How Do Children Learn Right from Wrong? They learn what they live.

– Taken from aha.parenting.com (Click to see actual article)

“Dr. Laura….How will they know right from wrong when they are never taught something will happen when they do wrong?”

So today, let’s think about how children learn right from wrong.

Little ones want what they want, and they like to be in charge of themselves. But they also depend on us, the parents who care for them, and they trust us to have their best interests at heart. They may not always do what we say, but they will always, eventually, do what we do. So most of what children learn about how to behave is from what we model.

That’s why, regardless of what you consciously teach your child, he will learn what he lives.

  • When we cheerfully help them clean up the spilled milk, they learn that it isn’t an emergency, so they don’t need to cry or to blame, and can simply solve the problem.
  • When we offer understanding as we say no to their requests, they learn that they won’t always get what they want, but they get something better — a mom or dad who always understands.
  • When we’re there to listen, they learn that life can be tough, but they can always recover and find a better way.
  • When we delight in them, they learn that they’re of value.
  • When we’re forgiving of their mistakes, they learn that no one’s perfect– but they’re more than enough just the way they are.
  • When we apologize and make amends, they learn to repair the damage they do.
  • When we try to see their side of things, they try to see our side of things, and they don’t want to disappoint us.
  • When we’re compassionate in the face of their upsets, they learn that emotions aren’t an emergency and can be managed.
  • When we share with them, heart to heart, our concern that the dog is hungry because they forgot to feed him, they learn that they never want to hurt a helpless creature again.
  • When we help them come up with a system to remind themselves to feed the dog so they don’t forget in the future, they learn to manage themselves.

Conversely,

  • When we punish them for forgetting to feed the dog, they get angry at us and at the dog, which doesn’t motivate them to want to care for him.
  • When we scream at them, they learn that tantrums are ok, and they learn to scream at us.
  • When we punish them, they learn that’s how to solve problems — people with more power are allowed to use it against people with less power.
  • When we swear at another driver, they learn incivility, not to mention some embarrassing words.
  • When we lie to someone on the phone when they’re listening, they learn that dishonesty is ok.
  • When we lie about their age to get them into an amusement park, they learn that cheating is ok.
  • When we speed in the car, they learn that breaking the law is ok if we don’t get caught.
  • When we promise to play a game with them and then renege, they learn that promises can be broken.
  • When we ignore the feelings that drove their behavior, they learn that there’s no one to help them with the big scary feelings that pop out and pressure them to “do bad.”
  • When we spank them, they learn that bigger people are allowed to hit smaller people.
  • When we punish them, they learn that they’re bad people — bad for doing wrong, bad for having the bad feelings that made them do wrong, bad for being mad at us for punishing them, and bad because they know they won’t be able to stop themselves from doing it again.

Children don’t learn right from wrong by being punished, any more than they learn red from blue by being punished. Kids learn when we show them red, and also when we show them kindness, responsibility, generosity, honesty, compassion, and all the other things we want them to learn, in action, every day.

When children feel close to their parents, they want to “follow” them. Going against their parents would be going against the most important people in their lives. That’s why connection is 90% of parenting. Until the child feels the connection, she isn’t open to our direction.

Of course, the prefrontal cortex that can keep strong emotions in check to help your child behave is still developing until age 25, so your child won’t always make the right choice. But if you’re parenting with loving guidance, at least she’ll be more likely to WANT to make the right choice.

Do you have to be perfect?  No, of course not. But then you can’t expect your child to be perfect, either.

Modeling self-forgiveness and making amends is part of teaching your child to repair the inevitable small ruptures that happen between humans, even when we love each other. It’s part of how you keep your child connected and wanting to “do right.”

But what if your child knows right from wrong and still keeps choosing “wrong”? That’s our next post. In the meantime, why not go hug your child?

How to Un-Entitle Your Kids in 6 Easy Steps

– taken from mom.me (Click to see actual article)

I love making beds. I’m a rarity, I know, but there’s something satisfying about the simple act of making a bed. I love making beds so much that I tend to function on autopilot in the morning. I travel from room to room, making beds and restoring the appearance of calm to each bedroom.

Sounds innocent enough, right? Making beds gives me a few moments of focus in the morning, while I run through the mental to-do list and prepare to tackle the day. What’s the harm in that?

