Natural vs. Logical Consequences

Natural and logical consequences are meant to be the end of a discipline exchange. In the moment and over time, they are meant to curb behaviors.

It is important to note consequences are very rarely meant to be a starting point in the discipline process. There are so many other better places to start. You might think first of being proactive with positive directions and descriptive praise. You might address behaviors with empathy, positive intent, choices, contribution or challenges prior to using consequences. That said, sometimes consequences are a necessary piece.

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences are what just might happen if the child continues the behavior.  This sounds like, “if you don’t finish your homework, you might get a bad grade,” and, “if you don’t wear a coat, you might be cold.” These are things that naturally happen in life and without our intervention. While you can state natural consequences to younger children, these start to make sense and work better to curb behaviors somewhere between three-and-a-half to four years old for many children.

The first part of using natural consequences is to state this to your child. The next is to allow them to make a decision and avoid rescuing them if they continue the behavior. Let’s say you are arguing with your five-year-old about wearing their coat outside, and it is cold. You say, “if you go outside like that, you might be really cold.” Child says, “fine,” and opens the door. If you throw their coat on them the second the cold air hits, you will have this battle again tomorrow. Yes, take the coat with you but let the child feel a bit of the consequence. The natural consequence of feeling cold will help to curb the next debate. I am not saying be stubborn and leave the coat home, take it with you, but let the child feel the cold before giving it to them.

Logical Consequences

Logical consequences can be stated in the negative or the positive. A logical negative consequence is stated if there is bad behavior then there’s a bad related consequence such as, “if you leave the toys all over the floor, we are closing the playroom for the afternoon.” A logical positive consequence is stated if there’s good behavior then there’s good related consequence, such as “if you get the toys cleaned up we can have 5 more minutes to play.”

To be fair, your consequence should match your child’s behavior in time, intensity and content. Matching in time means as immediate as possible. For children three-and-a-half years old and younger, it means immediate. Matching in intensity means the level of consequence matches the level of their behavior (not bigger, you are just being punitive). Matching in content means it is on topic with the behavior. If a child is saying mean things to their sibling, a matched-content consequence would be having to play in separate rooms or finding five nice things to say about their sibling. A non-matched consequence would be taking away a TV time or no dessert. The idea is to keep them thinking on topic.

Examples

Your child grabs a toy from a friend.

Natural: If you grab toys, he might not want to play with you.

Logical Negative: If you grab a toy, you may not have a turn with it.

Logical Positive: If you can give it back nicely, I will be sure you have the next turn.

Your child is fighting getting into the car seat in the morning.

Natural: If this takes too long, we might be late, and you might miss centers.

Logical Negative: If you are out of your seat, we aren’t going (only use this one if not going would be a negative to your child, AND you mean it). Smaller ones would be no music or toys in the car if you usually have them.

Logical Positive: If you get in your seat quickly, you can pick the music.

Got a behavior of concern, and you’d like answers? Post them here.

What to Do When a Child is Aggressive

Four-year-old Johnny and Eric are building together. Eric moves one of Johnny’s blocks when Johny had it in the perfect place, and Johnney gets mad. Johnny yells, “no!” and hits Eric.

This is a common scenario that plays out on playdates, between siblings and in preschools every day. As a parent or teacher, it can be hard to know the best ways to follow up in the moment and encourage better behaviors moving forward.

Part One: Discipline In the Moment
I tend to start with a little attention to the victim first. In this case, I would turn to Eric and say something along the lines of, “I am so sorry. Are you okay?” I am not saying gush and comfort in a big way. You don’t want to encourage the victim role. Just give momentary attention to check in, and be sure they are okay. The point is to avoid giving intial attention to the child being aggressive.

