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    Keeping it Positive - Alternatives to No

    I believe children are better able to grow and flourish when they are in a positive, "yes" environment in which they can safely explore. Yet, often, as parents, we end up using the word "no" to guide our children's behavior, far more often than we may want to, which can lead to a negative environment where children are prohibited from exploring and growing to their full potential. Using the word no is easy and can become habitual - a knee-jerk response, and also can quickly become a toddler’s favorite word, and/or the word least paid-attention to by your children. This, in turn, leaves parents feeling ignored and children feeling stymied. Yet, children do need limits, and as parents, it’s our duty to keep them safe. 


    So what do you do when you want to keep your child away from something dangerous/fragile/breakable or need stop an undesirable behavior... but you don't want to say no?



    Here are some alternatives to using the word No:


    - Keep baby-unfriendly items out of reach and/or locked away until baby is able to carefully handle them, while keeping a few safer "adult" items out for baby to explore with you.


    - Redirect the "no" behavior. If baby keeps going for the extension cord, and you keep saying no, and she keeps going for it, instead, get down on the floor with her, and redirect her with another intruiging (yet safer) object.


    - Use the words "We don't..." and describe the undesirable behavior.  For example, "We don't throw balls in the house." instead of just No! and taking the ball away.


    - Go one step further and give a "We do..." alternative. For example, "We don't throw balls in the house.  But we do throw trash in the garbage can - here, you try!"


    - Use an alternate word like STOP! to keep a toddler from running into a dangerous situation or HOT! to keep toddler from reaching up to the stove. Stop and Hot actually give more specific, yet, quick instruction as opposed to No, which is more generic, and more likely to be ignored. 


    - Practice the Stop! and Go! game with your toddlers in a danger-free zone, like a back yard, where you have the kids run when you say Go! and stop right away when you say Stop!


    - Use a weird word - HALT! or SLAM! or BEEP! or BOOGER! The word itself matters less than the tone of your voice, which is usually enough to get your baby or toddler to stop what they are doing long enough for you to intervene. Just keep a few surprise words in your back pocket - don't use them often, only when absolutely necessary to get immediate attention.


    - If you must say no, modify it with an alternative, like, "No, but you CAN (fill in the blank)". For example, toddler is about to hit the baby, instead of just saying no, say, "No hitting baby, but we can hit the drum!"


    - Take a breather. If your child is asking something that you're tempted to say no to right away, like, "Can I get a pair of shoes like that?" you can say, "Let me think about it", and then, do think on it.  Maybe an alternative solution can be reached when you've had some time to think.


    - Offer options as an alternative to no. Instead of, "No, we can't go to the zoo today" say, "How about we have a picnic in the back yard?" or "I just got a great movie in the mail; would you like to watch it?"


    - Give an informational answer to a question that you might otherwise be tempted to answer with a no. Like, "Can I have a snack?" could be answered with, "Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes."


    - Rephrase No to Yes. Instead of, "No, we can't go bike riding right now because I have a lot of work to do", try, "Yes, as soon as I finish my work. I should be ready to go in a half an hour."


    - Have a Yes day (or hour, or minute)!  Allow yourself to answer all of your child's requests for an allotted period of time with a positive answer, instead of a negative one.  Certainly, if the request is, "Can I poke the baby with a pencil?" you've got to draw the line there (maybe with a fun redirection or No, but you CAN... statement), but if the request is, "Can I play with your phone?" or "Can I pour the juice myself?" or "Can I wear flip flops with socks?", try saying Yes, (and offering assistance if needed) instead of immediately saying no. I've found behavior turns around quickly and no's are more quickly responded to, when more yeses are used on a daily basis.



    Do you have any other alternatives to saying No?  I’d love to hear!



    Posted: Sep 21 2010, 17:58 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    What About Anger

    I've been thinking lately about anger & how it affects children. And parents.
    As parents, so much of our time is spent with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (and children and tweens and teens, I can only imagine) trying to teach them how to control (suppress) their anger: We don't hit! No biting! Quiet voices inside! Use nice words! And meanwhile, try to control (suppress) our own anger, in an effort to be a peaceful (good) parent.


