Sunday, September 15, 2013

The power of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Skill #2: Preparing for Success

Yesterday we had a big win with music practice.  I was with my son when he was doing his cello practice, and in his new piece there was a particularly tricky sequence that required him to think about several things at one time in order to play it correctly.

Before he played it, I did a mini think-through with him, asking him what he needed to do with his bow when he got to this part. He said, “push it down toward the bridge”. I said, “That’s exactly right.” You have to push it down as soon as your other hand is shifting up into 7th position. He nodded. 

Then he started to play that section. When he got to that part where he had to shift into 7th position, I could see that he was thinking about it because he hesitated slightly, but then sure enough, his arm pushed his bow down toward the bridge and he got this beautiful sound. When he finished, I said, “You remembered what to do with your bow during that tricky 7th position part! You pushed it down and the tone was beautiful.” He smiled and then played it correctly three more times. 

Preparing for Success requires us to be proactive, thinking about what’s gone wrong before and then doing something different to get a better result. Think-throughs work. They are the best way to help kids know what they need to do, remember what they need to do and then to do it without reminders. 

Laura Runnels Fleming (see details below)
Pasadena, CA

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When Things Are Out of Control

Things are out of control at my house when I can no longer see the floor in my daughter’s room. “I don’t have any clean clothes!” she claims, though it is her responsibility to maintain and to wash her clothes. Things are out of control in my world when I find myself biting my tongue far too many times to accommodate a brief bit of teenage irritation “I don’t know, Mom.” “I don’t care, Mom,” she says with an eye roll, though the rule is to be respectful to one another. When I find myself frustrated, tired and working just a little too hard to stay calm and carry on, I know I am losing control. 

I am ashamed when things are out of control. After all, I am an officially trained, Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Practitioner. Having an out of control home is like a dentist with cavities or a doctor who smokes.  (Reality check - good dentists get cavities and some doctors have poor health habits. Hence, good parents have trying times.) However, like diet and exercise, knowledge only works if you apply it. So, when things are out of control, I take a step back and look at what I am not doing. Nine times out of ten I am not Preparing for Success.

It is easy for me to drop Preparing for Success from the maintenance plan of a calmer, easier, happier home. Preparing for success seems almost redundant, unnecessary, and slightly annoying once you have cooperation and consistency on a roll. It is not as if I completely check out when things are running smoothly. I liberally support good habits with Descriptive Praise and Reflective Listening. These two skills are natural for me as I am a touchy feely person. Preparing for Success, however, takes planning, leadership, organization and hardest of all, being on time! Taking charge and providing structure is not particularly intuitive for we more laid back, spontaneous parents. We pay for that free flowing gift.  

When things are out of control it is time to bring out those dusty Preparing for Success skills and polish them up. I begin by looking at our family schedule. Often we are over booked. I am so busy with work, household responsibilities, or personal tasks that I fail to monitor or structure my children’s time management. Of course by nature, children fall off task choosing TV or internet over cleaning or walking the dogs. Once I have identified when and where things are going wrong, I make time to manage, and I make time for them to accomplish the task. I refresh the rule.

The first step with the children is doing "think-throughs".  I begin by asking something like “What is the rule about cleaning your room?” Often, when getting things back under control, I get a quizzical look so I might ask a hinting question, “When should your room be clean by?” I begin asking this on Wednesday, because the answer is Saturday noon.  Slowly, sometimes begrudgingly, we mentally get back on track. We begin to prepare for success. Then, as the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting program , I ask this question again a few times on Thursday and Friday.  Saturday comes around and usually things start happening without my asking. If not, a little follow on support with the first two steps of the Never ask Twice method usually finishes the job.

Preparing for Success sets the whole strategic plan in motion. If you don’t have a plan, if you don’t communicate the plan, you are guaranteed to go in all directions.  You will be out of control.  So when things are awry at my home, it is usually because people have forgotten to pay attention to the master plan - especially me.  

Amanda Deverich (see profile below)
Williamsburg, VA

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Story about Self-reliance with a Teen

My 19 year old son just recently returned home after living in residence his first year at University.

He expressed interest in coming to some exercise classes with me in the mornings. I told him what time I would be leaving the house, if he wanted to come with me. He asked if I could wake him up in the mornings. I refused as I felt it was his responsibility to get himself up if he wanted to come, and he said "Why can't you? I don't mind."

Then I realized I did not want our relationship to be one of dependency. One of Noël Janis-Norton's key strategies that she teaches is for parents to teach and train their children to be self-reliant. This means not doing anything for your children that they can do for themselves. If you do things for them that they can do, we can end up becoming a servant to our children which actually makes them lose respect for us.

