Archive for June 25, 2011

3 Simple Steps to Discipline Children

Children misbehave I probably don’t need to convince you of that…we all know it. Children need us to teach them proper behavior. That’s what discipline is all about–“training to ensure proper behavior: the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior.” How do we train children in proper behavior? How do we teach them acceptable patterns of behavior? One of the first steps a parent can take is to separate behaviors into three categories: behaviors you like, behaviors you will tolerate, and behaviors that have to stop. Then, treat the behaviors in one category differently than you treat the behaviors in another category. Let me explain category by category.
     ·         Encourage those behaviors you like. Encourage your children to engage in the behaviors you like. Behaviors you encourage tend to continue and even increase. So, pay attention to those positive behaviors. Acknowledge them when they occur and thank your children for behaving so nicely. Children love to get our attention and hear that we take pride in them. So, when they engage in behavior you like, acknowledge that behavior. Let them know that you appreciate that positive behavior. Whether you simply acknowledgement their positive behavior, praise their effort to behave well, offer a simple description of behavior, or thank them for a behavior, the behavior will likely increase. Here are some specific things you might say to acknowledge some positive behavior:
o    “I like how you set the table so neatly.” 
o    “I appreciate how quietly you are playing while your brother sleeps.”
o    “Thank you for taking the garbage out.”
o    “I see you turned put your toys away. Thank you.”
·         Ignore those behaviors you can tolerate even though you don’t especially like them. This is the category where parents “pick their battles.” You know…those behaviors that irritate you but do not pose a risk—physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually—to your child. Actions and words you can put up with even though you don’t especially like them. Behaviors in this category will vary from family to family but might include hairstyles, music preferences, dress styles (within reason), teen lingo, or how neat a child keeps his room. Remember, children love our attention and behaviors that we acknowledge or pay attention to will increase. So, in the case of behaviors you can tolerate, ignore them. Give them no attention and no energy. The behaviors you tolerate will likely decreases as you ignore them and invest your energy in acknowledging positive behaviors. Once again, ignore those behaviors that you can tolerate…behaviors that pose no harm and really don’t matter in the broader scope of life. After all, your child can live a healthy, respectful, and righteous life while living a slightly different lifestyle than you.
·         Consequence those behaviors you simply cannot tolerate…behaviors that have to stop. This category includes behaviors that pose a risk to your child or other people. Behaviors in this category can include staying out past curfew, disrespect to others, rude behavior, not completing chores, or dangerous behaviors to name a few. A parent must address these behaviors to protect his child. In this category of behaviors, consequences play an important role. Our children need to learn that positive behavior is actually more convenient and enjoyable than negative behavior. The negative behavior has to result in some discomfort or inconvenience to the child. For instance, a child who stays out past curfew may not be allowed out for a few nights. Or, a child who is disrespectful toward others may lose out on an opportunity because of their disrespect. When a parent offers a consequence for negative behavior, she has to allow the child to suffer that consequence. Don’t save the child from the consequence…let them suffer. They can suffer now, for a little while under your supervision, or, suffer with no safety net for the same behavior when they leave home. Let them learn now…at home, under your supervision. Also, consequence a behavior while offering as little emotional energy as possible. Remember, children like attention and energetic interactions. You do not want their negative behavior to elicit the energetic attention from you that they desire. So, offer the consequence with as little emotional intensity as possible.
Acknowledge positive behavior, ignore behavior you can tolerate, and consequence negative behavior. Sounds kind of simple, but it can prove deceptively difficult at times. Still, these three principles can work wonders when you apply them with your children on a consistent basis.

