Past Articles from Sandy McDaniel's column found every Sunday in the Accent section of the
Orange County Register


For more help, visit Sandy's ParentingSOS.com web site

PARENTING SOLUTIONS  #1
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel 

Sandy S. McDaniel is an author/international speaker on self-esteem and parenting. She is the author of Recipes from Parenting, Leave Your Baggage At the Door, and co-author of Project Self-Esteem.  Sandy is the creator of parentingSOS.com -Sandy’s great-grandfather founded Santa Ana, CA; she has lived most of her 59 years in Newport Beach. Sandy’s two grown children, Kathleen and Scott, live in Orange County, CA.

I’m very pleased to be writing a column for the Orange County Register; my family roots are very deep here.  My intent is to address some of the parenting questions that plague today’s parents. I don’t teach band-aid parenting. I teach parents how to understand and work successfully with children.

I can only share my experience--what I have learned and what I understand about children. Notice, in the upcoming sections, I use the phrase,  “A Solution”, to remind you this is one of several possible solutions.  If my way of parenting suits you, please clip out these articles and put them into a folder as a reference.  This information is my gift to you.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

In each article you will see the “remember” section. Use it as a tool to coach yourself through the difficult parenting moments. Stop before you react. Think: I care so I am Consistent, Always listening, Reasonable, and Encouraging.”

CONSISTENT: If you mean what you say some of the time, but don’t mean it all of the time, the child will constantly challenge you to see if your boundaries are movable. Don’t make threats. “No!” must mean no. If you always count to three when you mean it, you are saying you don’t mean it until you get to three. The child knows he/she doesn’t need to behave until you get to, “two…”.  Now means now!  “Do it now, please.”

ALWAYS LISTENING: A child who does not feel heard will misbehave to get the attention he/she seeks.  If you can’t listen right now, tell the child you will be able to listen in ten minutes. Set a timer. Then listen!  Don’t cut a child off--let the child tell you everything before you speak.  Look into the child’s eyes and listen. Listen! 

REASONABLE:  When you are angry, you are more likely to be unreasonable. Remember, this is a small child who is checking out power as he or she is learning how to live in the world. It is a tough job.  This column is designed to help you know what to do so you will be more reasonable in each response.

ENCOURAGING: Children thrive on encouragement. They get the strength to try again, to do better, to learn from their mistakes when they are encouraged to do so.  Criticism kills, encouragement builds.  Encourage your children, and do so often!

You CARE about your child so you remind yourself to be Consistent, Always Listening, Reasonable and Encouraging.

 

Nowhere were any of us who choose to be parents, taught how to do this incredible job. I could have parented my children better than I did! Learn what you can learn about children, change as much of your family “stuff” as you are able, and parent from your heart. When you do a job the best you can do, it is good enough.

FIGHTING IN THE CAR: Whenever we get into the car, war begins. The children hit each other, scream and cry.  Nothing I do stops their behavior. It is impossible to drive when children are fighting.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: Children are constantly asking, “Is this how I use power?”  One of the places they will check out power is in the car. A child knows that you are pre-occupied with driving, so he/she wants to see if you will stop a negative behavior.

When you scream and yell at children, they cannot hear you. Fear of sudden loud noises is a primal fear that exists in each of us. A child reacts to yelling with fear. That fear cuts off the child’s ability to hear what is being said. Therefore, screaming

may stop a behavior, but it will not correct a behavior. Screaming is also a neon sign saying that you are out of control. The child decides that he/she has more power in that moment than you do—big trouble occurs when that happens!

Behavior that is rewarded continues, behavior that is not rewarded stops.

Remember, you are always a teacher!  Tell the children you cannot drive the car while they are fighting and ask them (in a calm voice) to stop fighting. If the battle continues, pull over to the side of the road. Turn off the radio and the engine, and simply sit there. Daydream or think of something pleasant. Say nothing.  At some point, one of the children will ask, “Mom, why did you stop the car?”   In your “oatmeal” (bland and boring) tone of voice, answer, “It is not safe for me to drive while children are fighting.”  Then resume your peaceful thoughts.  Sooner or later, the children will promise not to fight. If they start fighting again, pull over, stop the car, and repeat the process.  It is extremely boring to sit in a car with a quiet adult. The behavior will stop.

If you need to be somewhere on time, I suggest you begin this training by leaving your home a half an hour ahead of need.  Children have an instinct about whether or not you have time to carry out your challenge.  If you give in to a child’s behavior, the message you give your children is that you don’t mean it.  Big trouble is coming if your children do not believe you say what you mean, mean what you say and follow through.

