Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Family Meetings

Family meetings have provided me with some great childhood memories. The most vivid was the family meeting we had before going to Hawaii. We first made a list of all the possible problems and then brainstormed for solutions. For example, whining or complaining during the 2-hour drive to the airport. That was an easy solution. We promised we wouldn’t. Of course, I forgot and started complaining about being thirsty. Mark poked me and said, “Shhh...remember our promise.” I was happy to stop complaining immediately.

We also promised we wouldn’t fight. (That would be a first.) Surprisingly, it was the best trip I have ever had with my brother. Our relationship was more peaceful and loving than it had ever been. We had only one problem on that trip. I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember sitting on the sand in Waikiki Beach to solve whatever it was.

Another fond member was the way we solved the issue of chores. It seems like we had to come up with a new plan practically every week—from chore charts to chore wheels, to pulling chores out of a jar. My favorite was when we decided that Mom would put four chores on a white board and it was first come first serve to choose the two we wanted to do. We used to race home from school to get first choice. We even learned to bargain with and compromise with each other when the race was so close.

I’m looking forward to providing my children with the opportunity to learn the many skills taught by family meetings, and to many fond memories.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Connection Before Correction

    Of all the 52 tool cards--Connection Before Correction is my favorite! This seems to be the tool that I am the most consistent with.  However, I've had to smile and feel guilty at the same time when my son comes to me before I go to him with his arms open wide, ready to give a big hug.  He's even been taught to remind me to take a few deep breaths when I'm upset. I wish I could have seen my face the first time (when he was just 3-years-old) he said "Mommy, calm down and take some deep breaths." He was absolutely right. I was embarrassed and grateful at the same time. Embarrassed because my 3-year-old caught my behavior before I did, and grateful because he actually learned what I had taught him.

    We've all had a heated argument with a spouse or sibling. I think I can speak for everyone when saying that it's hard to correct ("fix") the problem when one or the other is still upset. It's usually after we've both calmed down that we're able to say, "It's all my fault"---No, "It's my fault." We then follow by saying "I'm sorry," and the other quickly responds with "I'm sorry too."

    I can also speak freely in confessing that when I’m angry or upset, I will say and do things I don't mean. Most of the time I'm ashamed for my behavior and wished that I‘d calmed down first, or just kept my big mouth shut. These same responses and reactions happen as parents too—except more often.  How many times have we reacted to our children when they have pushed our last button? Before we know it, we can't control what comes out of our mouths and we flip our lid and totally lose control. Watch the video below to better understand flipping your lid.

    This week I have another story that relates to this tool card. And I hope my husband doesn't think I'm "throwing him under the bus." I share these stories because I feel that many couples will be able to relate. Most couples come from completely different backgrounds. They're each raised with different parenting styles. This usually leads to one parent being more of the "Authoritarian Parent" and the other as the more "Permissive Parent." Right? So, what usually happens is the permissive parent is even more permissive trying to make up for the authoritarian parent and vice versa. As you are learning, Positive Discipline doesn't advocate either style rather that parents be BOTH Kind and Firm. That said...my son Greyson received another Yellow Card in school on Friday, that was followed by the Red Card on Thursday. My husband was so patient and respectful with him on Thursday. He took him into our office and he sat with him and talked to him by asking questions, focusing on solutions and brainstorming ideas together on a plan for school the next day. Everyone felt great. 

    Of course all cards were off the table when the next day there was a substitute teacher...sigh.   When Greyson received his yellow card, and my husband received ANOTHER talk from the teacher—well let's just say he wasn't as cool as he was the day before. He felt like "everything he had said went in one ear and out the other." I think he felt discouraged, and that being respectful and calm wasn't working. He was getting to the point of "flipping his lid" when I had suggested that he calm down and let me talk to Greyson. His interpretation of that request was that I was "rescuing, coddling, and babying him." My interpretation was that I was "Connecting Before Correcting."

    It was obvious that they were both upset, so I knew that this was not the time to resolve conflict or to problem solve. My husband thought that I wasn't being supportive of him, yet it was the exact opposite.

    After my son had calmed down I was able to relay this message in a calm, kind and respectful tone. I was absolutely supporting him, just not in the way that he wanted me to. I explained to my husband that when a baby learns to talk, they don't start speaking in sentences right away, not even in a few weeks or months for that matter. It sometimes takes years, before they are speaking in sentences, with words we can understand. This analogy also applies to learning life skills and the lessons we're teaching every time we have the opportunity. Most of these opportunities are brought to us with challenges.  Just as my son was able to remind me to take deep breaths to calm down—he is learning and it's all happening one day at a time and one challenge/opportunity at a time.

    The following day my husband and son were connected with hugs and apologies and once again--the message did get through.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Encouragement Parenting Tool

    In my mom’s article on Encouragement,  she mentioned her "friend." That "friend" is me. She wanted to protect my privacy, but as you will learn throughout this year, I like to keep it real and I have no shame in saying that I am NOT a perfect parent.

    It's been 82 days since my son, Greyson, started Kindergarten and I must admit that I've been sucked into the behavior modification color card punishment system. I remember the first day of orientation when they had recommended that if our child does not get a "US Award"  (great behavior all day) that they should be "punished with a consequence at home."  I rolled my eyes and thought "not in our home." We don't believe in punishment--and we definitely don't believe in making them "pay" for their mistakes or for acting like a five year old...so I thought.