Cut to the day I’m running late and yell up to the kids to make their beds and meet me in the front to get shoes on and out the door on the double. They stared back at me with blank faces. While they often thank me for making their beds “neat and organized,” and are generally filled with gratitude, I completely forgot to step back and show them how to make their own beds. So when I yelled up for them to take on the task for me that day, they didn’t know where to begin. Oops.

Needless to say, we altered our plans and spent some time practicing bed-making. Now they take pride in making their own beds.

Are my kids “entitled” because they didn’t make their own beds until recently? No. But in taking on tasks they are capable of completing simply because I enjoy those tasks, I rob them of the chance to learn a new skill and build more responsibility into their lives.

When parents routinely do everything for their kids and put their kids first every single time, entitlement can occur. Over time, it can reach unbearable levels. We have to step back and guide our kids toward independence and responsibility instead of running in for the save, fixing what needs fixing and answering every demand.

In her new book, “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic,” Amy McCready takes on the problem of entitlement with a positive spin. Entitled children can trigger feelings of frustration and anger in exhausted parents who are constantly stretched too thin. That can lead to yelling and excessive punishments, strategies that typically yield little reward and cause children to fear punishment instead of making better choices.

“When kids act up, they’re doing more than pitching a fit over a candy bar (or permission to go to a party),” McCready says. “Without even knowing it, they’re on a mission to achieve the belonging and significance they crave.”

Instead of punishing undesirable behavior or constantly rewarding positive behavior, McCready outlines specific strategies grounded in positive parenting to help empower kids to grow into responsible and un-entitled adults.

“The truth is kids everywhere—from toddlers to teens—are ruling the roost and they’re not about to abandon their posts without a fight,” she says. But there are ways to make the transition away from entitlement as a family.

Check out these great tools from McCready’s “Un-Enititler Tool Box”:

1. Mind, body, soul time

Parents today seem to thrive on being busy. There is always something that needs doing or somewhere to be. But in all of this doing and going, it’s very difficult to connect with our children in a meaningful way.

It might feel like your kids are constantly interrupting you at inopportune moments, but, in the mind of a child, it’s an attempt to connect on a deeper level.

McCready suggests setting aside 10 minutes of complete focus for each child, at least once (hopefully twice) each day. Turn off the distractions and connect with your kid on his level. If he wants to make paper airplanes, make them. If he wants to dance in the rain, go for it. Establish a meaningful connection by being present and focused during that time.

2. Sail out of the wind

Do you ever feel like parenting is really just a series of power struggles? You’re not alone. Kids want things and they push boundaries to see how far they can get you to bend. That’s normal. Pushing back, however, is not the answer.

A power struggle over an ice cream cone can turn into a full-blown screaming match when parents go back and forth with kids. McCready suggests sailing out of the wind, instead. Remove yourself from the power struggle. Make a decision. Stand by the decision. And leave the power struggle behind.

3. Adapt the home environment

I think most parents wish for a cleaning fairy at some point, or at least for a few extra hands when it comes to prepping meals, cleaning the house and getting various chores done. The good news is that kids are great helpers when we empower them, especially if we adapt our homes to make them kid-friendly.

I keep my plates and bowls within reach of my little ones so that they can prepare their own snacks and help set the table. All toys are also organized at kid level so that they can be responsible for cleanup.

Take a look around your home from the viewpoint of your child. Make the necessary adjustments to empower your kids to help out in the home.

4. Ditch the ‘don’t’

Kids hear a lot about what they shouldn’t do each day. Sometimes we do this to keep them safe, other times we do it to save time or get things done. Whatever the reason, parents dish out a lot of “don’t.”

Reframe your thoughts and replace “don’t” with “do.” Empower your kids to take on more responsibility and learn new tasks by helping them learn what to do.

5. Take time for training

The bed-making fiasco reminded me that I need to think about things my kids can do, but I haven’t necessarily taught them to do. They have always enjoyed folding laundry with me, so they are great helpers when it comes to laundry day. But I find that teaching them how to load the dishwasher, how to scramble the eggs and how to make the grilled cheese makes them feel confident and increases their responsibilities in the home.

6. Create a decision-rich environment

This is a big one. Kids don’t have a ton of choices on a daily basis and that can be frustrating. A great way to stop over-parenting is by allowing your kids to make their own choices as much as possible.

