Monday, February 27, 2012

floor-baking incident part 2

so my father lovingly pointed out that to the unknowing, outside observer, not punishing children who pour baking ingredients on the living room floor does not in fact appear to be a sign of fantastic, stellar, brilliant, out-of-this-world parenting that I claim it to be, but rather it may appear more like negligent, incompetent, and all around poor parenting...

so which is it??

well... clearly it's the first! ha! especially since it is what i endorse and i am the writer of this blog... but please, let me explain...

first of all, I have to reiterate what I wrote in the last post, which is that not yelling/getting angry/punishing at the time of misbehaviour is only one component of the parenting strategy, and by refraining from doing these things, we are NOT ENDORSING the misbehaviour. Rather,


we are CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSING to seek out the MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO EDUCATE AND TEACH OUR CHILDREN WHAT THE DESIRABLE BEHAVIOUR IS IN A WAY THAT THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A CHANCE TO START DOING IT!!!


that means that in a situation like this I have to do a few things:
1. In the moment of misbehaviour I have to communicate unconditional love (i.e. the message that the child is inherently good, only the behaviour is bad, and I love them no matter what they've done even if I don't love the behaviour) [check. we did this when we reacted calmly, without losing control or our temper, and by not saying something mean and therefore inappropriate]
2. Diffuse the situation. [check. we did this by removing the little ones from the situation (put them on the couch) and putting away all renegade kitchen items]

now this is what I want to focus on today...

3. Identify the behaviour that needs to be worked on-- in this case there are a few different lessons I can choose, like the importance of not wasting food or of mistreating our home by making a big mess, but I think they really do know these concepts because most of the time they don't have any problem with them... the problem really seems to arise when they know they are without direct adult supervision for a few minutes... so with that in mind, the desired behaviour I will aim to teach them based on this is 'personal self-control and choosing to do the right thing on your own and not just because someone's watching you", and maybe we'll throw in a little 'proper morning behaviour etiquette' while we're at it...

4. Look for a Quiet Moment that you can then use as a TEACHING MOMENT. A quiet moment is one where there is a positive, loving atmosphere between parent and child, things are calm, and they can really focus on one another. It is essential to choose a time like this to teach the lesson you want your child to learn. And like I mentioned in the last post, teaching methods can vary and depend on the child's age, but examples include modelling the behaviour yourself (you should really try to do this no matter what anyway!), telling a story that exemplifies it, making a puppet show (for little kids), noticing when it does happen and giving positive encouragement, just sitting down and talking about it, etc....

Ok, now we're ready for my real life illustration of points 3 & 4 which I am happy to say happened just in time for this post!!!


So I just have to mention, that when we are talking about the teaching principles, they really apply mainly to my son (who's 4 1/2) cuz the other kids are really still too little...

Ok so I've already done my step 3, choosing what I want to teach my son... then yesterday I had the opportunity to do step 4. It was the early afternoon, my mother's helper couldn't come yesterday and so it was just me and the kids. The baby and my other daughter had both fallen asleep, and I was having some quality 1-on-1 time with my son, lying on the couch playing with clicks (possibly the best toy ever) and telling stories (for anyone who knows my son, you will know that he LOOOOOVES being told stories)... so here we were in a perfect quiet moment (1-on-1 time, atmosphere of love, time to focus on each other) so I decided to try telling a story that would exemplify the desired behaviour. it went something like this...

Once there was a boy named David and one morning he woke up in the morning and he washed netilat yadayim (Jewish ritual hand-washing in the morning) and said Modeh Ani (exclamation of thanks to the Almighty that we are alive and have another day ahead and it's awesome). David noticed that he was the first one up in his home, and then he went into the kitchen. When he got there he saw.... a huge bag of chocolate chips on his kitchen counter! (ha true story, this actually happens often, which btw is a reminder that the parents also have to set up their kids for success, meaning NOT leaving chocolate and candy in accessible places and then expecting them not to touch it when we adults ourselves have a hard enough time with self-control around food as it is!). So at first David got really excited and thought about how he wanted to take the bag of chocolate chips, go get his arts & crafts scissors, cut them open, and eat them all! Yay that would be fun!... WAAAAIT! Then David thought about his Mommy... how she would be upset. she would tell him that all that chocolate could hurt his tummy. she would say chocolate is not for breakfast. she would say that spilling the chocolate chips out could make them dirty and unusable and that's a waste. and so he decided that he wouldn't touch the bag of chocolate chips, and instead he went to the living room, and sat down to look at the pictures in one of his books (too young to actually read them) and wait patiently until Abba or Imma (our other names for daddy and mommy) come downstairs. 

Ok so after he sat enthralled listening to every word, when I had finished, right away he said "Ima, tomorrow I'm not going to take any treats. I'm going to sit nicely with a book!" Great. he identified with the protagonist and wants to be like him. So now I respond "Good for you! You are such a tzaddik (good/righteous person)!" This is a good start, let's see what happens. 


Alright, ready for the best part? So when I come downstairs this morning, what's he doing? Sitting very nicely on the couch looking at one of his books! WOOHOO! So of course right away I go crazy with the positive reinforcement, telling him how wonderful he is, what a huge mitzvah it is, how he listened so nicely, he's so responsible, such a big boy, etc., etc. He is beaming... then a few minutes later my husband comes down and right away my son says "abba! abba! guess what i did this morning?!". he tells  him, and then right away my husband proceeds to make a huge deal of it and we decide that today he will get a special treat...

So now yes it's true that we have to keep going with this for a little while to establish a PATTERN of the desired behaviour, but it is really amazing to see such a clear example of this strategy in action. So I want to say again, thank you Fran (Fran being my parenting coach and teacher)! And also thank you to my parents for encouraging me to clarify what it's all about...

hope this was helpful, and feel free to ask me questions if anything i write doesn't make sense. chances are i will be able to clarify!

wishing everyone a fabulous day,
love julie

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