The use of boredom as a parental ally will be taught in every column; it is my alternative to passive and authoritarian parenting. Passive parenting doesn’t work because it teaches the child to misuse power. Authoritarian parenting doesn’t work because it harms the child and sets off the anger-resentment-revenge cycle into your home. The use of boredom works instantly and keeps working, long-term. Best of all,

It does not harm your child. Have you ever heard of a grown-up going to a psychologist because his/her parents bored him/her to death?  It won’t happen.

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #2
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Sandy S. McDaniel is an author/international speaker on self-esteem and parenting. She is the author of Recipes from Parenting, Leave Your Baggage At the Door, and co-author of Project Self-Esteem.  Sandy is the creator of parentingSOS.com -Sandy’s great-grandfather founded Santa Ana, CA; she has lived most of her 59 years in Newport Beach. Sandy’s two grown children, Kathleen and Scott, live in Orange County, CA.

ANGER AND POWER:
My child seems to have a mind of his own. Every time I turn around, he is upset about something I have asked him to do or is challenging me. I feel as if I am in a constant state of anger.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: Behavior that is rewarded continues, behavior that is not rewarded stops. This is a law. The question to ask yourself about a continuing behavior, is “How am I rewarding it?”  Doing so will help you to understand that the child is constantly asking, “Is this how I use power?”  It is an endless question. Your answer needs to be a calm, “Yes,” or a calm, “No.”

When a child has been difficult all day, the tendency is to think, “Why is he/she driving me crazy?” By virtue of the words and the amount of anger in the thought, you are now in “get even” mode.  If, instead, you think, “Wow!  He/she is asking a lot of questions about power today!” Then you become the teacher.  You are your child’s teacher!

The use of boredom is your greatest ally. Children hate to be bored! Let’s look at a specific problem to find a solution for several of your parenting challenges: “I can’t get my child to leave the park.”  Children do not like to be jerked out of their reality.  They don’t change channels quickly. Give the child a time frame by saying,  “You are having such a great time. In five minutes (hold up your thumb and forefinger to indicate a small amount of time), it will be time to go.  I will show you, (thumb and fingers close together), when there is just a little time left; then the hard part is to come when I call you. We will (fly like a bird, hop like a grasshopper) to the car and then we will sing songs all the way home.  

Children live fully in each moment; they are immersed in whatever they are doing. To switch from something fun to something undefined is not a choice they make easily; review your plans with the child. Then move from something fun to something else that is fun, even if it is flying to the car like a bird.

Another solution is to use the word “choice” with your child, “You are at choice, Scott, either come with me now or I will carry you.”  If the child is older, “You are at choice, Scott, come right now or meet me at 8:00 tonight in the dining room for a long boring talk about this problem.”  Why 8:00? That’s when their favorite TV shows air.  One long boring talk about behavior, how difficult it is to be a parent, and the child will reconsider balking you when you give the child the choice to mind or meet at eight o’clock.

If you meet your child’s anger with your own anger, the child wins. After all, the child who is asking, “Is this how I use power?”  gets the message that he/she can blow your day by getting you upset.  Be calm, use boredom and breathe!  Powerful children are the ones who are more likely to stand up to peer pressure and the pitfalls of youth. They also give you frown wrinkles and gray hair!

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #3
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

CONFLICT RESOLUTION:
A parent said recently, "In your website you say, ‘teach your children to use their words, not their fists.’ I don’t know how to do that."

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: Most people have few if any communication skills. Did they teach you how to communicate in school? Probably not. Here are some rules of the road for teaching children how to communicate when they are angry:

(1) Don’t have children discuss a problem when they are angry. Have each child run to a tree and back to diffuse their anger. If there is no tree nearby, run in place (See parentingsos.com for more on teaching children how to diffuse anger.)

(2) Name calling is not allowed. Teach your children to use their words. Have them say, "I don’t like that you took my baseball mitt without asking me if you could use it."  (Check my website for more on "I" messages.)

(3) Do not ask either child to say he/she is "sorry".  An angry child is not sorry. Do not  force your children to lie.  When resolution to the problem occurs, it is a natural response to apologize.

(4) Be sure the children move to resolution: (child) "I do not want you to take my baseball mitt without asking me. Are you willing to do that?"  The parent can offer a consequence if the agreement is not kept: "If you borrow his/her mitt without asking you have volunteered to (clear the table and empty the dishwasher two times in a row)."