    Really, I think we don’t want our children to be angry. Or, when they are angry (as people will be, of course), we want them to figure out how to get it under control. Like, NOW. And, in a way that socially acceptable (and doesn’t hurt my ears or other parts of my body, or embarrass you or me, thank you very much).  We don’t like the way it makes them feel, makes us feel, or the aftermath of said anger – theirs, or ours. I think we’d rather avoid it altogether.

    I’m a believer of teaching children through example - SHOWING our children how to behave more than telling them. Children do learn more by what they see played out and work out themselves, rather than what they hear.

    So, I try to be gentle. (Oftentimes feeling not all that gentle.)

    I try to be quiet and measured with my voice. (Though sometimes all I want to do is yell!)

    I try to give my children words to describe their feelings. (Nice words, when I can think of them.) 


    I tell and show my children that sometimes we DON'T feel good, but even when you feel that way, you still need to act with kindness, patience, and peacefulness.  (Oh, that sounds good, doesn’t it?)


    But I often find, that in my effort to teach anger management and keep a peaceful household, I get so wrapped up in the, “what can I do to not mess up my kids by getting angry with them” mode of thinking that I think I often miss the actual hearing what they are angry about and helping them work through it in a meaningful (though maybe not ideal) way.  In the striving to be perfect in my management of anger (rarely happens), I get so darned frustrated, I miss opportunities to stop, say what I’m feeling, and act it out myself in a acceptable way. I think this comes in part from my upbringing - my parents were not ones to withhold the anger (um, read: rage); and it didn't need to have reason.  Screaming was just the method of communication in my household.  So I know now as a parent myself, I try desperately to avoid that at all costs. Because I don't want to be a (the) YELLING MOM.  But in trying to restrict the rage, I disregard my early signals of anger, and miss opportunities to share with my kids, in reasonable tones, "Hey, I'm feeling irritable right now.  I need a break.", and instead, tend to bottle it until it blows.


    Case in point: I will repeat ad nauseum "be kind/gentle to your siblings" & "please stop fighting", with increased frequency and urgency but then lose my temper (because my 5 year old has the third tantrum of the day, I haven't had my coffee, I need to pay the bills, go grocery shopping, vaccuum, do the dishes, and have a deadline to meet at work…) and end up yelling, "I've had enough!" and slamming a door to give myself (a much needed, but could have been otherwise more peacefully acheived) time out (right after telling my 3 year old not to slam doors)! 


    Go me:  


    Which make me wonder: does that very real action negate the message I’m trying to send my kids about anger?  Because, I’m really not that good at managing my own anger all the time.  I can get so frustrated that I yell (and apologize) or slam doors (and say I shouldn’t have done that) or make stupid threats like, “we’re never coming back to the playground!” (and then admit, no that’s ridiculous, of course we are, I was just feeling frustrated with your behavior and I lost my temper). And then I feel plagued with guilt at not being in control of my anger. And guilt at not being able to teach my kids to control their anger.  I’m supposed to be teaching life-long lessons here, right?


    But then, that makes me wonder: is it even ideal to BE peaceful/even-keeled/NOT angry/in control all the time?


    Kids and adults naturally feel anger as one of their emotions, and bottling that up isn't healthy. So, maybe what I need most to be striving for (and worrying about) isn't how to control and stifle anger (mine or theirs), but how to accept anger as a natural emotion, and learn how better to express anger in a healthy acceptable way. To stop worrying so much about keeping anger in check (so much so that I end up getting super-frustrated with myself, and thus the kids, & completely lose my temper), but instead show my children not that I’m impenetrable by anger.  That I can be, in fact, very touched by anger and frustration and irritation and annoyance, and that’s okay.  Maybe if I accept anger, as I feel it coming on, and express it (not smother it) through words like, “Hey, kids, right now I’m starting to feel angry because you’re not listening to what I’m saying to you”, I might be better able to release it before it builds up.  And in this way be teaching them through example, that saying, “I’m angry with you”, is really okay.  Far better than bottling it up and releasing it all at once by yelling or door slamming.