As a teacher entering into the discipline process, you might start with brief empathy to Johnny, “I know you are angry, you were building that,” or positive intent, “you really wanted the blocks the way you had them.” When it seems appropriate, and in this case it would, you can help the child find better words to express himself. Again briefly, you might say, “Johnny, next time you can say, ‘Eric, don’t move that,’ or you can ask me for help.” The next step is a logical consequence for the aggressive behavior. This might be having Johnny leave the block area for the morning for hitting his friend. A logical consequence is meant to curb the behavior moving forward.

As a parent, I tend to think the discipline process works in the reverse when there is a aggressive behavior. When a child hits their sibling or a friend on a playdate, I would start the discipline with that logical negative consequence. Once served, I’d work my way back through the empathy or positive intent, and back through a conversation about choices. The reason is, I want this to register differently to the child than discipline for other behaviors. If in response to other behaviors, you work in order from I messages and empathy to ending with consequence language, it may help to limit the aggressive behavior by starting with the consequence.

Here is a link to previous blog posts that goes into more detail about the Steps of Positive Discipline: https://parentingbydrrene.com/?s=steps.

In addition to the steps, it can also be helpful to include other-oriented consequences. This would be saying things like, “look how sad your friend is. He doesn’t like getting hit.” This is meant to help your child realize the impact their behavior has on other people.

Part Two: Coaching Out of the Moment
When you have to discipline a behavior often, part of the answer is in coaching the wanted behavior. This can be done a bit in the moment, but is more effective to coach when all is well. Coaching includes:

  • Reading Children’s Storybooks – This includes No More Hitting for Little Hamster by and Hands are Not for Hitting by Agassi.
  • Telling Your Own Stories – If you’re creative, make up your own stories about how to be gentle and why.
  • Asking Hypotheticals – This is asking your child “what if” questions related to the behavior of concern. In this case, that might be asking, “what if you and a friend were playing cars, and your friend took a car you were playing with, what would you do?” Follow that with a conversation about their answers and best ways to react.
  • Role Playing – When things go poorly, go back and role play the situation with your child striving for better outcomes.
  • Puppet Shows – This is a lot like role playing, but it may capture the child’s attention in a bigger way. Again, focus on positive behaviors and outcomes.
  • Drawing Pictures of It Going Well – If your child likes art, this may be another way to coach behaviors. Draw pictures of it going well or make cartoons of their scenarios.

Yes, all of this takes time and effort, and this tends to be more helpful than discipline alone.

Steps of Positive Discipline Defined

The steps of positive discipline are designed to give parents a framework for moving through a discipline exchange. The idea is to learn each and be flexible in the moment.

I messages label your or another person’s emotions and explains why you are feeling this way. This avoids you messages which blame the child. Rather, blame the behavior or the situation. This blame can be global (“no one is listening”) or passive (“this is a mess”).  Rule: When you are the angriest person in the room or laying blame.

Empathy labels your child’s emotions and validates why they feel that way. This can also be given through wants or wishes (“you wanted to win the game”) or storytelling (“I remember when I was little and that happened to me…”). Rule: When your kids are bent out of shape and need a bit of help to calm.

Positive intent is giving those you love the benefit of the doubt. This means thinking of them as tired not lazy and needing to learn social skills not rude. This is more a shift in thinking than it is a shift in language. Rule: At least think it every time.

Choices are two positives for the child that meet your goal as a parent. Rule: Choices (challenges or contribution) before consequences as best you can.

  • Challenges are making it a game or a race, making it fun.
  • Contribution means giving the child a job to gain the behavior or keep them on track.

Natural consequences are what just might happen in life if the child chooses or continues a given behavior. These start to make more sense around three-and-a-half or four years old. Rule: State and allow the child to experience. Avoid rescuing.

Logical consequences should match the child’s behavior in time (as soon as possible and immediate under three years old), intensity (at the same level) and content (on topic with the behavior).

  • Logical positive consequences are the good related outcome to the positive behavior. Rule: Works a lot like choices.
  • Logical negative consequences are the bad related outcome to the negative behavior. Rule: Meant as an endpoint, and only allowed for starters with aggressive behavior.