Children will not use their words unless it is unacceptable to hit, name call, shame or blame. Have a penalty box -- like they do in hockey. "Five minutes in the remembering box for hitting!" will get the hitter’s attention. The penalty box can be a specific chair. When a small child hits, put that child into the playpen for as many minutes as the child is old, (two minutes for a two year old). Say, "Hitting is not ok; do not hit."  (This is a little difficult to do if you are spanking your child; you teach most by what you model).

Children need to diffuse their anger before they can talk about the problem.  A great technique for this is to have two children stand about six feet apart (out of strike range). "(Sam) gets to say everything that he wants to say about what happened to cause the fight. (Denise), you cannot talk until (Sam) is completely finished."  Then reverse the process: "(Denise), it is your turn whatever is on your mind. (Sam), you cannot comment at any time." Give the listening child the football "time out" sign (make a "T" with your two hands), to keep that child quiet. Go back and forth until the children get bored and don’t want to talk about the problem any more.  Let them play together again. They have diffused their original anger, so they are less likely to break out into a war zone again. If they do fight again, separate them for a half and hour and repeat the process.

One way to teach children how to talk to each other is to use the FEELING, WANT, WILLING guidelines: (FEELING) " I am very upset that you took my mitt without asking me if you could use it. (WANT) I want you to promise not to use my mitt without asking me first. (WILLING) Are you willing to give me your word you won’t do that again? A consequence for "forgetting" can be discussed at the time of the agreement.

Children who learn to express their feelings, especially their anger, will have more mature relationships, less conflict in general, and respect for themselves and their actions. Teach your children to use their words instead of their fists.

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FIGHTING:  "My kids are always fighting. When we go somewhere they fight. At dinner they argue and fight. They are a fight looking for a place to land! I’m at my wit’s end."

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: My children are grown. When my children were living at home, we would be eating dinner together, and their bickering would begin. We had a rule in our home that you are kind to each other -- so the bickering did not move to name calling, then into a fight. The consequence for name calling (doh-doh brain) was to take the child into his/her bedroom and have that child say (doh-doh brain) many dozens of times. Every time the child says (doh-doh brain), you say, "Again!"  If the child refuses to say the word, tell him/her you will sit there and look at him/her until the process is continued.  It is boring sit with a quiet parent. It is also boring to repeat a word many times. My children learned to avoid calling each other names because they didn’t like the boring consequence.

If children fought, they were sent to two different places in our home (dining room and living room), for a half an hour. When the children resumed playing together and continued fighting, they were separated for an hour the second time. The rule is simple; play together nicely, you stay together. Fight, and you are separated. Problem solving is best learned when the children are not angry with each other.

Your children are probably fighting as a means of getting your attention. Once again, they are asking, "Is this how we use power?" It is very powerful to disrupt a parent’s life and force that parent to solve your problems for you.  Many children (and adults) fight because they lack appropriate communication skills.  If the children have been fighting for many years, layers of resentment have built up, so a small argument quickly turns into a war. 

Do not ask the children "why" they are fighting. It is not your business to know that information. Get your children to diffuse their anger by running. Separate your children. Send them to their rooms if they have separate quarters; they may come out again when they are ready to play amiably.  Children learn not to explode into battle if there is a consequence for that choice.

Your home needs to be a safe place for each child to learn and grow. Parents tell me "Fighting seems to be something that ‘boys do.’"   We need to work together as a society to produce a generation of boys and girls who use their words rather than their fists.

Check my website  parentingSOS.com  for more information on fighting, anger and communication skills.

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #4
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

HITTING OR SPANKING A CHILD:
"An article about you accompanied your debut column in the Register. In it, Jennifer McKim said you do not believe in spanking. Why?"

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: In this column, I am simultaneously addressing hitting and spanking children. I will use the word "spanking" for both issues. To me, spanking is not right or wrong, good or bad; I do think it is un-necessary. I do think spanking causes serious problems for the child and for your home.  Let me explain.

Children watch enormous amounts of television. Some children watch as much as six hours of television a day!  Think of how many hours of television your child watches. Think how much hitting occurs during those TV hours. Ask yourself what message all the hitting and violence in TV shows sends to your child. I believe children decide that hitting means intending to harm.  The child misbehaves, so you hit him or her.  Because of the influence of the television, the child thinks you are trying to harm him/her.

