Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tips for Sanity

I am sure every parent has experienced the complete and utter frustration brought about by a misbehaving child. I know I have. Just this morning in fact. And it really does not help keep my mommy guilt at bay. So I decided to look online for reasons and tips for misbehaving kids. Naturally, the reasons were nothing new to me: insecurity, lack of attention, perhaps frustration at not being able to properly articulate a want, being too young to consistently follow rules, etc. I've heard and read it all before. So, to keep myself from going out-of-my-mind insane, I focused on tips for dealing with misbehaving kids and I found 4 tips from an article by Dr. Ayesha Amir.

Here are her tips below:

Time Out
When It Works:
Few of the authors are big fans of time out, but recommend that you use it sparingly, for “whatever you consider to be the most serious discipline situations with your child.” Time out works well when children are hitting, damaging possessions, or engaging in unacceptable acts of aggression. The “timing” of time out is critical: Adhere to the “minute per age” rule (a five-year-old gets a five-minute time out). You can also choose to give toys a time out, if a child is throwing them, or give a child’s mouth a time out if he or she is swearing or saying something hurtful.

Why It Works:
When you remove children from a situation involving others, you deprive them of attention and a chance to be where the action is.

When It Does not Work:
When it is overused. Many parents use time out as a cure for all ills, only to discover its effectiveness erodes as it becomes the automatic response to every minor infraction. Time out does not work for problems like whining or “forgetting” to pick up your toys because cause and effect are not so clear (“You are in time out because you whined” does not ring true the way “You are in time out because you hit your sister” does).
Caution: Do not use a child’s bedroom as a time out zone, assuming there are books or toys or other amusements to keep him or her happy. Choose a toy-free location that’s away from other people, but still close enough so the child “can hear what everybody’s doing but not be able to be part of it.”
Good for Ages: 3-9.

I've tried this and it is hard!! First you have to pick a spot that will be the 'time out spot' so, suffice it to say, it won't have pleasant memories attached. And then to actually pick up your wailing child and endure the screams and the tears.....slow torture. But the few times I've used it resulted in a more subdued child after picking up and one who recognized the wrong that was done, at least for a while.

When It Works:
Keeping a chart, with stickers or stars to mark behavioural improvements, works well with chronic problems like whining or messy rooms, the types of things that drive parents crazy. Among other things, charting teaches delayed gratification, “that you do not automatically get things because you are cute, but because you earned it and waited for it.” In terms of effectiveness, charts and time-outs are polar opposites: Time out does not work when you use it all the time, while charts never work unless you do!

Why It Works:
A chart is a “visual cue” for kids; they do not just hear complaints or praise, they can actually see change. It is a way to get them involved in the discipline strategy; they can help make the chart or perhaps choose a reward.

When It Does not Work:
Keeping a chart can be a difficult task for kids with attention difficulties; lots of parental involvement is needed. Parents also need to assess their own schedules; if you start a chart and do not have time to keep it up, it undercuts the message that behavioural change is important. Finally, do not start 17 charts. Your child may whine, leave dirty socks lying around, and forget to do his homework, but focus on just one behaviour problem at a time.

Do not promise a trip out of station in return for a semester’s worth of completed homework assignments. Even cards or candy bars are the wrong incentives. The authors urge parents to use “gifts of time” to reward kids for good behaviour. A family Monopoly tournament or a prized half-hour extension on bedtime send kids the message, “When you behave nicely, I want to be with you.” If there are no behavioural improvements within a week, the chart is probably not having its intended effect.
Good for Ages: 4-12.

I haven't tried this. My kids are not withing the age group anyway. And it looks like it would be difficult to maintain if you are a working mom. Has anyone tried this? Feedback?

Logical Consequences
When It Works:
Try this when a child does not do his homework, “forgets” to clean the litter box, or refuses to eat breakfast. In a nutshell, a logical consequence is the process of discovering that if you do not eat, you will become hungry. Grades will fall if homework is not completed; the house will smell if the litter box is not changed.

Why It Works:
It allows children to learn first-hand what will (or will not) happen as a result of their actions (or inactions.) Too often parents try to protect children from the consequences of what they do, depriving them of the chance to learn important life lessons. Using a logical consequences approach to discipline eliminates power struggles between parents and kids by keeping the focus on the child’s behaviour (“I see you forgot to clean the litter box again, Saira. Gee, maybe tomorrow we will relocate it to your room since the smell apparently does not bother you.”)

When it doesn’t work:
In dangerous situations. A child caught playing with matches should not be encouraged to experience the logical consequence of getting burned.
Good for Ages: 6 and up

My kids aren't of this age group either but I've tried it a few times and it seems to work but you have to keep at it before you see the effect. The child will usually show the logical process after some repetition. Only tough part is differentiating what is understandable at younger ages.

House rules
When it works:
House rules are an effective, pro-active strategy when children know what the rules are, and what will happen if they are broken. Example: It is a house rule that homework has to be done before the TV goes on. If the homework’s not done, you lose TV privileges for a set amount of time.

Why it works:
It eliminates the need for parents to think on their feet, by making expectations within the household very clear and consistent. It also gives kids a chance to voice their opinions about what the rules should be and how they should be applied. Many families post house rules in a prominent place in the household.

When it doesn’t work:
House rules fail to improve behavior when adults make them up arbitrarily, with little or no input from children, or when they fail to follow through. If parents ignore a broken curfew, for instance, house rules will cease to have any meaning and kids will ignore them.
Good for Ages: 4 and up.

I use this a lot, and for the most part, it works. But consistency really is key and this is hard to monitor if you are out of the house and your kids are with their yaya's. I try to keep everything written down, simple, in Filipino, and easily accessible (like on the fridge) for easy reference. I also try not to expect the yaya's to remember too much. Simple rules like eating schedules, play time, tv time, and reading time are usually easy to leave to someone else to follow.

I know there are probably volumes worth of other advice and tips out there. These are welcome. I am always open to new, possibly easier, and possibly more effective tips for dealing with misbehaving kids.

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