Monday, 28 February 2011
I took the following comments out of my Facebook posts and I'm working on organizing them into a helpful list for my student's parents. Feel free to criticize and point out anything I've missed or you disagree on. But if you do, kindly explain why, so that I can consider your points.
1. All children seek their parents approval. That's really the biggest advantage parents have. Even despite the fact that they will test boundaries from time to time, even despite that they get cranky at times. Even teens want their parents approval.
Nearly all of the parent/child issues I've ever come across have stemmed from the child not fully understanding how to get that approval, or the perception that (whether true or false) what is required for approval is impossible for him/her to obtain. Sometimes the child feels that the only way for their emotions to be heard and their needs to be met is to be defiant. Best advice I can give is to respond with compassion instead of anger.
2. Most experts agree that when giving your child instructions you should be specific. Use short sentences, descriptive terms, and proper nouns. Even adults have short attention spans on most subjects but sometimes we act like we expect children to follow the most complex mess of instructions. This is one of the main reasons why I usually ask the parent to make me a list of five to ten things they want to see their child doing when I start a new student. I similarly ask for short sentences, descriptive terms, and proper nouns, if you can get your child to visualize it, they will remember it.
3. Also, experts agree that you should speak in positives. In other words, rather than saying: "Don't do this, don't do that", tell them what you want them to do. So many parents drive themselves crazy by saying things like "Dont jump on the couch" when it's far more effective to skip the "don't" and just say, "sit on your fanny."
4. Another effective method (Especially with teenagers) is to never ask, "who did it?" Instead, ask for help fixing the issue, then tell all involved why you were hurt by what happened. Choose your battles, and laying blame is not an important battle, but letting them see why whatever happend effects everyone will make them feel like a shmuck. That's their conscience bothering them. That's what you want.
5. A really smart parent makes a point to notice when they have done something right. You'll have to train yourself to notice it, if you're not already in the habit. Then point it out to them. Make a big deal of it.
6. I never let my students get away with: "I don't know!" Many parents have expressed shock with me over the years with this. I'll say to them, "Tell me anything other than that, even if you have to make something up." That's not encouraging them to lie mind you. There's going to be an element of truth to whatever they say. Even if they chose to lie. But they will almost certainly never make that choice. Especially if you get the "L" word right out there in front.
What's important is that you get them to give you something to work with. "I don't know" is a way they use to couch their actions in a way they don't have to think about them. Your goal is the opposite. You want them to think about what they've done. More so you want to ask them how they're going to fix the problem. Ask them specific questions. Ask them about things you already know the answer to. Don't chastize, instead help them reason it out. End by asking them how they'll make it right.
7. If you want them to learn from their mistakes don't treat punishment like punishment. Treat it like a natural consequence of their actions. Easiest way to do that is by keeping it Reasonable, Respectful, and Related to their actions. For example, you might say that if you do X then that means you have to do Y to "set it right". It's easy to take the easy way out and say "just because I told you so!", but always remember: The easy way out develops easy-way-out adults. You don't want to produce those.
8. You can also try working behind the scenes. When they leave a mess lying about, pick up their stuff and hide it or throw it away. For example: They'll very quickly learn to pick up after themselves. I call it the Tom Sawyer approach. Remember the scene with the whitewashing fence? You want to avoid conflict with your child as much as possible.
Parents look at me like I'm nuts when I say that, particularly parents of teens. To be fair I'm not talking to the point of being paralyzed from action. Parenting is going to require some confrontation no matter what you do.
9. Don't expect to accomplish anything if either of you are angry. I see people try that a lot. When you're angry you're simply not going to be reasonable and you're not going to be compassionate. I don't care if you're the most reasonable and compassionate person on earth you're still going to end up saying something you'll regret. And when they're angry, they're simply not going to be listening to you. This is a recipe for disaster no matter how you spin it.
10. Giving respect earns respect. For some strange reason this is considered intuitive in every human relationship except by parents toward their children. I often hear it argued, "I'm the parent, they are the child. They have to respect me." Fine then, if that attitude is working out for you, then go with it. My experience suggests it probably isn't, so if you want more effective ideas, then you know where to find me.
Thoughts on that? Please share your thoughts and experiences as it pertains to these parenting points. Do you have any others that have worked well for you?