There aren’t many things easy about being a parent. From the first public diaper failure as a baby, to the gentle but convincing talks with your daughter’s new boyfriend about just how much your little girl means to you, while letting him know what a good shot you are in your own subtle way. Some things are just unavoidable, and things we all have to navigate through on our own. There are many things however that have already been tried and tested, and the methods that do and do not work are etched in stone.
Parenting is hard enough so why add extra burden when it is not needed? We do it everyday and spend the rest of our lives complaining about why it was so hard. So in this post, I am laying out 3 sure-fire methods that if implemented will take 50% of the average parent’s stress away quickly. These arent ” tips ” or ideas I came up with. The following are 3 ways that will change things for the better. I can guarantee it. The 3 I chose for this post are a few of many that exist. I would ask that those of you who are serious about getting change in your home, and do implement this-please share your success stories here. I know from the feedback I have received that thousands of you are looking for answers. Lets start here and and who knows, maybe a group for parenting will come of it. Maybe an on-going series. Let me know how it is going!
The “nuggets” as I call them are methods that I have gathered in the 20 years in the field of Social Work. In this 20 years I have been a foster parent to about 35 teenagers over a 5 year period. I have also worked in an outpatient setting for a psychiatrist, more of a clinical environment. Then I served as an administrator for an alternative school for expelled youth. Finally, I was asked to open a school for expelled youth, design a behavior program, implement a clinical component and hire and train 40 staff members to work with these youth. All of these kids had been expelled from public school, sent to a school for expelled youth, kicked out of there and the county was left with nowhere to send them.
Although not my only jobs, I consider them to be game changers in that I learned something significant enough to dare to share. Along with raising my own 4 children I have had a pretty well-rounded view of parenting. I also should add that the youth I worked with had very severe disabilities or disadvantages, physically and socially. Every diagnoses you can imagine from every demographic as well. With that said, I must point out that I stake no claim to invention of these methods. I do not want credit for creating something that I did not create. I do not claim to have all the answers, and just to cover all my bases, I am not a perfect parent, I have made more mistakes than many.
I am simply a gatherer of the scraps that have fallen off of the tables of the great minds. Over the years I have put the ones that work in one pile and the ones that don’t in another. I believe in sharing anything I can that will make other’s lives easier and I hope they will do the same. So if I some how come off as if I have got it all together, I do not. I have the same scars other parents have. I choose to view them and remind myself not of the hurt and the wounds, but as a reminder that I made it out , and the scars are proof.
Now let’s get started. This is for the serious and those willing to actually follow through with these methods, it is for the parent who has reached the point, you know the one. Something has to give.The first nugget is this;
1- Catch them being good.
I was facilitating a parenting class a few years ago when I asked the group to raise hands if they could think of 5 things that their child did that irritated them. Hands flew up so fast I felt a breeze. After that I asked the group to raise hands and share 5 things their child did that made them happy. Only one hand went up and she thought I had asked a different question so that hand did not even count. Silence . The reason is that we have all become excellent at finding what is wrong in others, but when it comes to finding what is right, we are generally stumped. Not all the time, but much of it.
The why and the how
Why? Why is it so important to start identifying and praising the good behaviors in your child? The cold hard facts are that kids are just like us adults. The more criticism they get the more beat down they get, and the less likely you will see any long-term change in their behavior pattern. The secret is this; instead of trying to catch them being ” bad” – identify what you think ” good ” is, and start looking for them to do that. Even set them up for it once in a awhile. Instead of making 15 critical comments to them every day, try finding 15 things that are positive, things you want to see more of, and point those out each day.
For example if you never get any eye contact from little Johnny , start watching for anytime he does make eye contact, then offer a sincere word of praise, like ” thanks for looking me in the eye Johnny”. Begin to train your brain to see the behaviors you want to see instead of the ones you do not want to see. Eventually it will become second nature to see when your child does something you like them to do. The reason why this small adjustment brings huge change if done consistently? It is because it is a proven fact that negative reinforcement does not bring long-term change in behavior. Just as you do not feel more and more like giving your boss a hug when they tell you what a loser and how sloppy your desk is each day, nor does a child feel like pleasing the parent as they are shamed day after day.
The answer? The answer is quite simple. As mentioned earlier, select several behaviors you would like to see more of. Small and simple ones are fine to start. Make a point of catching them showing these behaviors, and quickly make it known that you noticed and you liked it. Do not buy them a new bike each time they do something good, but do make sure your words are genuine or they will know. The rationale; positive reinforcement is proven to change behavior patterns for good. It really is that simple.
