Friday, March 30, 2012

Welcome to Discipline Magic

Discipline Magic will teach you some simple ways to bring the fun back into parenting.
  1. You will learn three rules for your children that work like magic. 
  2. You will learn what to do when your children break those rules.
  3. You will learn how to use time outs effectively. 
  4. You will learn how to encourage good behavior at home and in public. 
  5. While you do all of this, you will be having fun. I call that Parent Magic!
So many books I've read on parenting are complicated. They tell you all about what not to do. Or they give you complex systems that work with 5 year olds, but not with 10 year olds.  Don't lecture. Be positive. Give time outs. Don't give time outs. Count to three. Give time outs immediately.

What is best? What is supported by how young brains grow and learn?

Growing brains do best when there are clear limits. Most teachers are told that they should have no more than 5 rules in the classroom. The same is true of your home. You do not need more than 3 to 5 rules to help your children behave. The rules you choose and teach can make a huge difference.

You have to teach your children to follow your rules. That means that you need to both teach the rule and what it looks like when your child is following or not following the rules. Maybe it seems obvious to you what "Follow directions fast" means. It may or may not be clear to your child. The clearer you are in teaching the rules, the less wiggle room for the child and the less reason they have to test the rules.

Most teachers are told that they should spend part of every day the first 6 weeks of school reviewing and practicing the rules.  Teachers are also encouraged to review rules anytime there has been a break, a vacation or a big change. As a parent, the same is true.

I remember as a first and second year teacher being told that I needed to practice the rules. I thought - ok. I'm supposed to practice the rules. How in the world do you practice the rules? And how long can that take? 2 minutes? And wouldn't it be boring? And I'm really supposed to do that every day for 6 weeks? You have got to be kidding me! I was teaching 6th, 7th and 8th graders at the time.
As you can imagine, I both wasn't sure about how to practice the rules, nor about how to make it fun at the same time. So . . . I just skipped the whole rule practicing thing and learned the hard way. Yes, even 13 and 14 year olds who should "know better" still need to practice the rules! 
My understanding of what practicing rules meant, though, was turbo charged when I took over a kindergarten class that was complete chaos in the middle of the year. The previous teacher had been fired. I will admit that I was in tears before the end of the first day. The students wouldn't follow any of my directions, were running around and just plain crazy.
Long story short, a relative gave me quite the primer in how to practice the rules and let me know that I needed to do that every day. With time I learned that practicing the rules can be fun. Kids, no matter their age, can get into doing skits or using puppets. By the end of the year, the kids knew the routines and how to behave. More than that, though, they were having fun and learning at the same time.
If teaching rules consistently can turn around a class of 30 rambunctious kindergarteners, it can definitely turn around your household!

Kids are going to break rules. It is a part of life. If you expect that children will stop breaking rules after you teach them the rules, you are going to be disappointed daily. About 20% of children will continue to test the rules almost daily. About 80% of children will following along most of the time as long as the rules are clear. If you have a child in that 20% that I call "scientists," I have some techniques that will work for you. Either way, you need to have a set of strategies for when the rules are broken that keep you calm, stop the behavior and then teach correct behavior.

One year I had a class of students that was comprised of that 20%. Two out of every three children in my classroom had a learning disability, a behavior plan from the previous teacher, or was more than 2 years behind in school! Finally, I realized that I needed to have a plan for how to stay calm with those "scientists." I needed a simple plan that would work to stop the misbehavior. I needed to expect that my students would break the rules, because that was their nature.
They needed to know each day if I was still going to be consistent and love them by giving them limits. It is like each day they were needed to ask, "Do you still love me enough to give me limits?" Eventually, even the students with special education plans for behavior, started to realize that I would show them love every day by being consistent, and calm and setting limits every day. Even the last day of school!

The purpose of a time out is to stop behavior. It only stops the behavior in the moment. Stopping the behavior, though, is only one part of changing behavior. You also need to teach correct behavior!

Parenting, though, is so much more than discipline. While it might feel like half of your day is dealing with your child's behavior, it doesn't have to be that way! Parenting can be fun, joyful and the most important work you will every do.

It was the last day of school with my 66% "scientist" class. Yes, even on the last day some kids still needed to test the limits. But I was sad to see them go. Even with this tough group, we had fun every day together.
As a mother of three children, one of whom is a serious scientist, I of course have my challenging days. (I would hope you wouldn't listen to the book of someone who claims to know everything all of the time!) But, most of the time, I am able to just have fun with my children. Sure, they break rules. That is simply an opportunity to learn something new. Most of the time, though, they are three sunbeams full of light and joy.

So let's get started!

Step 1: Read about the three rules that will create discipline magic in your home!

When do you plan to do step 1? If you don't plan on reading chapter 2 right now, I encourage you to write down a time. Before I ________________, I will read chapter 2.

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