    So how do YOU control your anger?  Or do you?  How do you teach your kids to express themselves when they’re angry? 

    Posted: Jun 02 2010, 23:44 by kelly | Comments (11) RSS comment feed |
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    Getting Beyond Punishment

    One of my resolutions this year is to more effectively & consistently use peaceful, positive discipline with my children.  I strive to connect with them, and teach (the right message) with every interaction; even if that interaction is one of a corrective/disciplinary nature.  Teaching children a certain behavior is undesirable doesn’t have to include anger, punishment, shame, or isolation. And it should include empathy, kindness, and natural consequences. I don’t achieve perfection every time, and do make mistakes. But I strive to learn from my parenting mistakes, to forgive myself for those I make, and move on with better tools in my toolbox (and leave the ones that don’t work in the garbage).


    Positive discipline is so important to fostering not just good behavior in children, but more importantly, in developing a fully functional internal guidance system. What distresses me, is that for the overwhelming attitude of adults, “well behaved” is the penultimate goal for children. And because of this belief, any and every method should be used to achieve this in your children.  Punitive or not. Logical or not. I believe it’s a misguided objective, and leads ultimately to frustration. Unfortunately, it begins in babyhood with most - with the unreasonable expectation of producing a “good” baby: one who doesn’t fuss, and who sleeps through the night – and continues on through childhood with the “good” child who doesn’t talk back or tantrum or rebel. It’s as though people have forgotten that when babies cry, and children test limits, they do so from a natural, normal place of need: needing to be held, needing attention, needing to be gently guided. They are asking to be taught, not punished. They don’t come into this world knowing anything. And so, every interaction we have with them teaches them something.  Don’t we want to make sure that what we’re teaching is what we actually want them to learn? 


    I fear that in an effort to make children more convenient, parents are resorting punishments and techniques aimed at quieting instead of actually parenting, and teaching: getting to the root of what the baby is trying to say or what the child is trying to learn or express.  Take “cry it out” for example, used rampantly by parents as a means of “teaching” babies to sleep.  While it may work in the short term – and achieve (at least temporarily) the goal of the quiet sleeping baby, it hasn’t actually taught the baby the intended lesson. Baby didn’t learn that sleep is a peaceful state, or to willingly go to bed.  Instead, baby has learned that no one comes when they cry, so stop crying.  That nighttime is a time of loneliness and discomfort.  What this translates to in the long term is a sense of defeatism, lowered self worth, and detachment from parents.  It may achieve a quiet “good” baby, but at what cost?


    The same goes for the typical punishments of childhood: spanking, parent-determined consequences, and coerced/enforced/isolation timeouts. Don’t hit, or I’ll spank you.  Don’t talk back or I’ll put you in a time out & I’ll tell you when to get out.  Certainly, the hypocrisy of hitting as a punishment for hitting is obvious. But what about the less obvious parent-determined punishments like timeouts?  I say that punitive discipline (as opposed to natural/logical consequences) only serve to teach children this: Don’t do what parents don’t want you to do; with one big caveat: while they’re watching.  You see, unless you teach children WHY hitting isn’t an acceptable form of expressing frustration – and unless you give them alternative methods of expression, they WILL continue to hit, they’ll just do it when mom isn’t looking.  Kids may appear to behave, but unless they have an understanding of why, and how, the “good behavior” is in appearance only.  Wouldn’t you rather a child have the ability to self-control, instead of behaving only due to external control? A kid who can understand that we don’t hit because it hurts another person, and hurting another person feels awful to me, and to them, and instead I should walk away before I hit, or use my words to express my frustration, is SO MUCH better prepared for life than the child who doesn’t hit because Mom is in the room & doesn’t want to get in trouble. 


