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!
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 breakfast...so 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 given...so 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!