Let them choose little things, like how they want their hair and what outfits to wear, to bigger things, like what chores they want to take on. My daughter mopped my bedroom for me the other day because I listened when she said that she wanted to learn how to use a mop.

Take the time to teach and empower your children, and then step back and watch them grow.

10 Alternatives To “Consequences” When Your Child Isn’t Cooperating

– Taken from one of our favourite websites: Ahaparenting.com (Click to see actual article)

Most parenting experts suggest that when children “misbehave” the best response is “consequences.” Parents are told that letting children experience the consequences of their poor choices will teach them lessons. Makes sense, right?

Well, no.

Natural consequences can teach important lessons. We all have to learn that if we don’t remember to take our lunch, we’ll go hungry.

But when most parents use “consequences” for discipline, they aren’t the natural result of the child’s actions (“I forgot my lunch today so I was hungry”). Instead, they have become for children the threats they hear through their parents’ clenched teeth: “If I have to stop this car and come back there, there will be CONSEQUENCES!!”

In other words, Consequences mean Punishment. Whether you’re threatening a timeout or the loss of a privilege, that is punishment, which is defined as causing another person physical or emotional pain with the purpose of getting them to do things your way.

Unfortunately, research shows that punishment raises kids who behave WORSE and are LESS MORAL. I know, that seems counterintuitive. But when the discipline comes from outside, the child doesn’t internalize self-regulation. He isn’t actually CHOOSING to “be good” so he isn’t building those self-discipline muscles. And since he’s being good only to avoid punishment, he isn’t building moral muscles either.

In fact, since punishment creates power struggles, kids who are punished go on the defensive and blame everyone but themselves. Inside, though, they feel like bad people — which makes it hard to “act good.” (For more on why punishment backfires, see Why Punishment Doesn’t Teach Your Child Accountability).

Worried about what you’ll do without the threat of Consequences to keep your child cooperating? Next time your child refuses your guidance and you find yourself about to blurt out a threat, try one of these responses instead.

1. Let your child solve it.

“You haven’t brushed your teeth yet and I want to be sure we have time for a story. What can we do?”

It’s amazing how children step into responsibility when we offer it in a collaborative way. They love to help, and to solve puzzles. Sometimes they just need a little respect.

2. Partner for Win/win solutions.

If your child doesn’t offer a solution that works for you, explain why and help her come up with one.

“You think you should just skip brushing teeth tonight? Hmm…that doesn’t work for me because your poor teeth would stay germy and they could get tiny holes in them. What else could we do to get your teeth brushed and time for a story? Want to put your pjs on, and then brush?”

Once your child believes that you’re serious about win/win solutions, she’s much more likely to work with you to find a solution that works for everyone.

3. Invite cooperation with your phrasing.

Consider the difference in these approaches:

“Go brush your teeth now.” – Since no one likes to be told what to do, a direct order like this often invites resistance, either direct or in the form of stalling.

“Can you go brush your teeth now?” – Many kids will reflect on this and just say No. Don’t phrase your request in the form of a yes or no question unless you’re willing to accept No for an answer.

“Do you want to brush your teeth now, or after you put your PJs on?”

“Do you want to brush your teeth now, or after you put your PJs on?” – This strategy works because you’re extending your child the respect of giving him some control, at the same time that you retain the responsibility of making the decisions you need to as his parent. Only offer options you can live with, of course.

“You may brush your teeth now.”

“You may brush your teeth now.” – Almost sounds like a privilege, doesn’t it? This is a command, but a respectful, calming one. Works especially well with kids who are over-stimulated by bedtime and overwhelmed by choices.

4. Ask for a Do-over.

“Oops. I told you to brush your teeth and you ignored me and then I started to yell. I’m sorry. Let’s try a do-over.”

This is a great way to interrupt things when you’re headed down a bad road. Get down on your child’s level and make a warm connection. Look in her eyes. Touch her.

“Ok, let’s try this again, Sweetie. It’s teeth brushing time! How can we work as a team here to get those germs off your teeth?”

5. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Before transitions, give ample warning AND spend a few minutes connecting with your child.
  • Think about what usually triggers problems for your child and take pre-emptive action.
  • Always leave extra time to get anything done that your child usually resists, so you’re relaxed.
  • Sidestep power struggles in general, so she’s more likely to cooperate when you really need her to.