If you aren’t buying my "hurting the spirit of the child" message, ask yourself what spanking teaches. An angry parent yells,  "Who started this?" An intelligent child, (who sees trouble coming), points to the other child or makes up a huge lie. The child tells a lie in order to avoid being hit.

If you want love to live in your home, the truth must live there as well. Invitations to your children to lie come through fear. If they are afraid to tell the truth, you will not be told the truth.

If you hit a child when you are angry — and if you have a whole bunch of other anger issues that are burning inside of you — you are likely to hit your child too often and too hard. Children who are punished for making a mistake naturally fear making a mistake. Some lessons are learned by making mistakes. A child who is afraid of making a mistake stops learning and growing. The child’s self-trust dissolves.

My greatest concern about spanking comes from the fact that children learn most from what is modeled for them. (That’s a scary thought isn’t it? You teach most by what you model.) Children who are spanked learn that they can hit someone when they don’t agree with him/her — or don’t like what he/she is doing.  I have a problem with this concept.

Another consideration is to identify what happens when a child is hit by a parent. Logically, the child is angry. What happens to that anger?  The child may be bright enough not to challenge the parent’s authority any further, so the child minds. The parent thinks that spanking worked because the negative behavior stopped.

Let’s follow the angry child — who goes down the hall and hits his sister to relieve his anger. Now both the sister and brother are little land mines looking for a place to explode. The sister may refuse to mind the mother. The already angry mother hits the sister. The sister yells at the brother. The brother and sister begin a fist fight. The brother pours his milk into the goldfish bowl.  About this time, Dad walks in the door from work.  You get the picture, right?  One moment of anger can circulate through your home for days, weeks, even months.

Best of all, using boredom as your ally — and the parenting techniques in my parenting column, seminars, products and free website — spanking becomes un-necessary. If you choose to spank your child, that is your business. If you would like to spank your child less, try some of the methods I am teaching.  You’ll be amazed at how infrequently you need to get angry in order to make your point.

We have a crisis on our planet. There is too much anger and violence. Children who watch too much violent television, are numb to people being hurt or killed. Children are learning to misuse anger by what is modeled for them.  If we are to create a safe place for our children and their children to live, we need to get the violence out of our homes.

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #5
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

GETTING READY IN THE MORNING:
The morning routine is a disaster!  I can’t get children to get up on time, get dressed, eat and be in the car in time to get all of us where we need to be. All I do is yell and scream and we are still late. 

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: Time management needs to be taught at home. First, have a conversation with the child the night before you implement your plan. Say, “What we have been doing every morning isn’t working. We are always late to school and I am late to work. Starting tomorrow, you will hear your alarm clock go off. I will not nag you about getting up. I am leaving in the car at seven thirty. You will be in the car with me. Whether you are dressed, have eaten or have your things is your job.

“I will not nag you about any of these things. Be sure, however, that you are getting into the car at seven thirty sharp whether you are dressed or have eaten or not. “  It is advisable to put a full outfit and a banana into the car the night before you take on this challenge.”

Do not allow television viewing the in the morning. It distracts the child. You can give twenty and ten minute warnings that seven thirty is approaching. It is helpful to put a timer in the room so the child sees that the time to be ready is running out, letting the child manage his/her time accordingly.

If the child asking the question, “Do you mean it?” --ends up in the car half dressed and complaining, say, “Tomorrow, should you choose to get ready on time, you will be in the clothes of your choice and have the breakfast of your choice. Today, you may choose to wear these clothes and eat this banana or go to school as you are.”  If the child is truly stubborn, take the clothes to the director/school secretary with a simple message, “We are learning time management today; thank you for helping.”  Peer pressure will cause the child the re-think his/her pattern of behavior.

The tough part is to hold the line and actually drive out of the garage with a half-dressed, angry child. The other tough part is not to lecture the child. Children who are barraged with constant verbal anger turn a deaf ear to it.  When you yell, at children they cannot hear you.   Set your boundaries, serve the consequences without anger; time management is an important skill to learn.

WATCHING TOO MUCH TELEVISION: Watching television is a passive activity. You watch it. You do not interact with it (unless, like me, you are yelling at it because it is teaching terrible morals and values).  The television is a teacher about life.  Not much on television is about real or "normal" life. I feel there is too much violence on television.

Children who watch television instead of sitting at a table with the whole family do not learn necessary social and communication skills. Children who watch too much television do not learn to think or reason.

