Many of the seminars I went to while I was at CHAP this past weekend were on parenting/character building in our children . . . a speaker team that I especially enjoyed were Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller from the National Center for Biblical Parenting. Interestingly, I didn't realize until I got there, I was already receiving, and thoroughly enjoying/learning from their e-mail newsletters, I don't remember how I happened upon the site to sign up for the newsletters, but I highly recommend them (and they're free).
Turansky & Miller focus on character building (or "heart issues") as the core to parenting, rather than just behavior modification, etc. I attended several of their seminars over the 2 days, and purchased the CDs for those I didn't attend. I also purchased 2 of their CD sets from their booth (I'm anxious to read several of their books, as well, but will purchase them from half.com, and I'm not finding alot of reading time at the moment anyway, but can listen to CDs while nursing Little Bit late at night).
Now obviously, I can't impliment EVERYTHING they said right away, it would overwhelm the kids, and me, for that matter. So I'm going to impliment things abit at a time (besides, I still have several CDs to listen to), and thought I'd document how that goes here.
Conveniently (and completely coincidentally) when we sat down to have worship this morning as part of school, this week's character trait (of the Prov 31 woman) is submission/obedience. What a perfect time to talk about some new things we're going to do around here when the children disobey!!!
So I explained it kinda like this:
Some of the things I learned at the meetings I went to this weekend were about how to help kids obey better, so we're going to work on using some of those things in our house, and here's the first thing. It's kind of like what we already do, but a little different. When you do something wrong and get upset, you need to take a break to calm down before we can talk, we're still going to do that. Where do you go to take a break?
They (correctly) answered the bench in mommy's room or our beds (A prefers the bench, L prefers her bed). A reminded me that she can calm down better if she's on my lap, so we talked about how we can try to do that, but sometimes I can't because of Little Bit. I suggested that if she can't be on my lap, perhaps she could sit on my foot (still providing the physical contact, that I think "grounds" her) and we also talked about how, for that to work (her to be with me) she needs to not be screaming, if she's screaming she's going to need to go up to the bench because we can't have the screaming around other people. None of this (other than sitting on my foot) is new information, but it's helpful to reiterate it, including reiterating that the bench/bed is NOT a punishment/time-out, but rather a method of giving them a break/cooling down period (also not new information, but I think because we see time-outs used so frequently in others, and sometimes the bench/bed IS used in more of a timeout way by Daddy, it's helpful to remind THEM that it's not a punishment. I also reminded them that how long the "break" lasts depends on them, whenever they have calmed down and are ready to talk, the break is over (this is the key difference between the "break" and "timeout", it is not punative for a set amount of time, it is simply . . .well . . . a break (LOL) for however long it takes for them to cool down so that we can talk rationally.
NOW we get to the new part . . . when you have calmed down, you need to come talk to Mommy, the same as before BUT now EVERY time, Mommy's going to ask you the SAME questions, and if you're not ready to answer those questions, you must need a longer break. Here are the questions:
1) What did you do wrong? (note to other parents: they may not know/remember the answer to this, if that's the case, remind them,but then have them repeat it back to you. This is "confession" and a part of the process of working on their heart issues)
2) Why was that wrong? (again, they might need help, but have them say it)
3) What will you do differently next time? (again, they might need help/suggestions. And they might not remember "next time" but eventually if they keep saying it, they'll start to internalize it . . . This is not a "quick fix" this is changing their heart and teaching them skills that will help them relate to others throughout life)
Another note to the parents: After going through the 3 questions, "release" them with this statement: "Go ahead and try again."
They were receptive to it all, again this is not a huge change from the way we were already doing things, mainly just formalizes what is said during the "talk to mommy" part of the process, but I think that will be extremely valuable because they will know what to expect during that talk.
So of course, awhile later they were playing and started fighting, so I called them in, asked if they needed to "take a break". L did not, A came & sat on my feet while I talked to L. We had to deviate from the "script" abit (and I'd warned them of this during the initial discussion) since I didn't know what had happened. So first L gave me a run-down of what had happened. Then we went through the 3 questions with L. By then, A had decided she was ready to talk, so we went through the same questions with A (if I'd felt L hadn't given a balanced story I'd have asked A for "her side" as well, but in this case, it appeared balanced, combined w/ what I'd heard thru the window). It all went very smoothly, they were thrilled to know what questions were coming. . . and in the process of figuring out for A"what she'll do differently" we were able to "touble shoot" their interactions with each other as well.
In a nutshell this conflict was, A did something L didn't like, L got mad but (and this is also something we've been working on & L has been doing better about) w/o even telling A what she had done wrong, L "walked away" (taking a "break" when you're mad is good . . . but in this scenario results in a hurt/confused/angry sister who doesn't understand the abrupt end of a game). So we talked through that for awhile. I suggested that even if L is angry (or vise versa) perhaps she could SAY "I need a break" so that the other one knows why she's walking away. I also suggested that, just as when they take a "break" during correction with me, they then have to come talk to me, if they "take a break" from each other, once they've cooled down, they come back and talk about it. A agreed that if she knows L will come back, she won't get so mad when L walks away (which was the conflict I "heard" in this case, she got mad & started yelling at L when L walked away . . . ). They also suggested w/o my prompting that they could come talk to me about it, to get additional ideas and such. So . . . since 99% of the fighting around here is some form of one kid deciding she doesn't like how the game is going & either blowing up about it, or walking away (usually while saying some form of "if you won't do things my way, I won't play with you"), I'm cautiously hopeful that over time they will learn to resolve those issues using the same basic model that we're using for correction (though just hte "what can we do different" part of it in some cases) and things will be much less volatile/dramatic around here. We shall see . . . but certainly the initial use of this new model was highly successful, and well recieved by the kids as well.
I want to stick with this element for a few days (or longer, as needed) and get it well ingrained in them (and me) before we move on to other things, but will try to post here as we work through things in case this parenting advice is helpful to others.
Incidentally, this technique came from their seminar on "Correcting Wrongs Wisely" (you can buy CDs or download an mp3, of this or any of their seminars from this weekend at the CHAP site. Ok, as I look at it, they don't have the '09 seminars up yet, but they should be there soon).