Rare & Elusive Family Words of Honor

There are some things you just don’t hear in the sacred walls of home…even though they would really show great honor to other family members. I thought I’d list a few of those rare and elusive phrases today. You rarely hear these statements in a family, but wouldn’t it be great…?
“No fair, I got the bigger (last, best) piece of pie.”
“No fair, you let me sit in the best seat in the house.”
“No, please let me empty the kitty litter for you.”
“No problem, I’ll watch your TV program instead of mine this time.”
“Why don’t you rest tonight? I’ll make dinner.”
“Let’s be really quiet; your sister (mother, brother, father) is studying (or resting).”
“I can’t wait to help you with the laundry this week.”
“Never mind the allowance, Mom. I’m just happy to do my part in helping make our home a happy place.”
“Mom, you look tired. What could I do for you around the house to make your day easier?”
“Thanks for giving me time out for talking back. I really learn so much when you discipline me. Thank you so much.”
“We got 4th (5th, 6th, last) place but we worked hard, so let’s go celebrate!”
“You can hold the remote tonight dear.”
And a few from my daughters:
“That’s OK, have as much dessert as you like.”
“Why don’t you rest before doing your chores.”
“No chores for you today; I’m going to do them all for you.”
“That’s OK, you can stay in the basement and practice piano, we’ll go upstairs.”
“I look forward to meeting that nice young man you’re dating.” (OK, now my daughter is pushing her limits!)
What are some phrases you would like to hear in your home…phrases that expresses honor and grace but are rarely heard?

Lets Hear It For Dad!

If you were to judge fatherhood by watching sitcoms, you might think fathers are easily replaced. Sitcoms present fathers as having a self-absorbed teenage mentality of fun and games, unable to make a mature choice for their family. They are “bumbling ninnies” acquiescing to their wives because they have no idea how to help their family, men who embarrass their children and frustrate their wives. However, research paints a very different picture of fathers, one that reveals the positive contributions that fathers make to family life. Let me share just a few highlights.
·         Fathers provide confidence. When fathers remain actively involved in family life, especially with their children, they provide a mother with greater confidence in her ability to parent. That’s right, rather than leading to frustrated mothers, hands-on fathers contribute to a mother’s confidence in her own ability to parent. Fathers not only contribute to a mother’s confidence, they contribute to their children’s confidence as well. Fathers provide children with the confidence to step out into the world away from home–the world of work, social interaction, and school. Children who have the support of an active father respond more confidently to complex, novel situations and exhibit more confidence in exploring the world beyond their immediate home.
·         Fathers are playful adventurers who provide hands-on, rough and tumble play. They playfully wrestle, tickle, run, throw, and push their children in a very different way than a mother. They teach their children a playful curiosity as they talk about those topics mom would rather not hear. In the midst of this play, fathers teach their children self-control. They teach them to calm upsetting emotions and manage anger in constructive ways. They teach them that losing and winning demand decorum and sportsmanship. This self-control extends from play to life as fathers encourage their children to stretch their limits by engaging in activities outside of their comfort zone. They support their children in these endeavors. Each time their child accomplishes some difficult task, a father proudly acknowledges the accomplishment. The playful adventurer in each father teaches their child self-control that leads to less impulsivity and greater empathy for others. Father’s also provide playful adventures that lead to a child’s willingness to try new things, better tolerate stress and frustration, and exhibit greater resilience in stressful situations.
·         Fathers are problem-solvers as well. Let’s face it—men like solutions. They teach those problem-solving skills to their children. Father’s encourage children to persist in the face of difficulties, finding solutions and answers. They support their children in seeking solutions to problems. This can lead to better attitudes about school, stronger educational achievement, and greater career success as well as a better ability to tolerate stress and frustration.
·         Fathers provide loving limits. Loving limits provide a sense of security in a child’s life. Loving limits provide a child with a sense of security. Children who have a father that maintains loving limits develop greater empathy for others. They also learn how to assert themselves in a healthy way. Loving limits eventually become internalized to provide a sense of personal control that allows for responsible action. A father’s loving limits provides a child with security, personal control, empathy, and a healthy sense of personal boundaries.  
Sitcoms may portray fathers as “bumbling ninnies,” but life calls fathers to become supportive, playful adventurers who provide loving limits, security, and problem-solving skills. Fathers are not a simple accessory that is nice to have; they are an asset…a necessity. Every child deserves one…every child needs one. So, let’s hear it for Dad!