#2- Define what ” good” and ” bad” are – what specifically do you want?
When I was 10-11 years old, I had a friend name Bobby. His parents were so cool. Every time I was over there his parents were cracking jokes, cussing up a storm and heck , they even thought it was funny when we cussed. Come to think of it his dad laughed when he caught us outside the back door trying to smoke one of the cigarettes we stole from him. He thought it was very funny. The problem was, is my mom did not, for some weird reason think the way Bobby’s daddy did. This led to some uncomfortable moments for me. I will leave it at that. Some specific expectations needed to be defined.
So what was ” good” to one set of parents was for sure not ” good” to another. At my age I just assumed that all parents kind of expected the same thing. I was wrong. Here is where this awesome tool of social skills come in. It is the most elementary sounding idea, with the most collegiate results. There are around 20-25 basic social skills although there may be 100 or more in print. For the purpose of this post I will take just 3 of the most basic ones and use them.
# 3 -Implement specific social skills ( start with these)
1- Following Instructions
a-look at the person
b- say ok
c- do the task
2- Accepting No
a-Look at the person
b-Say Ok ( no eye rolling, loud voice , or comments other than ok)
3- Appropriately Disagreeing
a-In a calm voice, request to disagree
b- after 5 minutes and using a calm voice explain why you disagree
If you will sit down with your child (age does not matter)-and go over these skills with the steps as the new ” good” for everyone to go by, everyone will have something in common as a goal. It may feel childish at first, but trust me, these skills have saved me from losing more than one job early in my career when I did think I had all the answers!
From then on, whenever you give your child something they need to do, you may need to reiterate, or label the skill in order to keep it fresh in both of your minds. This way when they do as you asked, you can give them praise for specific things they did, like looking at you , or doing the task. Once these praises and terms become the norm in your home, the frustration of what is ” good ” and ” bad” is taken out of the picture as it is clearly identified.
You tell Suzy to please clean her room by 5pm. She comes to you at 4:50pm and tells you she is done. You go back with her take a quick peek, and say ” Thanks Suzy you did an awesome job following instructions! You keep this up and I am going to have to talk to your dad about those new skates you want!”
(This is not a bribe, and is NOT used all the time, but just as a reminder to your child that the more she keeps doing as you ask, the more time you have to look into things she wants) Never paint yourself in a corner by trying to “buy” you child’s obedience. Not only does it backfire every single time on many levels but you lose their respect. (That is another post ..)
The nuggets above are fool-proof. Money back guaranteed. The idea of this post is to present some proven parenting methods to readers and see how many of you all will take a small bit of time out of your life, and implement these in your home. As I have said, I did not invent them, but I have lived them in at least 5 different settings. I have seen the other ways, and I can honestly say that by far these are the easiest and most effective methods I have encountered. Of the thousands of youth I have worked with, I can think of a small percentage of them who did not respond to these. They were children that had disabilities so severe that clinical intervention was the only way. From teenage gang members, to average teenagers with typical teen behaviors-from youth from a wealthy and healthy upbringing to those who came form the hard streets and were selling drugs by age 7, it makes no difference.
We all love to be praised. I love it when lots of people take the time to like my post or make a positive comment. No shame in my game! Praise works in any color, size, race or religion. It just feels good.
The information I have written here is hardly enough to call comprehensive. There is so much more that follows and works. This is a sampler. If you like it, let me know and more importantly, share your success stories. If we have enough parents really giving this a shot, I would like to create a group for those interested, and of course I will answer any questions you may have. The use of the methods I have outlined and will expand on in future posts, is not only valuable in that it shapes behavior. It is more then that.
Like most of us, who don’t have thousands of dollars to roll the dice on all kinds of psychiatrists, and counseling or double top-secret new Shock Therapy – this is the very first place parents need to run to. You do not need special training, and it costs nothing . Not to mention the results are outstanding.
In closing, let me say again, I am not against doctors, counselors, or professionals in the field of mental health/social work. I work in the field! We need all of the above mentioned professionals. However we need to be careful to use the least restrictive method possible when addressing behaviors. After all we arent dealing with cars, or bicycles, we are caring for human beings and we arent guarenteed second chances for careless choices.
The purpose of this project is to being awareness to the damage already done, sometimes meaning life and death and prevent it from happening. especially in the name of money.