So, going back to my son.... I wanted to preserve our relationship as adult to adult and not one of dependent child. It would have been so easy to give in, to think "What's the problem?" It would be a nice thing to do. However, there are plenty of other ways that I can show that I care and love my son, rather than falling into the trap of doing things for him that he can do for himself. So now if he wants to come with me, he knows what time I leave the house and he can choose for himself whether he gets up in time to join me.

Suzanne Ferera
Certified Calmer, easier, Happier Parenting Practitioner
Vancouver, BC

Sunday, March 24, 2013

To Apologize or Not to Apologize?

The other day a mom was telling me about how her little girl hit another girl at a birthday party. The mom was frustrated because it took a long time to get her daughter to apologize, and then when she finally did, her apology wasn't sincere at all. She wanted to know how to get her daughter to really feel sorry.

This happens all the time, where a child does something wrong and parents make their child apologize. Of course we want our children to feel remorse when they've done something wrong, but asking our child to apologize actually doesn't achieve that.  In fact, when we ask our child to apologize, most of the time we're asking her to lie. That's because she's probably not feeling sorry at that moment. She's still angry about whatever caused her to hit. So it's actually best not to ask her to apologize at that moment. If you feel like an apology is necessary because you're feeling embarrassed about the behavior, then you can do it, and that will set a good example.

The best way to teach empathy is with the consequence we call an 'action replay'. Wait until she's calmed down and then have her do the scenario over again, where she practices responding in a more positive way. The more you have her practice doing it right instead of making her apologize, the sooner she'll be willing to apologize because she actually feels sorry!

Laura Runnels Fleming  (see profile below)
Pasadena, CA

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Swearing At School

Continuing with the consequences theme...

A parent asked me what she should do because her 11 year old son had sworn at school. He was not the only one, but he was the only one to get caught. The mother asked how I thought she should punish him or what consequence he should face.

My reply to her was that it is easy to get upset when our children do the wrong thing, and we get even more upset when they get into trouble at school. The first thing we want to do is tell off or punish. What I recommended that she do instead was to have a Think Through with her son, which is one of the Calmer, Easier, Happier strategies that we teach.

'Think Through' comes under the Foundation Skill of Preparing For Success. The Think Through would go something like this - parent to child:

"When your friends are swearing in class, what can you do instead?"

Children often know what they should not do, but they can be unsure of what they should do instead. You can also ask the child:

" How might it feel to do something different from your fellow class mates? Do you think that will be difficult? What might make it easier?"

You can then Reflectively Listen to how your child might be feeling about this situation. You could say:

" It must be very tempting to want to fit in? It would probably feel hard to do something different. There can be a lot of pressure to do the same things as everyone else, even if you know it is wrong."

I would not suggest giving a punishment, as you would not want your child to be worried about coming and talking to you about any mistakes he makes for fear that he will get into trouble. Also, punishments never teach children what they should do, and certainly don't motivate them to do something better.

As a consequence, I suggested this child could write a note of apology or apologize in person to the teacher. Part of a Think Through would also include a question such as, "If you do make a mistake and swear what will be the consequence?" So the child has a clear understanding of the consequences of his behavior. This is far more effective than just reacting to a mistake with a  a punishment.

Suzanne Ferera (see profile below)
Vancouver, CA

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Consequences Often Don't Work

Last month Noel Janis-Norton, creator of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, wrote a helpful article about what to do "When Consequences Don't Seem to Work".

As I read the article, it reminded me of a story a parent told Noel and me about a consequence that backfired when her feisty daughter, Susanna, was five. It was Hanukkah. On each night of this holiday, Susannah would receive a gift. On day four, when the mom picked Susanna up from school, Susanna had a tantrum, screaming that she wanted a playdate that afternoon. Her mom explained that it wasn't possible, and Susanna got more and more angry, kicking the back of her mother's seat in the car. The mom finally lost her cool and told Susanna that she would not get her Hanukkah present that night. She followed through and didn't give her the present, and Susanna was furious. The mom thought Susanna would be motivated to behave better so she could get her present the next day, but Susanna only became angrier and misbehaved even more.

This is a pretty common scenario in families. When we get upset enough, we look for some privilege we can claw back from our kids - often it's TV or computer time. In this story, the problem was that Susanna hadn't been told that her Hanukkah gifts were in any way linked to her behavior. The gifts hadn't been set up as something she had to earn, so she believed she had a right to the gifts. So really, she was right to be furious. When we take away things that our kids didn't know could be taken away, it makes them very resentful. The good news is that when we shift our focus to having our kids earn privileges for positive behavior vs. taking them away for poor behavior, they are far more motivated to behave well.

Laura Runnels Fleming (see profile below)

Pasadena, CA