Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Power Of Questions

One of the cooperation strategies in the Calmer, Easier, Happier parenting approach is to ask your child questions. Why is this?

Well, we all know that children, and adults for that matter, don't like being told what to do. But why are questions so helpful? There is actually brain science to explain this. When you ask a question and your child or teen answers, she then sees a vivid mental picture of herself doing the activity and is therefore much more likely to take responsibility to do the action.

It's so easy for our kids to tune us out when we're lecturing and telling them what to do. It's not surprising then that they don't follow our instructions and may make the excuse that they didn't hear what we said. This is another reason why asking questions is so powerful. When you ask questions and require her to respond, it means that she has definitely heard you and the expectations are clear. So the next time you are about to go and tell your child what to do, take a minute to phrase your instruction as a question and ask something like, "What do you need to do before coming down for breakfast?"

Suzanne Ferera (see profile below)
Vancouver, BC

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bridging the Troubled Waters

I was recently on a jet boat ride with Billy, a very bright 5 year old boy who also has an intense, sensitive and impulsive temperament. This boat ride required all passengers to remain seated with snug fitting life jackets for the entire two hour trip, as the boat did spins and twists, splashing the tourists on a hot summer day.

For good reason, Billy's mom was anxious about how he would behave on the trip and did a lot of Preparing for Success, talking through the rules of the boat and asking him lots of questions about the plan for the day, how long they would have to stand in line, where they might sit, whether the life jackets would be loose or tight. These kinds of "think-through" questions helped Billy prepare for the outing--he knew what to expect and how the trip would go. To her relief, the trip started out very smoothly.

After an hour or so of being on the boat, Billy got pretty tired of his tight life jacket and began whining and complaining about it and asking to take it off. His mom listened and nodded and then tried a technique from the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting (CEHP) skill called "Reflective Listening". Instead of reasoning about why he had to keep it on or pleading and reminding about how he only had to wear it for 20 more minutes, she stayed calm, acknowledged his feelings and gave him his wishes in fantasy.

Billy:    "Mom - take off my life jacket! When can I take it off? I don't like it!"

Mom:   Shaking her head empathetically - "You don't like wearing it. It probably feels too tight and uncomfortable. Smiling - Wouldn't it be great if there weren't any boat rules and you could take it off right now?!"

Billy:     Nods with a sad look but stops whining and complaining

Reflective Listening is far more effective than arguing and negotiating. It not only reassures our children that their feelings are understood, it enables us to grant their wishes in fantasy ("Wouldn't it be great if...") and defuse intense emotional moments.

Laura Runnels Fleming (see profile below)
Pasadena, CA

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Much Should You Give to "Please?"

A mother I know posed the following to her fellow Facebooking mommies:

3 year old son: I wanna watch da monkey.

Dada: We’re eating lunch, Buba. We’ll watch it later.

3 year old son: I wanna watch it now, please.

Dada: After we eat breakfast.

3 year old son: I said “please”...

You: Should he get to watch it (NOW!) or not?

The replying mommies spotted the potential power play right away and offered great advice. These wise women advised against popping in the video lest mom and dad be held hostage by every please ever uttered – from “One more cookie, please!” to “Three more cups of water before bedtime, please!”

Still, if you’ve been working on saying "please" in your home, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to reward the deliberate use of the word. The supportive mommies were hot on that trail, too. They advised thanking the child for saying please, but to following through with what was said the first time. No monkey until after breakfast.

Thanking a child for using the word "please" is certainly an appropriate response and may encourage him to do it again. However, if parents are really interested in motivating their children, a response using Descriptive Praise is the most effective encouragement. Descriptive Praise explains why saying the word is delightful and necessary.

Some parents feel Descriptive Praise is over the top or unnecessary. Children should simply do what is right because they are told. However, those of us who make Descriptive Praise a practice know it is a powerful tool in encouraging good behavior and is significantly less draining than demanding, enforcing, and reminding our children to cooperate.

A Descriptive Praise response in this scenario from Dada to his three year old son might be: “I noticed you said "please". You remembered!” This would be affirming the child for remembering the family is working on saying "please". Or, Dada could say, “Saying 'please' is very polite when you ask for something. You did the right thing.” In this case, this Descriptive Praise encourages polite manners without making "please" the child's all powerful key to getting what they want. There is no need to repeat the fact that there will be no monkey before its time.

Amanda Deverich (see profile below)
Williamsburg, VA