Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adlerian principles for children

It is rare that we have a big discipline issue with our kids, specifically with Noah. He is, by nature, fair and "unreasonably reasonable" for a 3 year old. Since his surgery, we cut him a bit of slack and backed off our parenting a bit with him since he had enough going on. This was also recommended by our cardiac team as children tend to regress behaviourally during these tough times.

Recently, as he is clearly feeling better, we have gotten back into our parenting and it is being met with a bit of resistance. Keith and I try very hard to parent by the Adlerian principles touted by parenting expert, Alyson Schafer:
  • Treat family members with mutual respect
  • Utilize encouragement
  • Highlight feelings of security for children
  • Rewards and punishment are ineffective
  • Natural consequences will serve as a teaching tool (i.e. you jump on the couch and fall - well that is what happens when you jump on the couch)
  • Logical consequences are not arbitrary - they are direct and logical (i.e. If you don't want to join us at the table for dinner, that is ok - but this is the only dinner being served and when it is over, it's over)
  • Don't interfere in children's fights (i.e. kids are arguing over a toy - they should learn to work it out themselves)
  • Take the time to teach children essential skills and habits - not in the heat of a conflict
  • Never do for a child what he can do for himself
  • The four goals of misbehaviour: attention-seeking; power; revenge; assumed inadequacy
  • Ensure family members are an equal voice in issues and finding a resolution
  • Catch your child being good!
This parenting philosophy is fantastic and really does help our children feel they are a vital member of the family, yet it is difficult. I say that because when you are engaged in a power-struggle with a toddler, it is very hard to not let your emotions guide your actions. You are supposed to parent in a judgement-free manner and be a comfort and support to your child.

For example, one of Noah's biggest power struggles right now is getting back to dressing himself. The Alderian principle states Never do for a child what he can do for himself. So by that reasoning, he is very capable of putting on his own pants, underwear and socks. So in the morning we lay them out and ask him to get dressed. Sometimes, he is feeling he needs to be coddled a bit more so he will freak out and cry and scream for help. Now, we have no problem helping him with some of it....if he asks nicely. So we will reinforce that. I think that goes against this principle a bit but I have a hard time telling him I won't help him if he asks me nicely and respectfully.

The last week he has taken to screeching and screaming loudly when he is very upset or frustrated. It is in these moments that we have a hard time keeping our cool. I went to Alyson Schafer's new book for guidance: "Ain't Misbehavin'" as it has a section on tantrums. Tantrums come from a child locked in a power-struggle, meaning that ultimately, to stop these, we have to help him gain more control over his own choices. For example, I have noticed he wants to get his own spoon out of the drawer for his breakfast or help us make his those are small examples of how he is able to take more control. Yet, it is clear there is more control he needs to be we need to find out where we can improve.
In the meantime, while a child is in mid-tantrum - the best thing to do is offer comfort if it is needed, but remove yourself (not banish them to a corner). I got the perfect chance this morning:

Noah and Layla were having breakfast and I asked them if they wanted an apple (they are apple-crazy lately and have one every morning on the ride into school and evening). They refused. We carried on and Noah was just heading to his carseat when he noticed he didn't have an apple. He wanted one and I had to remind him that he had said he didn't want one and we were now in the car. The time for choosing was over. He LOST it - screeching and screaming and getting right in my face and yelling. I calmly told him that when he was done screaming I would come into the car. I closed his door and waited outside of the car. He calmed down nearly instantly. I got in the car and while I should have left it at that, I felt the need to discuss why that voice was inappropriate and asked him to apologize. This is actually not in the parenting philosophy at all, which states: never teach children essential skills and habits in the heat of conflict. I also gave in and got an apple once he asked me nicely.

Again, wrong move....I almost got it right!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The development of speech

As Layla gets older (she is now 18 months), her tantrums are greatly reducing. We believe this is largely due to her speech development. She has quite a large range of words and is now putting together simple two-word sentences ("Hi daddy" or "Mine mommy" or "No thankyou").

Keith and I speak to the children properly. We don't use short forms or baby talk. Noah has been followed by a SLP since his infancy so we know how to speak to a child properly. That being said, it is strange how speech develops. Often, children come up with their own words for things. For example, Layla will often refer to her soother as a "soo". Clearly a shortform of the longer word we use for the pacifier. She will eventually master the full word, so this is the mid-point.

That said, where do they come up with some baby words?!?! For example, Layla refers to her baby blanket (and sometimes her soother) as her "nana". She isn't the first baby to refer to a lovey or soother with this word. My neice calls her soother a "nana" as well. I am not really sure where this came from - we still refer to her blanket and soother with the proper words (although I do find myself now asking her where her nana is). She clearly made up the word herself and labelled the objects consistently with this word. I find it very interesting. I would love to know the reasoning behind this.

She also has taken to using the word "No" a lot  but refuses to say "yes". She does, however nod - which helps.

Another confusing aspect of speech development is her ability to say different names. To her, everyone is "Layla" (except mommy and daddy). Yet, if you ask her to give an object to a specific person, she will do it right, 100% of the time. At first I thought she was goofing around by calling Noah by her own name, but she has been doing this for months now!

Infant development is amazing. I find daycare fast tracks their development, especially when surrounded by older peers. Noah, for example, is learning french and both children are continually expanding their sign language skills. As fun as it is to watch them grow-up, I am always a bit sad when they learn to say a word properly. Noah used to refer to himself as "wo-wa" and I really miss that! But to see how clearly he can articulate his thoughts and feelings is amazing. Yet, you continually run into ways his speech is still limited by his age. For example, if he is mad he will say "I'm not feeling happy...I'm mad". It is a more roundabout way to say what he really means.

Of course, along with developed speech comes more complex reasoning and thus, resistance to parenting....but that is another post...