*You have asked your child to clean up his toys, he just stands there looking at you.

  • I messages: “I’m frustrated, no one is listening.”
  • Empathy: “I know you don’t like cleaning.”
  • Positive intent: “It is so much fun to play.”
  • Choices: “Do you want to start with blocks or balls?”
  • Challenges: Can he clean up the blocks before you clean up the cars?
  • Contribution: Make him the Clean-up Supervisor with a check list for jobs.
  • Natural: “If you leave your toys out, they might get lost or broken.”
  • Logical positive: “If you clean them up now, we can have five more minutes to play.”
  • Logical negative: “If you leave them out, I will put them on the shelf for two days.”

*One child is yelling at another over taking turns with a toy.

  • I messages: “He is upset, he doesn’t like being yelled at.”
  • Empathy: “I know you are angry, it is hard to wait.”
  • Positive intent: “You really want a turn.”
  • Choices: “Do you want to try again with a whisper or your regular voice?”
  • Challenges: Can he list three other things he can do while waiting for his turn?
  • Contribution: Show the child 10 minutes on the clock, and put them in charge of letting you know when the time is up (but not a second earlier).
  • Natural: “If you are yelling, she might not play with you.”
  • Logical positive: “If you can speak nicely, you can stay together.”
  • Logical negative: “If you are yelling, you will have to play in another room.”

The “No” Phase

Dear Dr. Rene,

My daughter -who is three years old- has displayed a strong character since her first months. Now we are in the ‘no’ phase, anything whatsoever gets the ‘no’ response even if a few minutes later she decides to do/say what I’ve asked of her. How do I get her to become more cooperative, without threatening the independence of her character?

Sincerely, Jessica

Dear Jessica,

Believe it or not, this is a typical and healthy phase. Two and young three year olds often go through a phase of saying “no” all day long. I remember Claire saying “no” to ice cream because I picked the flavor, and a minute later she reached happily for the bowl. Often around this time they are also driven to do the opposite, you say “up” so they say “down,” and often test your commitment to it being up. The “no” and the push for the opposite are a part of her developing a sense of self. She is realizing self is separate from others, that she can form and share her own opinion, and that there is a bit of power in testing limits. This is also a good thing, I want children to find their voice and learn to speak their opinion.

Only ask yes/no questions if “no” is an acceptable response. Avoid saying, “are you ready for dinner?” when you really mean, “it is dinnertime, come to the table now please.” If you ask a yes/no question, be ready to live with either answer. If “no” is unacceptable, rephrase your question.

If “no” is an acceptable answer, let her know this. If you ask, “would you like to sit here?” and she says “no.” I would say “okay, where would you like to sit.” If “no” is unacceptable, you might rephrase this as a choice, “would you like to sit here or here for lunch,” or you might offer a contribution, “I need someone to put a napkin on each plate,” as you hand them or offer a challenge, “let’s race to the table,” or just a distraction, “I am an elephant stomping to the table, are you a big elephant too?” Sounds silly, I know but remember you are talking to a three-year-old.

Let’s take a harder one, say you are making a request but not asking. You say, “it’s time to clean up now, come help me,” and you get a, “no.” I would start by hearing her, “I know you don’t want to right now, it’s time to clean.” or, “you really are having fun playing, it’s hard to put it away and it’s time.” Then you might offer a choice, a challenge or a contribution.

There is also great benefit in not repeating yourself when you ask her to do something.  Here is a link to our blog post on not repeating yourself: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/want-kids-to-listen-stop-repeating-yourself/

Here is a link to our blog post on choices: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/how-choices-work-in-positive-discipline/

And a link to our blog post on contribution: https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/contribution-getting-kids-to-help/

Give Children Positive Directions

Mother and baby girl playing with toys in living room.

