Friday, July 29, 2011

Got eye-contact? "Greet Expectations"

One of my favorite pearls of wisdom from Noël Janis-Norton's CEHP seminars is this: "If there is something your child is regularly doing that is bothering you, you probably don't have a rule for it."

So it's been bothering me for awhile that my pre-teen needs a "manners upgrade" when it comes to greeting people. The usual scenario is that as soon as he shakes anyone's hand, his body makes an abrupt turn away to the left and his eyes quickly dart away. Now I grew up in Kansas, which I think might be the friendly capital of the world. Whether I was introduced to strangers or greeted guests or was an invited guest, we were expected to smile, look people in the eye and answer politely while continuing eye-contact.

We've certainly talked about "greeting expectations" with our son before, but what we weren't doing was "Preparing for Success", which is one of the core skills of CEHP. In this case, Preparing for Success is about being proactive and talking through the expectations before any greeting situations. It's so easy to wait until things go wrong and then to react with criticism, but unfortunately it's not effective at changing behavior.

So today I had to take my son with me to meet a client. Before we left, we prepared for success and did the CEHP "talk-through" strategy, where I asked him questions about what he should do when he met my client. He said "Look him in the eye and shake hands." I praised him and said, "That's right, and how many seconds should you hold eye-contact?" He said, "Five seconds". We both agreed that might be too long, but that it was definitely more polite than half a second. We decided that three seconds was about right. I also asked him what he would do if he was asked another question about his age or interests, and he said, "look at him". I agreed, "Yeah, and you might want to look at me when you answer because it's more comfortable, but who will you need to look at?" He replied, "At your client."

Here's what happened. My son shook my client's hand, smiled and maintained eye-contact for three seconds, and he even answered questions politely while looking at him. When we got home, I descriptively praised him and said, "Even though you might have felt uncomfortable, you looked my client in the eye and were very polite. I was proud of your manners." He smiled.

Now the key thing for us to do is to keep preparing for success with"talk-throughs" about greeting expectations and rehearsing these situations. Pretty soon he'll be ready for Kansas.

Laura Runnels Fleming (see profile below)
Pasadena, CA

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to get teens to cooperate

In Anthony E. Wolf's article in the Globe and Mail: "How do I get my grumbling, lazy teen to help around the house?", he introduces the article with the statement: "Austin would you please take your dirty dishes out of the TV room and into the kitchen." There then ensues a back and forth debate between parent and teen, which I am sure is common in a lot of households. His suggestion is that, "If you simply stand there, what happens in the vast majority of times is that they will comply."

In the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting (CEHP) approach we have a few extra skills to add that will help a teen want to cooperate. The first is called Descriptive Praise. Parents are often in the habit of taking cooperation for granted or ignoring it. In order to help a teen want to cooperate we must show him that we are pleased with everything he is doing that is right, or heading in the right direction or nor wrong. For example, "Thanks for washing up your dirty dishes without me having to remind you."

The problem with teens, as with all of us, is that no one likes being told what to do. In the CEHP approach we also teach a skill called Preparing For Success. Preparing For Success is a group of strategies that helps parents teach and train their teens to cooperate. One of the strategies is to introduce rules, routines and consequences. In order to introduce a rule, you simply say, "The new rule is that from now on when you have finished eating, you wash up your dishes." You need to introduce this rule at a time when you are not stressed, angry or in a rush. You can then revisit this rule at various times and ask questions about the rule for example, "When you have finished eating what do you need to do with the dishes?" The fact that your teen replies makes it clear that you know he has heard you and the expectations are clear. You will also have to think about consequences, because a rule without a consequence is nothing more than a nag. One of the essential principles of the CEHP approach is that everything has to be earned apart from love, food and shelter - this includes rides, allowance and even screen time. So if your teen does not do the rule, instead of criticizing, nagging, getting angry and upset just wait until he comes to you and wants something. Then calmly say, "I am happy to drive you to your friends house - what do you need to do first?"

Suzanne Ferera
Vancouver, BC

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Calming the Storm

The first word in Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting (CEHP) is calmer. Calmness is something most harried parents can't even imagine, let alone bring to bear in everyday life. How is it possible to stay calm in the storm of a temper tantrum, tirade or turmoil of a tumultuous schedule? Parents are pressured by daily chores, expectations, adult concerns and the ongoing needs of their children. Yet, calm is the foundation and gift of CEHP.

Calmness comes from vision and having strategies that you know are effective. For example, I was having difficulty with yelling and talking back in my home. My teenage daughter and I were both under a lot of stress having just lost my husband, her father, to cancer. She and I would find ourselves in screaming matches. It was emotionally and physically draining and not productive at all. I was not in control of myself or my child. The cycle of yelling had to stop.

First I stopped yelling and remained calm--at least externally in the beginning. I followed the CEHP strategies. I established a new rule: no more yelling. Second, I took advantage of the eye of the storm and used descriptive praise with my daughter the minute she paused in screaming. "You've stopped yelling. Now we can talk.", I said. It took a few times for my daughter to believe that I wasn't going to yell back at her, but perseverance paid off. Yelling is a rarity in our home now. Once I had a successful experience with the CEHP skills, it was easier to remain calm and generate many more positive outcomes. Now I had strategies that work.

Having a parenting vision and the tools to achieve it makes all the difference in the world. The calm and ease result in a happier home life. I ran into a mother in a store the other day. She had attended one of my CEHP presentations a week or so prior. "Amanda,", she said, "You changed my life. I have been practicing those skills and things have been going so much smoother in the mornings. No more power struggles. No more fighting and screaming to get out the door."

"That's great!", I said.

"My children started saying "I love you, Mommy", she said.

I smiled at her happiness.

"But no!" She interrupted my response. With a touch to my arm, she leaned in a little closer and softly said, "Then they started saying, "We like you, Mommy."

She had calmed her storm.

Amanda Deverich (see profile below)
Williamsburg, VA

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ahhh, summer. Oh, no--summer!

During the school year, we've got our routines down, but when summer comes, routines can quickly go to pot. On one hand, it's nice to get up a little later and to have more unscheduled time. On the other hand, the things that are usually done by 8 am can now easily drag out until noon.

Take music practice, for instance. Our 12 and 10 year old boys both play instruments, and we've found that the best time of day for them to practice is in the morning before school. And no, I'm not a "Tiger Mom", but that's another important topic for a blog post, so we'll get there. Trying to fit in practicing the violin and cello after school when there's homework and other after school activities has never appealed to us, as I know it would likely create a lot of negotiating and reminding and nagging and result in our boys hating practicing their instruments. Whereas in the morning, they get up, get dressed, make their beds and do their practice. They are in the routine of it, so there's no resistance and practice is done and out of the way early.

So summer. Because we didn't want to negotiate and nag our boys about music practice, we took a tip straight from one of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting's core skills, "Preparing for Success" and rejiggered the rule about when it happens. So our new summer rule is that we moved practices back 45 minutes so everyone feels like they're benefiting from summer vacation by sleeping in a bit, but we stick with our morning routine and practice early, whenever possible. Though they moaned when we first told them the new summer rule, the next morning after they practiced, both boys mentioned how much they liked practicing early and knowing they had more free time later. When the rules are clear, our kids don't resist and everyone is calmer and happier knowing the plan.

Laura Runnels Fleming (see profile below)
Pasadena, CA