Enjoying Your Child–Priceless

Parenting is hard work. We have schedules to keep, dinners to prepare, messes to clean up, occupational demands, yards to keep, clothes to wash…. The work never ends. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day activities of life and in providing for our children, teaching our children, and disciplining our children that we forget to enjoy our children. So, I encourage you to enjoy your child. Spend an evening playing games with them. Go into the back yard and play. Sit on the porch and play cards. Some of my best memories of childhood involve playing board games with my family. Some of my happiest times as an adult also involve playing board games with my family. You don’t have to play board games. You can play imaginative games like “Teacher” (of course your child will probably be the teacher and you the student), Barbie’s, army, catch.
I remember playing Barbie’s with my daughter during her preschool years. Sometimes, we had differences of opinion regarding the direction of the play. I wanted to make Ken to fly, have Barbie ride horseback on a giant bug, or join forces to fight the bad guys and save the world; my daughter wanted to dress Ken and Barbie up, go to a party, and sit by the pool, drink tea, and talk. I still cherish the memory of those times of play in spite of our different ideas. I learned so much about my daughter while playing Barbie’s with her. As she made up various scenarios, I learned about her interests and her friends. I learned what aroused fear in her as we acted out various scenes. Under her direction and supervision, we enacted meeting new people, resolving arguments, getting along during disagreements, and sharing important life events… unintentionally practicing a variety of life skills through imaginative interactions.
I also watched my daughter grow more capable in managing her emotions. She would get somewhat frustrated with me at times–I guess I am a frustrating guy at times. After all, I didn’t “talk like Barbie,” my voice was too low. She insisted that I speak in falsetto. In spite of my efforts, I would slip up and she would have to make adjustments–“Oh, you have a cold today, don’t you?” or “Daddy, that’s the wrong voice.” I would quickly slip back into my falsetto. Each time though, she became more efficient at handling her emotions when things did not go as she planned. When she let me play Ken, I would “tease her,” suggesting that Ken could fly. She would calmly insist that Ken could not fly and restate the order of the “proper scene” for me. On occasion, she would even compromise. “OK Daddy, today he can fly. Just this time though.” The skills gained in compromise and negotiation…all from playing Barbie.
Perhaps most important, playing Barbie allowed me to spend time with my daughter and develop a more intimate relationship. I don’t even know if she remembers playing Barbie with me. But, I know that those imaginative moments allowed us to laugh together, celebrate imagined and real victories together, and share sorrow over imagined and real loses together. Over all, imaginative moments with Barbie allowed my daughter and me to build a deeper and more secure bond in our relationship. If you don’t get hand-me downs, here is a price list to gain the equipment necessary to play Barbie with your daughter: Barbie doll-$12; clothes for Barbie-$10, time with my daughter building our relationship-priceless!

A Therapist with Separation Anxiety

My wife and I are both therapists. We love our work, but there are drawbacks when it comes to as psychobabble) and they turn it back on us from time to time. Let me give you a brief example. My wife and I left our children at home overnight for the first time a couple of weeks ago. They were ecstatic…and practically pushed us out the door. The more they pushed, the more I voiced concern. My youngest daughter just rolled her eyes. Just for fun—you know, trying to get a laugh—I decided to call the house when we were about two miles from home. My youngest daughter saw my name on the caller ID and answered the phone. Our conversation was brief and I tried not to laugh the whole time we talked. Our conversation went something like this:
“What Daddy?”
“Just calling to check in,” I teased. “Are you OK? Is everything going well?”
“Dad, you just left 2 minutes ago! What, are you a therapist with separation anxiety?”
There it was…psychobabble turned against me. Although her comment was funny, it made me think. Parents raise children to let them go. That may well be one of the hardest aspects of parenting. We invest time, energy, material resources, and emotions into raising our children and teaching them to become responsible, independent adults…then, we let them go. Maybe my daughter is wiser and more mature than I like to admit. Maybe there is a little separation anxiety.
Of course, that process of “letting go” doesn’t happen overnight. It begins early, earlier than most of us really like. And, “letting go” is usually initiated by our children. They initiate it by running off to play with friends at the playground rather than letting us push them on the swing…or, listening to their 3rd grade soccer coach more than they listen us, even though the coach says the same thing we do. These periods of “letting go” expand to include weeks away at camp, long secretive phone calls with friends, going out on dates with people we have minimal knowledge about, gaining a driver’s license…all steps in letting go and learning to accept a little “separation anxiety.” Throughout this process, a successful parent moves from control to influence in their child’s life. Rather than forcing our children to do things our way, we slowly learn to loosen our grip and trust that they will follow the principles we have taught them. Rather than abandoning them to their mistakes because “they are leaving us,” we support them and offer loving influence and encouragement while they make their choices. We surrender control over our children’s lives and give away any control over how they use the gifts we have given them—the gifts of our time, energy, emotional involvement, and wisdom…our life itself. We trust them to make good use of those gifts. We pray that God will guide them in using those gifts wisely.  
No, it’s not an easy process. We may struggle, but we gain something through the struggle. We become more mature, more like our Father. After all, it was God the Father who let His Son go…watching Him leave His home in heaven to make a life on earth. He watched His Son go all the way to the cross to carry out His plan of redemption. By doing so, He maintained a relationship with His Son that became even more intimate (if that is possible) and gained a whole new set of adopted children. So, maybe we become a little more like our Father as we let our children go. Maybe, we gain a little more intimacy with our children and an even larger family. Maybe…maybe I do have a little “separation anxiety,” but….