Parents often focus their language on stopping behaviors. They attempt to direct their children in the negative. Let’s say a child grabs a toy from another. The first thing most parents say is “no grabbing,” “don’t grab,” or “stop grabbing!” When directions are stated in the negative, children have to turn that language around and figure out the opposite behavior. Parents are much more effective when they give positive directions such as “wait for a turn,” or “ask for a turn.”

It’s like if I were to say to you, “okay, are you listening? Stop sitting.” Likely, you hesitate. You might even ask, “does that mean you want me to stand?” It would be so much easier for you if I said, “okay, are you listening? Stand up.” That is an easy direction to follow because it is stated in the positive. You can do that right away.

It is near impossible for children under three years old to turn that language around and figure out the opposite behavior. We were at a local petting zoo recently when I overheard a mother clearly say to her two-year-old who was holding a cup of goat food, “now, don’t put that on the ground.” He gave her a confused look and slowly put the cup down on the ground. The mother was shocked that the child was doing the exact opposite of what she had just said. He was trying his best to follow directions. The child wasn’t able to turn the “don’t” around, so he did the best he could with the rest of it. He understood “put that on the ground.” It would have been better to give positive directions like, “hold on to that cup,” or, “keep that cup in your hands.”

When one child has a toy, and another child wants it, what is it that you want that child to do in that moment? Stated in the positive, you might want them to wait for a turn, ask for a turn, find something else to play with, find something to trade, come find mommy or ask for help. What if that child has already grabbed the desired toy? Stated in the positive, you might want them to give that back, drop that toy, apologize for taking it or hand it to mommy. There are lots of possible behaviors that are stated in the positive regarding grabbing toys. Each of these examples provides a solution to the problem.

There is also the golden rule of, “what you focus on you get more of.” When you say, “no grabbing,” or, “don’t grab,” or, “stop grabbing,” all of your language is focused on grabbing. The message to the child is; “grabbing gets attention.” By putting your attention here repeatedly, you may mildly be reinforcing that behavior to happen again.

If children are unable to turn the negative language around to figure out the opposite, you have left them with what is called a behavioral void. They know what not to do, but they have no idea what to do. So, a day later they want a toy that another child is playing with, they may hesitate when they remember your negatively stated direction, “don’t grab!” But, you have not replaced the behavior by teaching them what to do; instead, you have left them hanging for the next go around. When you state your directions in the positive you are filling in that void. If you repeatedly say, “ask for a turn,” while your child plays with others, you are filling in that void.

When a child is climbing on the book shelf, avoid saying, “no climbing,” or “don’t climb,” leaving them at a loss. Focus your language on the behavior you want by saying, “get off the shelf,” “keep your feet on the floor,” “stay down,” or “play over here.” Any of these are far more likely to work in the moment, and, with repetition, help to curb the behavior.

In Positive Discipline, Nelsen reinforces this idea by stating that solution focused language helps children to do better the next go around. It focuses children on what to do rather than what to stop doing. Once children are old enough, it can be beneficial to have them suggest solutions to ongoing problems. They are more likely to buy into the process if they are a part of it.

 


 

In Discipline: Whoever Starts It Gets to Finish

There is a golden rule in discipline when you are parenting as a couple. It is simple, whoever starts it gets to finish. This means if the first parent is into a discipline exchange, as long as it’s not abusive, the second parent avoids intervening, correcting the first, rescuing the child, taking over or undermining in any way. If the second parent must say something, they should err on the side of supporting the first or offer to help. If the offer to help is declined, it’s declined.

When I have seen a discipline exchange going south fast for my husband, I have offered to help. Sometimes he says, “no thanks, I got it.” Other times he says, “yes, take them. It’s your turn.” If the former, I say, “listen to your father.” I reserve the right to make a note of the situation and discuss it with him after and away from the children. If the latter, I move forward in discipline.

If you don’t offer and just move in, or if you offer and move in even though you were declined, you are making your partner’s job harder the next go around. It can be very hard, but there is a need to let them build an individual parent-child relationship. Both parents should be able to feel confident in their interactions and discipline exchanges.