    I also believed that if I brought both the teacher and the principal a Positive Discipline in the Classroom book that they might change the "system" they've been using for 30+ years. Oops again—there I go with my magical thinking.

    Everything changed when Greyson got his first RED CARD (worst you can get). I honestly can't even remember what it was for, but I can remember how I felt when the teacher pulled me aside at pick-up to explain the situation. I felt like I just got a RED CARD in parenting. Silly I know! And if you had told me that first day of school that I would've taken this "system" personally, I would have told you "don't be ridiculous." But somehow, when I was listening, with what felt like my tail between my legs, I couldn't help but to feel that my child's behavior was a reflection of my parenting. I know it's crazy!!! Especially since my mom warned me. She said, "if you're going to send Greyson to a school with this "system" then you can't feed into it. She then reminded me that it's not what they do at school but how we handle it at home.

    Greyson has provided me with several opportunities to practice. In the beginning, I did a lot of talking (telling) and had dismissed a lot of the color cards because I thought athey were ridiculous. I volunteer in his classroom twice a month so I see exactly what it takes to get a card change (such as talking to a classmate). Several times other students would have a color card change and I wasn't even sure about what they had done.

    That said--I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't stuck with the original plan to not get hooked by this system. I started punishing at home— taking away privileges, not allowing him to go to LegoLand (more painful for me that him), lecturing and threatening. Recently, after feeling completely discouraged with myself and my son, I started asking him curiosity  questions. For example, how do you think your teacher feels when she's trying to teach and you keep interrupting? Or, now that you know it's not okay to play Ninja on the carpet, "where is it that you can play?"

    After the long 3-week vacation from school, I thought for sure it would be a challenging week. I was pleasantly surprised when he came running to give me a hug at pick up and was excited to say, "I got a Green Card." He was so happy and proud! He confirmed this when I tucked him into bed that night and he shared that his happiest part of his day was getting his green card. I of course was happy because he was happy, but in the same breath I felt like my son is already being sucked into the system of thinking he is "good" when he gets a green card and that he's "bad" when he gets any color below that...ugh!!

    It was only 3-days later that everything started going South. He got a yellow card but his teacher told me that she wanted to give him a RED...yikes! She explained that he was extra wiggly during circle time and that he needed to be reminded several times to listen. I asked him in front of his teacher, "What would help you to listen to your teacher?" I had suggested, "What if you came up with your own code word and a silent signal that would be just between you and your teacher?" They both liked that idea!

    I waited until that night when I was tucking him in and asked him the same question again. Greyson came up with the code word "ZIP" and then he showed me the silent signal of him zipping his lips closed. He loved this idea and told me he was excited to tell his teacher the next morning.

    The next day at pick-up my fingers were crossed and sure enough it worked!!! His teacher told me that their code word and signal worked well all day...woohoo!!! I was pleased to share with her that when the child comes up with the solution that they will usually follow it. I believe that Greyson felt empowered and therefore encouraged to follow through with their agreement.

    The lesson that I have learned in the last 82 days of school is that it definitely feels better to encourage my son and focus on finding solutions and problem solving. It felt completely discouraging to fall into the trap of punishment and consequences. Once again, using the Positive Discipline tool card for encouragement felt good to all of us. Encouraging my son felt kind and respectful for everyone!

    I’m sure Greyson won’t keep his mouth zipped. It is developmentally appropriate for Kindergartners to want to “socialize” with their friends. So, we can look forward to many more colored cards and many more opportunities to keep practicing the encouragement of focusing on solutions.

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Order of Tool Cards

    For all of you that are interested in following along this journey of practicing all 52 Positive Discipline Parenting Tool Cards--here is the order for each week.
    What a great way to start 2012!

    Week 1 - Listen
    Week 2 - Encouragement
    Week 3 - Connection Before Correction
    Week 4 - Family Meetings
    Week 5 - Compliments
    Week 6 - Routines
    Week 7 - Special Time
    Week 8 - Take Time for Training
    Week 9 - Validate Feelings
    Week 10 - Positive Time Out
    Week 11 - Jobs
    Week 12 - Mistakes
    Week 13 - 3 R's of Recovery
    Week 14 - Problem Solving
    Week 15 - Limit Screen Time
    Week 16 - Follow Through
    Week 17 - Agreements
    Week 18 - Focus On Solutions
    Week 19 - Logical Consequences
    Week 20 - Natural Consequences
    Week 21 - Teach Children What to Do
    Week 22 - Put Kids in the Same  Boat
    Week 23 - Allowances
    Week 24 - Hugs
    Week 25 - Wheel of Choice
    Week 26 - Act Without Words
    Week 27 - Understand the Brain
    Week 28 - Back Talk
    Week 29 - Winning Cooperation
    Week 30 - Distract & Redirect
    Week 31 - Decide What You Will Do
    Week 32 - Practice
    Week 33 - Empower Your Kids
    Week 34 - Motivation
    Week 35 - Kind and Firm
    Week 36 - Pay Attention
    Week 37 - Small Steps
    Week 38 - Control Your Behavior
    Week 39 - Sense of Humor
    Week 40 - Silent Signals
    Week 41 - Letting Go
    Week 42 - Eye to Eye
    Week 43 - Closet Listening
    Week 44 - One Word
    Week 45 - Show Faith
    Week 46 - Break the Code
    Week 47 - Avoid Pampering
    Week 48 - Anger Wheel of Choice
    Week 49 - Encouragement vs Praise
    Week 50 - Limited Choices
    Week 51 - Curiosity Questions
    Week 52 - Mirror