Teaching sharing and fairness

Emma bought a Nintendo DS game with the understanding that her older sister, Brooke, would allow her to play the game using her Nintendo DS. Brooke told her sister that she would let her use the Nintendo DS sometime today but she didn’t know when.

An hour passed and Emma asked if now she could use the Nintendo DS. Brooke told her not yet. She explained “It’s my Nintendo DS. I bought it with my own money so I get to decide when you can use it.”

Although the girl’s Dad witnessed this exchange, he did not say anything. Unfortunately, he missed a golden opportunity to teach Brooke about sharing in a more appropriate, fair way. He also missed showing Emma how to successfully negotiate to get her needs met. Our children need our guidance to learn to treat others in caring, respectful ways.

Negotiation versus manipulation

When we negotiate with our kids, there is give and take with both parties cooperating towards a common agreement. On the other hand, when someone is being manipulative, they are working to get their needs met regardless of the other person’s needs. It does not feel good to be manipulated.

When we teach our children negotiation skills, we are showing them how to appropriately work towards getting their needs met while also taking into account the needs of others. For example, if our children want to listen to Radio Disney in the car but we want to listen to jazz music, we might agree to listen to two songs on one station and then two on the other one. This negotiated agreement is fair to both parties.

Our children may try to manipulate us by making irritating noises whenever the jazz station is on or saying “If you really loved us you would leave it on Radio Disney.” If we give in at this point and turn back to Radio Disney, our children will learn manipulating us works. This is not the lesson we want to teach them!

Windows of opportunity

As our children grow, there are moments when they are ready to tackle new skills. If parents miss these windows of opportunity, learning the skills later on can be more difficult. It also slows children’s growth towards independence.

One preschool teacher explained that 4 and 5-year-olds are ready to take responsibility for self care skills like:
  • Taking off their jackets and hanging them up.
  • Putting their lunch box on the appropriate shelf.
  • Checking off their name on an attendance sheet.
She reported that some parents keep doing these things for their children long after their children are capable of doing it for themselves. At her preschool there is a 5-year-old girl, Abby, who simply walks into the school and stands with her arms straight out as her mother takes off her coat and boots and puts away her lunch. While other children are doing these tasks themselves, Abby is not.

Abby has difficulty making decisions in the classroom and knowing what to do without being told. For example, one day when it was time for lunch, the teacher asked Abby what she thought she should be doing. Abby looked confused and sat down. The teacher explained that actually she should be washing her hands before lunch.

It’s hard for children to learn to think for themselves when their parents do too much thinking for them.

Shaping children’s behavior

When parents discipline their children, the children learn what not to do. However, they may not learn what they should be doing instead.

Dr. Kazdin, a psychologist who has helped many defiant children, has carefully studied and applied research on shaping children’s behavior. He’s seen great success in using programs where kids collect points for doing certain behaviors and then turn those points in for rewards. He’s captured this process in his book The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.

The method begins with parents thinking of the positive opposite of whatever behavior they want to stop. For example, if a child throws tantrums whenever it’s time to go to bed, then the positive opposite would be getting ready for bed, going to bed and staying there without screaming or hitting. Kazdin describes how to set up a reward system that encourages children in moving towards this new behavior.

One key aspect is that children are rewarded for small steps along the way. Parents are taught to give enthusiastic praise and points whenever a child performs a portion of the new behavior. The child can then earn rewards which can range from choosing what to have for dinner to earning a trip to the zoo. The reward program usually lasts only a few weeks until the child masters the new behavior.

You can learn more about the Kazdin method is his book:

Developing positive parenting habits

When we continually repeat a behavior, it becomes a habit. Once it becomes automatic, we don’t usually think before doing it.

What are some parenting behaviors that we do not want to make into habits?
  • Nagging and reminding our children
  • Yelling at our children when they misbehave
  • Ordering our children around
  • Swearing when something goes wrong
  • Lecturing our children
To break a negative habit first takes awareness and then dedication and practice to change it.

I was recently with a family where the parents consistently pointed out what their girls were doing wrong or could potentially do wrong. I thought these girls would be in tears with all these negative messages; however, I noticed the daughters dealt with it by tuning their parents out.

The parenting habits we develop have a huge impact on the overall joy in our families. Monitoring and changing our own behavior is the key to increasing positive feelings for everyone. It certainly isn't easy but taking the seven lesson Priceless Parenting course can help reinforce positive parenting behaviors.

Yelling at Kids in Anger

Have you ever become frustrated with your children when they are begging you for something? If so, you can probably relate to this mom's story.

Begging for Ice Cream

One mom told me how exasperated she was while driving her 10-year-old son to Baskin Robbins to order cake for his upcoming birthday party. Her son started pleading with her to get an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins. Mom said he couldn't have one since he had just had ice cream yesterday.

He didn't give up hope and instead kept asking her if he could please have an ice cream cone. Completely fed up, she pulled over and stepped out of the car for a few minutes explaining she needed a break from his behavior. After getting back in the car, he soon asked her again about the ice cream!

Feeling quite angry now, she yelled at him for continuing to ask after she had already told him no. By the end of her rant, he was crying. Needless to say, this wasn't exactly the pleasant outing she had envisioned.

Alternative Parenting Responses

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Children arrive without instructions

If children did come with a manual, parenting would be much easier! There is a wonderful Huffington Post article describing the importance of parent education.

The article begins "You'd never hire someone to do the most difficult and important job on Earth, give them the responsibility to care for your most valuable asset, and toss him or her head first into the job without any training. Yet, we do it every day as new parents, each time a child is born."

The author goes on to describe specific examples of the impact of parenting and parent education. How we choose to parent certainly affects our family's future happiness.

Dealing with defiant children

Defiant children can really drain energy from their parents. Fortunately there are ways to deal with rebellious children that make them far less likely to act defiantly. In his counseling practice, Dr. Jeffrey Berstein has helped a number of parents change their behaviors in ways that greatly reduce the defiance in their children.

Berstein has captured the techniques he teaches parents in his book 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. The book’s introduction includes this description of defiant children: “Your child is defiant and he is driving you up a wall. He is colossally resistant to following even the simplest requests. He is moody, seriously stubborn, overly dramatic, rude, and disrespectful – not every once in a while, but quite often. He doesn’t just question your authority; he actually thinks he has just as much authority as you do.”

His deep appreciation for the struggles of parents with defiant children comes from counseling families over the past 20 years. From understanding what causes defiance to practical ideas for handling defiant children, this book is a valuable resource for helping parents better cope with their defiant children.

Cyberbullying - are your kids affected?

The internet and cellphones enable kids to quickly and sometimes anonymously harass other kids. According to Common Sense Media, 43% of teens have been victims and 53% admit sending a hurtful message. The problems can begin as young as second grade.

Common Sense Media has more information about cyberbullying along with a thought-provoking four minute video. Check out the video and then view it with your children. The video provides a wonderful way to start the conversation with your kids.

Sugared Cereal Is Not Healthy For Kids

Did you know that  sugared cereals have more sugar per serving than frosted cakes or donuts? Yikes! Dr. Michael Greger's article, &qu...