If you disagree often over discipline, you may want to spend time working through it apart from the children. You might read Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage by Pruett and Pruett. You might also take my live or audio workshop on Parenting as a Couple.

 

 

Getting a Three-Year-Old Out the Door in the Morning

Hi Dr. Rene,

I have a three-year and two-month old son. In the last month or so, it has been extremely difficult to get him to cooperate, so we can leave the house. He runs away when I try to get him dressed, get shoes and coat on, etc., and it is making it challenging to be on time for important things like picking his sister up from school. I try to leave extra time, but nothing so far has helped. If we are going somewhere he wants to go, it is a little easier, but he often says he wants to stay home and play, so it is very difficult when he does not want to go where we are going. Sometimes, if we cannot be a minute later, I have to force his shoes on and carry him to the car. It is very frustrating, and I know that he knows he has control over the situation when he runs away laughing as I follow him around with socks and shoes and a coat! How do I avoid making it a power struggle?  Also, if he refuses to put a coat on, and it’s cold out, should I let him go out without a coat? If I give him choices, he will tell me “neither.”  Thanks for any advice!

Sincerely, Amy

Mom of two

Hi Amy,

This is such a common time of day to struggle with children. I think the only time that tops getting out of the house is getting them in bed. The first thing I would do is build a schedule. Start by deciding what time you need to leave, let’s say this is 8:00 a.m. in the morning. Then, make a list of all the things that need to happen before you can leave, and decide about how much time can go for each. Then add 10 minutes, work your way backwards from 8:00 a.m. to figure out what time you and the kids need to get up and moving. That extra 10 minutes is time for him to work towards and you set it aside for him to play with legos, look at books or play with his trains. This way you can remind him, if you are getting dressed quickly you will have time for trains. It also give you a bit of a buffer, if the morning isn’t going well you have 10 extra minutes built in.

Really think through the order and logistics of things. If you are forever chasing him to get shoes on at the last minute, have his shoes on as part of getting dressed or shoes before breakfast. If you rush around each morning to pack his school bag, make packing his school bag part of the evening routine instead.

Once you have your schedule, work with your child to make it visual. Take pictures of him going through the process, find pictures online of the activities or help him draw the pictures, and then make a poster of the steps. Give him choices, if you can, about the order of the morning or of activities for how to spend his 10 minutes.

Then think job and choices. Jobs are making him the shoe picker or the cereal pourer and the light switcher on the way out or the car key carrier to unlock the door and let everyone in. These are easy and fun ways to help him buy into the behavior. An individual job may only be interesting for a day or two while others may be interesting for a few weeks (like the car key carrier or radio tuner). Choices are asking does he want to get dressed on the bed or the floor, does he want cereal or oatmeal or does he want his red coat or blue. Choices work because they share power. When he says “neither” to choices, you can reply, “you can choose, or I will choose for you.” If he participates then, fine. If not, you can choose for him and move on.

When all else fails, consequences are fair game. It is fine to say, “if you don’t have your shoes on, your feet might be cold,” and then swoop him up and go, putting the shoes on later. Hopefully, if you can accept this as just a part of the plan, it will be less frustrating when you use them.

Sincerely, Dr. Rene

 

 

Stop the Whining!

It costs children nothing to whine all afternoon. If you try to ignore it, they will outlast you. They will outlast you because whining requires so little effort on their part. You will break before they will stop whining and when you break, however you do it, you are likely reinforcing their whining.

First, fix the situational conditions. If they whine because they are hungry, feed them earlier. If they whine because they are tired, change their nap schedule. If you don’t know why they whine, chart it for a while. You might get to the end of the week and realize you need to shuffle things around.

If children are always whining when you are on the phone, get them settled into an activity before you make a call. You might realize they are always whining over buying things. If that is the case, address the problem before you shop. Be proactive. You might explain there will be no extras. When one of my girls asked for an item, we added it to a “birthday wish list” I kept in my purse. You can also distract children by giving them a scavenger hunt for the necessary items on your shopping list. Look for the triggers and then avoid or fix them.

