|sweet girls, waiting for a visit from Lynlee's birth family|
My favorite parenting book is The Power of Positive Parenting by Glenn I. Latham. I reread it recently to fine-tune my parenting skills, a necessary development as Ellie gets older!
The basic premise of the book is that children respond more effectively to praise than to punishment. That doesn't mean that you never punish, per se, but that you reinforce the good things your child does and ignore the inconsequential, age-typical behaviors. Any behavior that you pay attention to will be reinforced; thus, pay attention only to behavior you want to continue.
Dr. Latham's parenting rules are:
1. Seize opportunities to have frequent positive interactions with your children.
2. Clearly establish and communicate your expectations.
3. Clearly establish the consequences for compliance and noncompliance.
4. Ignore behaviors which do not threaten the basic quality of life, limb, and property (which include most unacceptable behaviors).
5. Attend to inappropriate behavior in an unemotional, precise, and directive way.
6. Do not question a noncompliant child about his behavior, or ask him to explain his inappropriate behavior.
7. Use the inappropriate behavior of one child as a cue to you to attend to the appropriate behavior of other children.
8. Smile and laugh, talk and touch--a lot.
9. Assess behavior analytically and treat it clinically.
I was first introduced to Dr. Latham when our friend Mo (who knew him from her time at USU) organized a fireside and had Dr. Latham as the guest speaker. Greg and I came away from that meeting inspired and energized about how to be good parents, and I think this was 10 years before we became parents!
Here are my notes from that fireside, and pretty much an encapsulation of the book (although I recommend you get it for yourself):
- make your expectations clear
- never tell the child something he already knows
- have the child tell you how she is to behave
- what privileges can you earn?
- put all "noise" on extinction - ignore the noise and direct the conversation back to the target behavior
- use instructive (e.g., do's) rather than prohibitive (e.g., don'ts) behavior
- emphasize the benefits of compliant behavior
- let the consequences, both good and bad, speak for you
- coercion has no place in the family (or in the church)
- it encourages children to
- do not suppose that short-term compliance achieved using coercion leads to long-term gains; it produces only short-term compliance
- Eight types of coercion
- criticism - to find fault
- sarcasm - to make fun of a child through ridicule
- threats - to warn a child of some hostile act by the parent (e.g., if you do that again, I am going to ____)
- questioning - to ask a child why they misbehaved
- this encourages lying, evasion, and defensiveness
- the child's answer is rarely (e.g., NEVER) acceptable
- gives a huge amount of adult attention to inappropriate behavior
- makes you look incompetent
- logic - trying to reason with a child
- arguing - trying to convince the child that they are wrong and you are right
- physical or verbal force - to hit or shout to make a child behave
- a soft voice is the voice of the Lord in your home ~ Pres. Hinckley
- despair - to feel hopelessness
- NONPUNITIVE METHODS OF CORRECTION
- first recognize that 98% of all behavior is inconsequential (which annoys, bugs, and frustrates you) and only 2% of behavior is consequential (hurts, damages, and destroys)
- Extinction strategy - ignore the inconsequential behavior
- ignore with a purpose
- leave no message that the child "got" to you (roll eyes, sigh, etc.)
- time the behavior that is being ignored (85% will stop in 30 seconds, most end in 1 min 45 sec)
- a short time later, look for opportunities to acknowledge appropriate behavior
- Selectively reinforce other appropriate behavior
- turn your attention to children that are behaving appropriately
- Stop and redirect
- stop the consequential behavior, then redirect to appropriate behavior
- get close, establish eye contact and remain silent for 3-5 seconds, all while remaining calm
- ask, what do I expect of you?
- 97% of the time, the child will tell you how she is to behave
- if the child protests, calmly ask again
- most children will protest no more than 3 times
- REINFORCING METHODS to encourage good behavior
- acknowledge appropriate behavior in some positive way
- behavior responds better to positive consequences than negative consequences
- have 8 positive interactions for every negative interaction
- acknowledge appropriate behavior casually and briefly
- when praising, use no more than 8-12 words and talk no more than 3-5 seconds
- children stop listening after 7 seconds
- acknowledge appropriate behavior intermittently
- acknowledging every appropriate behavior leads to satiation
- verbal praise should be
- given sincerely
- given with variety (sometimes descriptively, sometimes generally, sometimes embellished with values)