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