There is a whining trap when children are young. When they are two years old, and they whine when asking for a cookie, we think, “oh, it’s just a cookie,” “she’s only two,” or, “wow! She used her words to ask for something.” In any case, we often let the whining go. When the child is a year older and continues to whine, we find it incredibly annoying. Unfortunately, we’ve already told the child that whining is an acceptable behavior. It’s better to address whining as it starts.

Whenever your child asks for something in a nice voice, catch them being good. Notice and describe that voice that you like. You might say, “hey, that was a lovely way to ask,” or, “what a grown up voice. That sounded nice.” It doesn’t matter whether your answer to their question is “yes” or “no.”  It does matter that you take the time to reinforce the voice you want to hear more of.

Staying ahead of the whine means you respond more promptly to a child’s normal tone of voice.  This might seem difficult, but realize that a child is probably not whining on her first request; she is whining on her third or fourth request. Answer her on her first. Not allowing children to escalate means once they do start whining, intervene on their first sentence not their fourth. If they continue, they are just practicing whining.

Never reinforce whining. Intermittent reinforcement works the same for whining as it does for tantrumming. If you give in to whining every tenth time because you are tired, busy or it’s just a cookie, you are more strongly reinforcing whining than if you gave in every time right away. Again, I am not saying to give in; I am saying to be consistent and never give in.

To curb whining, there is a series of steps you can take. The steps are logical negative consequences that gradually get more intense. They add a cost to the whining behavior. These are the same steps whether you have a two-year-old who is just starting to whine or a six-year-old who is whining out of habit. The only difference is that younger children require more time to practice each step.

The first step is to have them consistently fix their voice. The next time a child comes to you with a whiney voice asking, “can I haaaave a cooookieeee?” you say, “oh!  I can’t hear that voice. Try again with a nice voice.” Most six year olds know what you mean, and they restate in a nicer tone, “can I have a cookie, please?” Most two and three year olds have no idea what you mean. For them, at least initially, you have to model the language you want by adding in a cheery tone, “you could say, ‘cookie please?’” Even the younger ones should be able to restate after being given a model. When they do restate in a nice voice, catch the good behavior. Say, “wow! that sounded lovely, that was the voice I was listening for.” And, then “yes” or “no” to the request, or just continue the conversation. It’s not if you ask in a nice voice that answer is yes, it’s if you ask in a nice voice, I can hear you and answer. If you only have them fix when the answer is “yes” you are intermittently reinforcing by sometimes participating with the whining voice.

I want parents to stay at this step until their children really get it. When the parent says, “I can’t hear…,” children should to be able to fix their voice right away and come up with the better language on their own. For six year olds, this should only take a few weeks.  For two and three year olds, it can take months. This is fine. It is a far better practice to have children continually fixing their voices rather than practicing the whining.

Once children completely understand that the whiney voice won’t be heard, and they can fully come up with the improved tone when directed to do so, parents can increase the cost through a delay or repetition. To use a delay and increase the cost, parents can say, “you know that’s a voice that I can’t hear. You’ll need to find another way to say it. From now on, when I hear that voice you can fix it, but in a minute.” This increases the cost of whining. When the child whines, there is now a delay before his request can even be heard. For this tactic to work, parents must be consistent. Every time there is whining, no matter how inconvenient, parents must follow through with the delay. Intermittent reinforcement makes parenting harder.

So when children whine, parents might say, “oh! I can’t hear that voice. Try again in a  minute.” Be prepared that, at first children will fix their voice immediately and expect you to respond. When you remind them of the delay, they may get frustrated. They may tantrum. They may follow you around the house asking in a nice tone for the several minutes they are supposed to be waiting. Don’t be caught off guard.