Here’s an idea on how to limit the amount of television your children watch: Take a piece of paper, cut it into squares. Have each square represent a half an hour. Decide how many half-hours of TV you want your child to watch that day. Give the child the appropriate amount of squares. When the child has spent his/her squares, there is no more television time for that child that day.  Be sure to teach board games and other things to do besides watching television.

Another way to decrease the amount of TV time is to use it as a consequence: I have a friend whose son awoke an hour early one morning. She invited him to go back to bed. He chose to start screaming and crying. Obviously, he was going to awaken the whole family. My friend took her son into the bathroom. She cut a two pieces of colored paper into squares. “These squares (yellow) represent your TV time for the next three days. These squares (red) represent your computer time for the next three days. . Each square equals fifteen minutes of time. For each minute you choose to scream and yell, I will take one of these squares away from the pile. (Looking at her watch,) Go for it!”  The boy stopped within a minute. He was bargaining with HIS time. Next, she gave him a couple of suggestions of quiet things he could do until the rest of the family arose.

Here’s my ultimate TV advice: turn the darn thing off!  Spend time with your children! Children bring unfathomable gifts of learning and being to your life.

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #6
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

CHANGE IS A PROCESS:
“My children’s behavior has gotten suddenly worse. Nothing is going on in our home that is different. What am I doing wrong?”

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION:  In order to answer your question, let’s look at a truth about children: there is always a reason for a sudden change of behavior. In your case, school is winding down. Summer is approaching. Many children prefer summer to school (except the children who go to year-round school).

The reason children suddenly get up-tight is because a change is about to occur. They will move from the predictable schedule of going to school to another schedule.

If you have ever moved to a new/different house or apartment, you have probably taken an intense lesson on the effects of change. You are glad to be moving! You are excited! You get totally stressed out before the move happens.  Once you move it takes time for you to adjust to the change, which has occurred.  The old way was familiar. The new way may be better for you, and it will take some time to adjust to the change that has occurred.  Change is a process.

When you move from something familiar to something unfamiliar, change is always stressful.   Adapting to any change takes time.

Be sure your boundaries for your children are clear. Enforce the rules that are dear to you. Let go of trying to contain some of the wild energy. Re-channel that energy—run to the tree and back. Play outside in the pool. Play a running game. Go to the beach or to a park to play.

Let your child play after school instead of sitting right down to do homework. Your child needs to run off some of his/her gathered energy.  Remind the child that his/her job in your home is to do his/her best in school and to be a loving person. Remind your child that school isn’t out until the last day of school—up until then, homework will be completed, and the job of going to school done well.

In case you didn’t hear, summer is coming! Get ready to have the little darlings home every day. Get ready by remembering that change will be difficult, stressful and takes time—for you as well as for your children.  Remember one more thing: this time won’t last forever. Enjoy your children while you have them.

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CHORES:  Children need to do chores for the right the live in your home. They also need to do them so they learn how to take care of themselves. A “free ride” ticket will not teach a child to be a reliable, respectful or responsible human being.

When I got divorced, I sat down with my two children. They were 9 and 11. We made a list of all the chores (earn the money, pay the bills, fix the house, laundry, house cleaning, etc.) I took the adult jobs. Both kids did their own wash. (We needed to work on a system that kept the war zone out of this chore.) Each child cleaned his/her own room and bathroom. Then we made a chart for all the other jobs and we each did them. Every Saturday, both children were indentured servants (their perspective), for one hour minimum; we did a home chore that wasn’t on the weekly list.

Our rule was: If you “forget” to do a chore, you have volunteered to do two chores –on your time. Scott would come in from school. “Hi, Scott, you need to vacuum the living room and dining room and empty the dishwasher before you go play. You forgot to put the trash out this morning.”  When the chore was accomplished was not optional. No lecture -- no Darth Vader -- just a calm parent serving two consequences.

Your children are too busy to do chores, you say? Are you busy? Do you make time to do the things that need to be done? Welcome to life, kids!  And…do we really need to over-program our children?  Chores will be resisted by the child; and ironically give the child the important message that he/she is a part of the family team.

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #7
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

SINGLE PARENTING AND/OR STEP PARENTING:
“I just remarried, and I think my husband’s kids hate me. I am nervous around them, so they aren’t getting to know me. Help!”

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: Single parenting and step parenting are not the same. What I am going to talk about works for both types, (actually all types), of parents. It also works when you have children visiting your home on a short or long-term basis.

Whenever you work with a child, there are certain steps that will assist in being successful:
(1) Remember, each child is asking, “Is this how I use power?” 