A Leader in Submission

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21
I realize that our society tends to downplay “submission.” We don’t see submission as an admired trait. In fact, we don’t even like the word “submission.” We avoid it, degrade it, make light of it. Rarely do we receive a compliment like, “You are a wonderfully submissive person.” Can you imagine someone telling you, “I really admire how you let your wife influence your decision not to go out with the guys tonight…you are such a good example of loving submission”? In fact, that kind of comment might make us rebel a little just to prove our independence, to assert the fact that we are not hen-pecked. We would much rather hear someone say, “You are such a strong-willed person,” “I love how you take charge,” or “I admire your ability to make strong, independent decisions.” Those are all good compliments, but how do we balance them with “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Fact of the matter is, submission can make or break a family. Research suggests that a man’s willingness to accept the influence of his wife–his willingness to listen to her and allow her to influence his ideas–strengthens his marriage. Dr. Gottman, the “love lab guru,” suggests that if a man does not submit to his wife’s ideas by listening and sharing power, the relationship ends in divorce 80% of the time! In other words, a man needs to be a leader of submission in his family. He needs to model submission. Don’t get me wrong, marriages benefit when women submit to their husbands as well. A man will feel unappreciated, mistrusted, and undervalued if his wife does not submit to him and accept his influence. How can he teach his children to respect others if his wife does not respect him through submission? On the other hand, a woman may begin to feel isolated, unheard, invalidated, and uncared for if her husband does not submit by listening to and accepting her influence. How can she truly care for her family if her husband constantly undermines her efforts to teach their children the responsibility of household chores (and vice versa)? If a married couple does not submit to each other and support one another in their efforts to build a family, the children will follow their example, refusing to listen and denying the influence of their parents. (Take a survey to see how much influence you accept from others.)
Overall, families benefit from a mutual effort to find areas of surrender and compromise. Families grow stronger when each person listens intently and honestly, exhibiting a willingness to accept the ideas and opinions of other family members, and remaining open to being influenced by those ideas and opinions. Families benefit from mutual submission.
I can hear it now…”You want me to let him (or her) walk all over me?” “I should let her (or him) run my life?” Of course not. Submission is not slavery. It’s not abusive. In fact, if a person moves from submission and accepting influence to demanding unquestioned obedience, their marriage and family life are doomed. Effective submission involves mutual respect and trust. Couples find it easier to submit to a spouse when he/she submits as well, showing respect and honor. Husbands and wives more readily submit to one another when they know their spouse has their best interest at heart, when they trust one another and when they know that their loves is reciprocated. In the midst of this mutual submission, children learn to trust, listen, respect, and accept influence; they learn to submit. They feel safe submitting to their parents’ rules because they have seen submission modeled. They have witnessed the benefits of submission. They have experienced the security of a strong relationship marked by mutual submission.
So, be a leader in submission. Go ahead and say “Yes dear” now and again…or “OK, I’ll do it your way this time.” It will go a long way in building mutual trust, respect, and intimacy in your family.