The alternative would be to use repetition. The parent can say, “you know that voice that I can’t hear. Starting today, you’ll need to find two nice ways to say it.” A few weeks later three nice ways. So when the child whines, and you have them fix, follow it with, “that’s one nice way. What’s another nice way?” Children don’t want to ask in two nice ways, and the answer might still be “no.” Children are also getting a lot of practice at the nicer voice.

When you increase the cost, most whining stops. That can be the end of this process for most families. Actually, the first step may be the end of this process for families. There is nothing that says you have to increase the cost. Whining may not be so problematic; you may always have them fix their voice without a delay. In my house, whining is a bit more problematic. I spend most of my mornings with families and their young children. My husband has an exhausting job. We are on the go. By the time we are all home, there isn’t much energy left to manage whining. We increased the cost again. When my kids reached six years old, they’d had a great deal of practice at each step before we increased the cost. In our house and beyond six years old, if you whine, the answer is no. As much as I might want to, I can’t. That voice means the answer is no. When whining becomes a completely ineffective behavior, children basically stop. When my children do whine, I know it is time for them to lie down and rest; they are at the end of their rope. I would never do this with a younger child, and it’s not fair to start there even with an eight-year-old. To be fair, all children start at step one.

Calm Parenting – Shift Your Responsibility

Staying calm when your child is misbehaving can be a difficult thing to do. I think part of the answer lies in where you place your focus. Often parents feel responsible for their child’s behavior. The misbehavior feels like a direct reflection on you. If you think other’s are judging your parenting based on the child’s behaviors, it is easy to lose your cool. To calm, shift your focus. Think of being responsible to them rather than for them.

For example, you and your three-year-old are having lunch together at a restaurant. They are busy eating their mac & cheese when all of a sudden, they fling a forkful and hit a person at the next table. You are not responsible for them throwing food. You didn’t arm and aim them. You are responsible to model, teach apologies, to address and curb the behavior. You are responsible to teach them how to behave in restaurants moving forward.

Another example, your eight-year-old decides to skip spelling homework and studying for a week and gets a poor grade. You are not responsible for the grade. It is not your homework. You are responsible to help them understand the importance of homework and studying moving forward. You are responsible to check their homework completion in the next few weeks while they get back on track. You are responsible to sort out whether this was truely a dip in effort or a bigger learning difficulty.

Overall, this means to focus your efforts on what you can control. If you are so narrowly focused on changing their beahavior, you are likely to feel frustrated. Focus on the piece you can control. Rather than focus on changing their behavior, focus on changing your reaction to their behavior. Focus on building skills to better address, manage and teach about behavior.

Calm Parenting – Know Your Triggers

Calm Parenting is a hot topic these days. My Calm Parenting workshops have quickly become as popular as my Positive Discipline classes. In both sessions, and in many other, unrelated classes parents report losing their cool often. They say they would like to provide a calm household, but find themselves yelling more than they’d like. This week’s posts will all focus on ways to calm.

It can be helpful to first identify your triggers for losing that sense of calm in parenting. Right now, make a list of the things that happen or the things your kids do that make you lose it. A top three list would be a good place to start.

Next, think about and jot down how you typically react to each. Be honest with yourself, what do you typically do and say? What do you look like and sound like to your kids? What is the intensity or volume of your response? This is your reaction.

Now realize, you never need to react that way again. There are so many other things, likely more productive things you could do in these moments. Brainstorm a list of better things you could do. Maybe focus on giving them choices related to the behavior, focus on creative ways to better teach them or build a list of children’s stories that would illustrate the point you are trying to make. In the long run, you could learn positive discipline and develop better things to say around I messages, empathy, positive intent, choices and consequences. You might read Playful Parenting by Cohen and make light when it seems appropriate.

The point is to recognize that your typical reaction when you lose your cool is less than helpful. It likely isn’t working to curb the behavior and doesn’t feel good to anyone involved. Part of calm parenting is planning for these times.