6. When your child defies you, focus on the relationship, rather than on discipline.

A good relationship is your foundation; guidance doesn’t work without it because your child stops caring about pleasing you. A child who is rude is either very upset, or expressing her need for a better relationship with you. In either case, “consequences” will make the situation worse. I’m not suggesting you put up with rudeness, just that you see it as a red flag to do some repair work on the relationship.

7. Make sure your expectations are age-appropriate.

  • A one year old needs a baby-proofed house, not to learn by consequences how to leave the TV alone.
  • A four year old needs your help to get through the bedtime routine, not to lose reading time with you when he gets distracted and dawdles.
  • A ten year old needs your help to make the homework routine into a habit that works for him, not to lose his TV privileges. (Although screen time during the week may make it harder for kids to give their best to academics, family time, and pursuing other interests. But that’s a lifestyle choice, not a punishment.)

8. Get to the root of the problem.

Usually when kids defy us, they’re asking for help with their emotions. You’ll know this is happening when your child seems unhappy and is making you unhappy; when whatever you try just doesn’t work. At those times, your child is showing you that he has some big feelings he needs to express, and he needs your help. He may be angry, or afraid, or sad. He may just need to cry.

So if you set a limit and your child defies you, forget about punishment and consequences. This is a red flag that he needs your help. Connect with him, restate your limit with kindness and compassion, and listen to his upset. After your child gets a chance to show you all those feelings he’s been stuffing down, you’ll find him much more cooperative.

9. Engage the brain.

When humans are upset, our brains don’t work as well because “fight or flight” takes over and thinking stops. Start by taking a deep breath and calming your own emotions, to signal to your child that it isn’t an emergency. Then connect warmly with your child so she feels safe again. That moves her out of fight or flight, so she can think again. Finally, invite her brain to engage by helping her understand what’s happening:

“You are so upset. You were having so much fun playing with Daddy. Then he told you to go brush your teeth. You were mad, right? …… Then Daddy said No story tonight. Right? …. Now you are sad and mad…. I am right here. You are safe. I love you. Daddy loves you. Daddy was upset, too, but now he is here to hug you. … Let’s find a way that we can all have a good evening and feel good when we tuck you in to bed. Maybe we all need a Do-Over?”

This builds emotional intelligence in your child — and in your partner. And even if it doesn’t get you all on the same page, at least it gets you into the same book!

10. Use natural consequences.

I’m not suggesting that you move heaven and earth to protect your child from the natural outcome of his choices. We all need to learn lessons, and if your child can do so without too much damage, life is a great teacher. (Meaning, you won’t let him get a concussion to teach him to wear his bike helmet.) But you’ll want to make sure these are actually “natural” consequences that your child doesn’t perceive as punishment so they don’t trigger all the negative effects of punishment. What’s more, you’ll want to be sure that your child is convinced that you aren’t orchestrating the consequence and are firmly on his side, so you don’t undermine your relationship with him.

Consider the difference in these approaches:

“Of course I will bring your lunch to the school, Sweetie. I don’t want you to be hungry. But try to remember it tomorrow.” – Child may or may not remember his lunch tomorrow. There is no harm in doing this once or even twice, if you can do it easily. We all have forgotten things like lunches, and it is not a sign that your child will be irresponsible for life. But it is a signal that you need to help your child with self-organization strategies.

“I’m certainly not going to drop everything to bring you your lunch. I hope this will teach you a lesson.” – Child will probably learn to remember his lunch. BUT he concludes that parent doesn’t care about him, and becomes less cooperative at home. (And as my teenager says, “I would never ask a parent like that for help when I really needed it.“)

“Ok, I will bring your lunch but this is absolutely the last time. You would forget your head if it weren’t glued on and don’t expect me to always drop everything to bail you out.” – Child does not learn to remember lunch but does learn that he is a forgetful person who irritates his parent. In the future, he acts in accordance with this expectation.

Now, what about this approach?

“I’m so sorry you forgot your lunch, Sweetie, but it doesn’t work for me to bring it to you. I hope you won’t starve and I will have a snack waiting when you get home.”

Child learns to remember lunch AND feels cared about AND self image stays intact.

Retraining yourself can be tough. But as Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide says, “Throw the word “consequence” entirely out of your vocabulary and replace it with the term “problem-solving.”  You’ll be amazed at the miracles you can make.