Family Contributions

Have each family member have responsibilities that contribute to the good of the family so that your kids see that you are a unit.  Start early!  Assign tasks to kids that they can do on a daily/weekly basis (make their own bed for example).  Make the contributions reasonable, don’t overload them, let them trade with each other if they want, etc.

When-Then

Simply state your reasonable request (Could you please help me dust the living room?)  If your child doesn’t respond, repeat and say When you have finished dusting the living room, then you may enjoy your phone time for the day.  Ignore whining.  And don’t make up a reward – use things like eating breakfast or playtime as the “then”.

Empathize and Appreciate

Let’s say 14 year old Sara has been asked to dust the blinds and she starts complaining that she hates it, dust always gets in her face. You say, “I know! I hate when that happens, yuck.  I really appreciate your help – I’ve been so busy with the garden that I haven’t had time to do it, and it really helps me that you are getting the job done before it gets worse”.

The Decision-Rich Environment

Let your kids make their own decisions whenever you can (how to wear their hair, which chores they would rather help out with, etc.)  Ask your 4 year old what he wants for breakfast.  Would you like to wear your rocket ship pajamas or you dinosaur pajamas?  This will empower your kids; not every decision is up for discussion, but the more your kids can have a minisay, the more likely they’ll be to cooperate when they don’t have a choice.

What Is Your Plan?

This gives your child a chance to save face and complete a task on his own terms; keeps your child on top of a task without nagging.  Let’s say your 15 year old is kicking a soccer ball and you know she has a big Spanish project due tomorrow.  Calmy say, “What is your plan for getting your Spanish project done?”  You can ask if she needs help, or this might jog her memory and get her moving.  Either way, don’t ask this question every 5 minutes because then that is nagging.

Invite Cooperation

Don’t demand help – politely request.  “Kids, I’m having trouble getting everything ready for the picnic. Anything you can do to help put together the food or load the car would really help us get out the door.”  This isn’t a tool when you need something specific and complicated done, this is more of a way to elicit organic help from the kids, on their terms.  Thank your kids for their efforts.

Convince Me

If your child asks if they can do something, the answer are yes, no, or convince me.  When possible, say yes.  But if you can’t comfortably give a green light, you might say “Convince Me” instead of no.

What Can You Do?

Let’s say your kid is scared to go to sleep at night.  You can say, “What can YOU do to help yourself not be afraid at night?”  What can you do if your brother is teasing you?

Family Meetings

This gives everyone, even toddlers, a fair and equal voice in matters that pertain to the whole household.  Some ideas to include are: compliments and appreciations, calendar, snack, allowance, fun, roles and jobs, topics to discuss, training, etc.

Natural and Logical Consequences

Natural consequences are something you allow your child to face.  Once you’ve warned your child in advance, you do nothing and let the consequences play out.  If your child refuses to wear a coat, he gets cold. If she refuses to eat the apple you brought, she gets hungry.  Don’t say, “See?  You didn’t wear your coat and now you are cold.”  The consequence speaks for itself.  Instead, offer empathy and guidance as needed.  A logical consequence is respectful, related to misbehavior, reasonable, revealed in advance, and repeated back to you.  Example:  Our phone curfew is at 8pm.  If you are still on your phone or texting after 8, you will lose phone privileges for the next week.  Now to make sure we are on the same page, can you repeat back to me our rule and what will happen if you use your phone after 8?  Try to use this tool after you’ve tried other attention and power boosting tools (mind body soul time, time for training, when-then, decision rich environment, etc.)

Either-Or

This takes quick thinking, because there is no way we can warn our kids in advance about what will happen if they toss a football inside.  Instead of freaking out, say “Either you can put your football away and find a different activity, or you can play with it outside.”  Then, leave the scene.  Another example:  Either you can clean the purple paint off your hands now and paint on the paper instead, or you can be done painting.  This tool is more for a behavior you didn’t anticipate, not a repeated misbehavior.