If you let a child get away with negative behavior, that child will not respect you. The behavior will escalate. Trouble is coming like an avalanche!

(2) Set the boundaries for you home, regardless of what is going on in another home.

I am divorced. I can remember one of my kids saying, “Dad lets us (eat with our fingers)!”  Instead of getting into a huge argument about whether their father would do that or not — or taking an opportunity to say something negative about him — I would say, “When you are your father’s home, you may be able to (eat with your fingers). When you are in my home, you will eat with a fork.”  End of subject. No lecture.

(3) Children learn to take their love away from you to see if you will give up your power.

One of my children figured out early on that I was deathly afraid of someone taking their love away from me. The obvious place for that child to go was, “I don’t like you!”

It worked. I caved in and lost my power. Up until I did not care if that child liked me or not, I was powerless against my own child’s own power.

(4) Don’t make the other parent wrong if your way of living is different.

When parents judge or blame the other parent it splits that child’s heart. Even if one of the parents is a total smuck, it is the job of the child to determine that fact without any help from the wounded parent.

(5) Children hate change.

They fear change. Even if it was terrible when you and their other parent lived together, they would prefer that you get back together. When a step-parent comes onto the scene, the illusion that things will go back to the way it was before, is shattered. On whom will the children take out their fear? The step-parent/boy or girlfriend become the enemy.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

(6) When you make fair rules, enforce them with strength-but-kindness, and never, ever take YOUR love away—children will accept you when they are ready to do so.

With the divorce rate now at 51%, there are a lot of adults who are learning to cope with being a single parent or a step-parent. Getting stuck in remorse, feeling badly for your children is not the way to teach them to stand up in a very difficult situation. My two children are a classic example of how wonderfully two children can turn out when divorce became their reality.  Their father and I didn’t do our relationship very well, and we did an excellent job raising Kathleen and Scott in two separate homes.

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NO MUST MEAN NO! You need to teach yourself to,

(1) Say what you mean,

(2) Mean what you say, and

(3) Follow through. “ No” does not mean maybe, no means no.

If you say “No!” all the time, children turn a deaf ear to that word. Then, when your child is running towards the street, a car is coming and you yell, “No!”….you get my point, right?

Use your words to teach; “Don’t touch that, it is hot!”, or “Use your words not your fists!” or “Don’t put a raisin up your nose, it will get stuck.” or “Hold on to the tree, Mommy will get you down in a minute.”

Don’t count to three when you mean it, mean it when you say it the first time. If you give in when the child uses one of the tactics learned in “child training school” (before they were born), stay with your decision. Some of their tactics are: Crying, screaming, melt-down, temper tantrums, pleading, and taking their love away from you.  Children push boundaries to see if you will move them. If you do move a boundary, the child assumes you will move another boundary, next time.

Save your “No!” for a time when you really need it—when the child is in danger, or another child is in danger because of something your child is about to do. The rest of the time, teach the child why a behavior is being stopped. A child will resist a simple “No!”  Each child is more likely to respond positively to a command with understanding wrapped around it. At the very least, you will have a less-angry child; less angry children, fewer angry adults. Makes sense to me!

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #8
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

SIBLING RIVALRY:
“My children’s most favorite phrase is, “that’s not fair!” Even though my husband and I take the three years’ difference between our children into consideration, they are always saying what we do is unfair or that we love the other child more than them.  Help!”

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: My son, Scott, could produce alligator tears on call, turn on his puppy dog eyes and say, “You love Kathleen more than me.” To this clever diversionary tactic I responded, “I am very angry that you chose to tie the dog’s tail to the tree. This is not about loving you. I love you every single second. This is about your choice.”  If Scott repeated his drama, I repeated the exact same words, in the same tone of voice. How many times? As many times as he wanted to hear my words.

In the arena of “he gets to stay up later” or “you never let me do that”, I have a couple of suggestions. Make a box with bugs on it (I did this when I taught elementary school). It is the “What’s bugging you?” box. When a child has a comparison complaint, stop the words.  Tell the child, “Write your problem down and we will talk about it.”  Writing a complaint down is boring; it will stop excessive use of this manipulative tactic.

If a child does write out a complaint, call a family meeting. Everyone attends this meeting. Address the issue, “(Name) feels that I let you two (stay up later at night), and (name) feels that is not fair.”

Open the meeting to discussion. A discussion has rules:

(1) No shaming or blaming,

(2) No put-downs,

(3) No anger. 

