I am on a quest to become a better parent. I am a very good teacher,a great daycare provider and just assumed positive parenting would come naturally. It didn't! At least, not enough of the time. When I am on my game and everything is organised and I have had enough sleep, all the planets are alligned in the right order, the temperature is exactly right, I have had just the right amount of caffine....you get the idea....I am an awesome mum. However, as my oldest has gotten older I have found myself falling into a cycle of negativity. You know what I mean...don't do that....leave that alone....I am going to count to three....one more time and blanky goes on the fridge...do you want to sleep outside....Ill put you out with the wheelie bin (not really, but I think it!). This was not the way I pictured parenting. Its a very draining way to parent and makes you not look forward to getting out of bed in the morning.
I tried the 'one, two, three...magic' parenting approach. I bought the book, studied it over and over, talked Ben through the basic techniques and put it into practice. Did it work? Yes. Was it positive? No. It also often ended in 'timeout' which was not a quiet experience like the book suggested it should be. It was a kicking, screaming, banging experience that must have made the neighbours wonder what on earth was going on. In fact I know they did wonder because when I met my new neighbour she didnt seem too keen on stopping for a chat. She did manage to ask me how many kids I had. When I replied 'two' she said 'Its hard with little kids isn't it...' and kept walking...hmmm. The other issue with the timeout tantrums was that we have a baby and it became difficult to find a place to have timeout without waking the baby. The other issue with counting to three was the frusteration I felt when Chloe discovered she could do what she liked until after I said 'two' without going in timeout. This was driving me insane! I started to undermine the program by counting really fast to try and catch her out or I would just loose it and have my own temper tantrum. So, to sum it all up, counting to three didn't really work for us.
I went back to trusty Google and continued my search for a good parenting system that would work for us. I came across the 'positive parenting program'. itunes had some free podcasts about it. I had a listen and liked the sound of it. I was walking around town the same week and by complete coincidence found a leaflet advertising the course here in my home town. It is a four week program with three follow up phone calls over another four weeks. See? The planets had alligned just right and I saw this as a sign from the heavens that this was the one for us! The cost? Just $20 to cover the cost of the workbook.
I am currently part way through the course and it has completely changed the relationship between my daughter and myself. The course content is excellent, it challenges the way you think about discipline and its completely based around being a positive rolemodel. The course instructor...not so good. Im not sure she is all there. Luckily the workbook has alot of info in it that makes alot of sense!
So far this is the list of the most valuable information i have got out of it. It would depend on your individual child though...
1. Don't say don't
Everytime you tell my child not to do something she will see it as a challenge to find a way to do it. Its all about the words! For example, instead of saying 'don't hit your sister' you say 'keep your hands to yourself'. Can you see the difference? Keep your hands to yourself is a clear direction about how to behave. Repeat it often enough they might actually start to 'get' it.
2. Descriptive Praise
Catch them doing something good that you want them to continue and clearly praise them. For example, 'gosh you are playing nicely with your sister today! I like the way you are reading her a story, she loves it when you play like that.' The other trick is to do this all the time
3. We do way too much for our kids
This point has made a big difference to our day. An example....Chloe can dress herself...when she feels like it. If she would do this all the time my life would be easier. I made a conscious choice to change this behaviour. The way to do it is to allow HEAPS of time and to 'ask...say...do'. Ask her to get dressed. If she can't or wont do it, remind her of the first step. 'Take off your PJ pants'. If there is something they have difficulty with like buttons, show them how to do one, then let them complete the task. Chloe now looks forward to getting dressed in the morning and does it all by herself. Yay! She also now does lots of other things because I followed the same process. She feeds the cat and the fish, uses the dust pan and broom to sweep up the 'piles' I have made, gets her own drink of water from the tap, sets the table and yesterday got her own yogurt from the tub. She makes her bed and tidies away toys and books in her room. I know this process is working because yesterday I noticed she had changed the toys she was playing with in her room and had packed the first one up and put it away before she got the second one out. Amazing! Go Chloe.
4. Clear household rules
This is another thing that struck home with me. When I was asked what our rules are I couldn't quite think of what they are. How on earth can I expect my child to follow the rules when it isn't clear what they are in the first place. As a family we have started to talk informally about what rules we should have and Chloe has even contributed a couple. Now when she isn't doing what she is supposed to I relate it back to our house rule. Like, we walk inside, keep your hands to yourself, we sit down to eat, we talk in a pleasant voice etc. Its funny, Chloe has even started pulling us up when we break the rule. The other day I asked Ben to give Ely a bath and he said as a joke 'i don't wanna!' Chloe out of the blue responded with 'stop winghing daddy!'. Very funny!
5. Routine, routine, routine!!
I thought we were pretty good at this one until I realised we aren't! A routine is so important to keep a child feeling safe and knowing what is expected of them. Like the getting dressed issue. Now Chloe knows we all go upstairs, she gets dressed while I dress Ely, she makes her bed, puts PJs away and tidies the toys and books, Ely has a sleep while we head to the bathroom to do Chloes hair and brush her teeth. In order for this to run smoothly this needs to be the process every single morning when ever possible. We have also started an after dinner routine of everybody cleaning up, not just one of us. I love it because all the toys get put away, the rubbish gets taken out and the table wiped down, all while I am cleaning the kitchen. Then all I have to do is sweep instead of spending another 30 minutes doing it all myself. Chloe doesn't complain because its become part of the day and everyone is contributing. Again, this now has to happen every night otherwise Chloe will see it as a choice instead of something that must be done. It helps Ben and I stay in a routine as well.
6. Planned ignoring
This is a good one and has made such a diference. Basically you ignore anything that you can. Badgering, Whinging and Whinning are big problems here, even Ely has started copying Chloe when she does it. Now we just take a deep breath and ignore it. It gets alot worse before it gets better but it really works. Its good for tantrums too. Again though it is all about consistency. In order for the behaviour to stop you need to respond the same everytime.
Im really enjoying this journey and I am learning heaps along the way. I would highly recommend this program to anyone! It really makes you look at yourself as a person and what you are expecting of your kids.