    To this effort, I strive for more thoughtfulness, and less reactivity in my responses to my childrens’ unwanted behaviors. I keep a keen eye on my own actions and responses, as children learn most from what they see & do than from what they hear.  I DO tolerate more that perhaps is typically expected, because I don’t think just “being good” is good enough for my kids, or for me as a parent.  I expect my children to learn from their behavior as I learn from mine. In my previous post, I mentioned the Positive Discipline parenting cards.  The one I chose for this week seems appropriate to this post:

    If you're interested in positive discipline, and getting away from punishment, you may find these articles & sites helpful:

    Positive Discipline Methods
    What is Discipline?
    How Children Really React to Control
    The Case Against Time-Out

    Posted: Jan 07 2010, 12:11 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    New Year's Resolutions

    I love the positive renewing energy that comes from a new year – and with 2010, we start a new decade!

    In that spirit, here’s my list of things to improve upon, goals to reach, and things that I will do in 2010:

    1) Get Healthier. Okay, yes, #1 is uber-cliché & conventional as far as New Year’s resolutions go. But who couldn’t be healthier? Personally, I need to increase my HDL (“good cholesterol”) and reduce my TSH (thyroid level). To achieve these goals, I have three things in mind: exercise more, eat more raw, fresh food, and keep better tabs on what exactly I DO put into my body & how much I actually DO exercise. Fortunately, we have an elliptical machine, a fantastic Blendtec smoother blender which makes super-good fruit & veggie smoothies, and my ever-present pal, iPhone. With all these convenient, modern technologies how can I not get back to a place of better health? Of course, losing a bit of weight & getting stronger in the process are, of course, nice side benefits! :)

    2) Practice peaceful, positive discipline with my children more consistently and effectively! I recently purchased a pack of 52 cards to help me stay on track, called “Positive Discipline Parenting Tools: 52 Cards to Improve Your Parenting Skills”. The ideas presented on the cards are fantastic reminders to stay kind, positive, encouraging, and consistent in your interactions with your children. They suggest positive discipline techniques without overusing praise or punishment. Just perusing some of the cards, I’ve found them to be helpful in making a natural progression from the Attachment Parenting techniques we’ve used with our children as infants/toddlers to preschoolers! If you’re interested in the cards, I purchased them here (not my site & I’m not affiliated, just had a good experience with my online purchase).

    3) Read 10 books. Now, ten may not sound that lofty to most. Frankly it’s not to me either. But with working, parenting, homemaking, gardening, blogging, etc., one of my favorite pastimes, reading, often gets left by the wayside, so I’m being realistic here folks. One book every 1.25 months I can do. I have 7 on my bedside table, ready to go. In fact, I just cracked the first one open!

    4) Write. More. Often. I so enjoy writing, yet like many other time consuming personal activities, since having children, I’ve pushed it to the backburner. So, 2010 is the year to bring quadrant two (non urgent, important [Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here's a quick review of Steven Covey’s Quadrants] to the forefront, and push quadrant 4 (non urgent, not important) to the background. And when I say write, I’m not talking about Twitter - because while it’s a fun place to share information – the time spent “writing” on twitter (and I use quotations as 140 characters dsnt leav mch rm 2 actuly wrt) could be much more productively spent actually writing. Like in my blog, or my novel (oh yes, I WILL complete it).

    5) Seeing Dave Matthews w/Tim Reynolds in concert. Yes, this is on my new years resolution list. Why? It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve had a real concert EXPERIENCE. I’m craving one again, and from everything I’ve read, Dave will pull through for me. I wasn't more than a sometimes fan of Dave Matthews until about two years ago when I stumbled upon his & Tim Reynolds’ Live at Radio City video on the home theatre display with my daughter in an unnamed big box store. We sat & watched, entranced. What a performer! Been a big fan ever since (and even got Adam hooked too). Its time to experience it in person!

    So there you have it: Get healthier, parent better, read more, write more, and see a good show. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? I’m up for the challenge! Who’s with me? I’d love to hear your resolutions – please share your comments!

    Posted: Jan 05 2010, 18:58 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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