Everyone gets to state an opinion, the parents make the final decision. If the parent needs time to make a decision, tell the children they will all meet the next night, for five minutes, to hear your decision.

If, every time a child has a complaint, a family meeting is called, the children will be motivated by peer pressure to only state serious concerns.

Another way to address endless whining about a choice you make is to say exactly the same thing each time the child whines, “I hear you think it is unfair that your sisters get to stay up later than you do at night. I have thought about this choice very carefully, and feel it is important you get more rest every night. I feel it is in your best interest to keep this rule until you are older.”

Making your message a tad lengthy, and being willing to repeat it over and over again creates the element of being boring. Children hate to be bored. Even the most stubborn child will capitulate in the face of boredom.

Be sure you only use these techniques when a child is over-using the “poor me” drama. Children need to feel heard. This technique will be mis-used if it becomes a way to avoid addressing the needs of your children.

WEEKLY FAMILY MEETING: Holding a weekly family meeting can do so much to dis-empower the fights that occur when there is no place to express feelings or find a solution to a continuing problem.

Using my “PRS” formula, the expressed concerns will be blame-free. (PROBLEM) “I don’t like it when (name) gets out a game and then doesn’t put it away.” (RULE) “We have a rule that you are to put toys back in their ‘where they live’ place when you are done with them. (SOLUTION) “Since we’ve talked about this in another family meeting,

There needs to be a consequence for that choice. (Name), if you choose to take out a game and not put it away, you have just volunteered to straighten out the whole toy box and shelf. You will do this on your (TV or computer) time. Do you understand?”

The parent can give the words for RULE and SOLUTION in the example above.  Eventually, everyone can decide what the appropriate consequence might be.

Children are fair when they have no hidden agenda or anger.

The heart of a family meeting is that the whole family is actively involved in the process of learning to live, work and play together in harmony. Children who feel a part of the family team feel safer than children who do not. Take time to create a weekly family  meeting; years from now, you will all look back on that choice as one which strengthened you as individuals and as a family. 

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #9
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

VERBAL ABUSE:
“My husband and I have divorced. Suddenly, my two boys have taken on the same verbal abuse he modeled for them. What do I do?”

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A SOLUTION: Verbal abuse exists because it is allowed. In order to stop the behavior you will need to create strict boundaries, swift and fair consequences, and be willing to consistently hold the line.

We had a rule in our home that we were kind to each other. This is a very cool rule. It is not acceptable to name call, put someone down, hit or misuse anger with this rule.

If you don’t have this rule in your home, you might consider adopting it today.

In the beginning, you are teaching your boys to break a pattern, so putting them on the “two strikes and you get a consequence” plan is more reasonable than the one strike plan. Simply say, “You cannot call me names. Strike one. Should you choose to continue putting me down, you will earn a consequence.”  After a week of setting your boundaries, change to “one strike and you have earned a consequence” (no computer, television, phone, etc., for a night).

The point is to catch the child’s attention. Make the consequence something he/she notices. Don’t do over-kill. You want to teach your child to understand and respect that change is a process that takes time to learn.

Teach the child how to talk when he/she is angry. “I am really angry that you won’t let me go over to play with Matt!”  is acceptable. Name calling, swearing or put downs are not acceptable. Those choices are not kind and they do not communicate.

Invite the child to repeat what was said without a put-down or swearing. Doing so is boring—the consequence reminds the child that those words are not acceptable. What if the child refuses to participate? Tell the child, “You are at choice: Say what you said over without the put down, or meet me at eight o’clock tonight to talk about this.”  A long boring talk at 8:00 (their favorite TV time) will get the child’s attention. Have your meeting in the boring dining room. Your child will not want to meet you at 8:00, twice!

Remember, verbal abuse is the bi-product of unresolved anger. It is important to teach your child to constructively diffuse anger. Running is the best way to diffuse anger. For some people, appropriately hitting something (a black punching bag, which is hanging in the garage,) relieves the pressure of unresolved anger. It is important, to teach your child HOW to diffuse his/her anger.

There are lots of things in your child’s life that he/she assumes are free: Television, computer, CD player, telephone, rides in your car, using your car (God forbid!), etc. If your child’s behavior is out of control, take everything except the bed and some clothes away from that child.  Set up a point system for re-earning them. Hold the line!  

The key to success in life is to respect yourself and to respect other people.

GETTING CHILDREN TO EAT WHAT YOU COOK: “Every night it is the same thing—someone hates what I fixed for dinner. We begin every meal with a fight.”