What You Will Do

Instead of cleaning your kids room because they didn’t get the job done, you can say in advance “I will vacuum bedrooms on Thursday mornings.  If your floor is clear, I’ll be happy to do it for you.  Otherwise, you’ll have to vacuum your own room by dinnertime that same day.”  Other example: you will wash clothes that are in the hamper on laundry day (so something thrown on the floor won’t get cleaned for example)

No Rescue Policy

Parents who continually rescue their kids from showing up at soccer without cleats, turning in an English essay full or errors, or arriving late to their babysitting job are actually paving the way for an over-entitled lifestyle.  To use this tool say in advance, “You’re really growing up, and you’re fully capable of managing things for yourself.  From now on, we won’t be rescuing you when you forget things at school.”  Then ask your kids for solutions for the times you’ve always rescued them before: What ideas do you have for remembering everything you need for school each day?  Do a practice run before the No Rescue Policy goes into effect.  Then, you do nothing.  This is agonizing, and maybe your child will be hungry at lunch one day, but that lesson will be learned much faster than by nagging.  Make sure this is age appropriate…young children should be able to remember their backpack, but they might need help knowing what exactly needs to be packed in it.

All in the Same

First, train your kids how to respectfully voice disagreement, listen to other person, etc.  Let them practice how to resolve an argument. When things are calm, tell kids that they can manage their own disagreements and you will leave the room to work it out themselves.  If the fight escalates too much, ask each child to use I feel statements to tell what happened, then ask if they have any ideas how to solve the problem.  If they can’t solve the problem, say “If you can’t reach an agreement, I will put the Legos (or whatever) into the closet and no one will play with them for the rest of the day”

Making It Right

When your kids wrong each other, instead of forcing them to say sorry, ask the offender what he could do to make things right with the other kid.  Saying sorry is good, but it means more when also accompanied with a gesture.

Encouragement

This is a great tool to use whenever you feel the urge to call out “Good job!”  It can also replace a physical reward.  When you catch your child in the right, think of a positive aspect of her behavior to encourage instead of just a “You are so smart”.  Ex: Your laser focus really helped you get your homework done quickly today!  Instead of “good boy” say “You’ve really shown dedication by cleaning your pet turtle’s cage every week without being asked!”

No Strings Attached Allowance

Instead of having kids earn allowance, you give them a set amount each week.  They don’t need to be rewarded for chores, those are expected.  Deliver the allowance on time even if behavior is bad.  A no strings attached allowance will teach them about saving, spending, delayed gratification, giving, borrowing, budgeting, and investing.  You can start this around age 4.  When at the store and your child wants something extra, you can say “Would you like to use your allowance for that or should we add it to your wish list?”  Determine what your kids will be responsible for covering with their allowance – the allowance should be enough to reasonably cover these things, plus a little extra so they can save up for some of their wants, but not so much that it is overly comfortable.  Don’t rescue kids if they spend all their allowance! This is a great lesson.  Loans: only if 11 and older, good “credit”, charge interest.

Job for Hire

If your kid really wants something, and needs more money than he has, you can give them a job for hire.  This should be something extra, like a special project, not a chore they already do.  Agree on a price beforehand, set expectations, and if job is done well, pay up!

State What You’ll Spend

Let’s say your kid really does need new shoes.  This is something as a parent you should buy, but what if they want the most expensive extravagant pair of shoes?  State what you will pay…”I realize you need new shoes…I will cover $50…if you want a pair that costs more than that, you’ll need to come up with the rest.”

Family Values

Make a short and sweet document that expresses what you stand for as a family.

Gratitude Rituals

Find regular times to express gratitude with your kids.  You could share positive things about the day at the dinner table every night, as part your nightly prayers, etc – decide on a time and place to be deliberate about this (I like first thing in the morning).  With younger kids, you could start off the convo with a gratitude-centered picture book.  The more your kids hear you express gratitude, the better they’ll be able to do so themselves.  Whatever your kids are grateful for, don’t be negative – they can be allowed to be grateful for marshmallows every week, don’t discourage them 🙂

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