A SOLUTION: Getting upset and lecturing children about how difficult it is to fix a different meal every night which pleases everyone, is a waste of time. Your mate probably doesn’t understand that and he/she is an adult!

If you have three children, let each one choose what is for dinner one night of the week. Each adult has a choice. We now have five nights covered. If anyone says something that is “off budget”, simply say, “Not in our budget this week, choose again please.”  No lecture.  If the child begins to melt-down say, “You have one dinner choice. Keep ranting and you will lose that choice.”

My rule was that a child took three bites of whatever was in front of him or her.  If that child chose not to eat the (broccoli), I did not jump up and fix something else. The next meal was breakfast. No dessert if you don’t eat your dinner, no snacks after dinner. The child made the choice; it’s your job to hold the line.

Dinner together as a family is a training ground for socialization, morals and values.

It is not a place for battle. Families who eat peacefully together give their children extraordinary gifts of love and guidance. 

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PARENTING SOLUTIONS #10
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

GETTING CHILDREN TO MIND:
Many children are misusing power. I get dozens of email saying that a child is out of control, behavior wise. A friend of mine and I developed a formula that invites the child to mind without the use of anger.

Anne has three children. When she first came to my parenting seminar, all three children were out of control. Her nine-year-old son has functioning autism; he was pretty much ruling the home with his bursts of anger. The other two children were following the older boy’s lead. First, we got Ann to stop yelling and getting angry all the time. Anger begets anger.

The “minute drill” became her greatest ally.  One morning, her autistic son, James, came into the bedroom. It was five o’clock in the morning. Anne said, “It is too early to get up. No you can’t watch TV because you will disturb the other children. You need to do something quietly until everyone awakens.”  Her son began yelling and screaming. She bounced out of bed, took him into the bathroom. On the way, she picked up two pieces of colored paper and scissors. She began cutting the two papers into squares.

“For every minute you choose to scream and yell, I will pick up one of these papers. Each paper stands for fifteen minutes of computer or TV time. You may scream all you want; it is your time.” In less than fifteen seconds, the boy stopped yelling. He did not demonstrate any further bursts of anger.

The next day, Anne asked James to please turn off the computer to do something else. She had given him a five-minute warning.  He refused. She said, “No problem, the minute drill starts right now.” He asked, “What’s the minute drill?” She responded, “For every minute you take to shut off the computer, fifteen minutes comes off your computer or TV time.” He yelled, “No!” and turned off the computer.

The minute drill works when (1) it is time to leave the park, (2) it is time to get out of the tub, (3) one child took something from another child and won’t give it back, (4) you want to get something like a pen from a young child who is running around with the pen, (5) anything you want the child to do that has a time frame around it. 

When a child calls another child a name say, “We are kind to each other in our home, so we do not call each other names. You will now tell your (brother/sister) two positive things about him/her.  If the child refuses, do the minute drill until the child complies.

The success of the minute drill is dependent upon finding something the child wants to do (computer, TV, play time etc.) The child is taking his/her own time to choose to mind.

Children who are misusing power are out of control. Getting a child back into control requires consistency, boundaries and consequences. If a parent lets aggressive behavior continue, the problems will escalate. One of the gifts of parenting without anger is that children learn to mind and don’t build up a anger-resentment-revenge cycle inside of themselves. Maybe, less pent-up angry children will create a less angry world. The safety of each of us may be at stake.

SUMMER IS COMING. BEATING THE “I’M BORED” PROBLEM. Too many children are over-programmed. A recent Oprah show highlighted the fact that one of the primary stressors for children is having too many activities. Keeping children safe and keeping children busy are valuable ideas; the question I ask is, “Do you always keep the child’s needs in mind?”

Before school gets out, have a family meeting. Make a list of all possible things that one could do during free time. Each idea is written down in a list format.  The list is put on the refrigerator.

When a child says, “I’m bored!” refer the child to the list on the refrigerator. Next to the children’s list, put a list of extra chores. If the child tries to manipulate you with, “I don’t want to do any of those things!’ tell the child, “If I choose for you, it will be from the chores list. What do you want to do?”

I taught elementary school. One thing I saw that is missing in childhood training is what to do with free time. Over-structured children get frazzled when presented with free time. A great power play is to keep you constantly involved in what a child does. Teach your children to make independent choices and decisions. Those children will do better with their lives than some adults are doing-- because they are being trained to think for themselves. 

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Phone: (949) 642-3605
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Copyright (C) Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel, 2002