Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: Kids Are Worth It

Well this is more of an overview and what I learned than a straight-up review, but that's my version of a book review. I would highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with kids, or their own behavior with kids.

I began reading this book out of desperation: desperate fear that I'd become all my parents' unadmirableness. We all have those fears, right? Anyway, I'd decided I didn't have any business having kids until I feel a bit more stable with my reactions towards them when they are angry/uncooperative/mean. I'm fine all the rest of the time. In fact, I love kids! I love playing dress-ups and barbies and cars and building things and exploring things with them... But I really struggle with the stormy side of kids. I either ignore the issue, freeze up and watch helplessly, or explode. There has got to be better way, right?

Here are some tips from "Kids Are Worth It."
The framework of her book categorizes all people into 4 groups:
-Jellyfish 1&2
Brickwall is the classic controlling parent: you do what I say when I say it or else. Jellyfish parents let anything slide and do the apologizing for the child--fix all their problems. Backbone parents are the ideal. When there is a problem, brickwall parents force and control, whether it be physical force or emotional manipulation. Jellyfish 1 parents come from a brickwall background and have vowed to never control, so they do the opposite. But when a crisis comes up and they must do something, the only 'tools' they know to use are force and controlling. They are unpredictable.
I believe I fall somewhat into the Jellyfish category. I tend to let things go- I thought I was picking my battles-- but then there is always some point where it gets to be too much (the kid doesn't know where that point is for me though) and something must be done.

Discipline and Punishment
She made a distinction between punishment and discipline. Punishment is just mean and doesn't accomplish much. Discipline helps them help themselves. The 4 steps to Discipline are:
1. Show what is wrong
2. Give them ownership of the problem
3. Help them find ways to solve it
4. Leave dignity in tact
Discipline should be Reasonable, Simple, Valuable and Practical.
Example: Mom's been decorating a cake for grandma's b-day party. Daughter wants to show her friend and in the process dumps the cake on the floor. Mom takes a deep breath, maybe leaves the room for a moment, then says "you have a problem. I know you can handle this." Helps daughter pick up the cake and leaves while daughter re-frosts the cake.
Tip: Discipline doesn't have to be painful.

Alternatives to No:
Yes, later.
Give me a minute.
Convince me (that I want to let you do that)

Give children choices. Let them decide if:
It is not life-threatening
it is not morally-threatening
it is not unhealthy
Example: haircuts. Some people may think a mohawk is morally-threatening, but for the rest of us, let the child decide what they want. Give them the signal that they can be themselves and be accepted by you.

Admit to mistakes.
If you do it, the kids will too.
This has been incredibly difficult for me in my life. Perhaps 1. because I rarely if never saw adults do it and 2. when I did admit my mistakes as a kid it was never a productive thing. Always painful and usually got punished. It has been SO hard/embarrassing beyond livability/simply impossible for me to admit mistakes, out loud. But I'm getting better. And the more I do it the more I realize it really isn't that bad, and it's always better afterwards. Ignoring problems is not the way to go. I have a great example in my in-laws and especially my husband. This world where people admit their mistakes, solve the problem and then move on is a foreign one to me, but I'm loving living in it.

"Bad Temper"
"Those of us who grew up with destructive tools may never be able to rid ourselves totally of them, but we can make sure we don't use them on our kids. Reward: our kids will probably not find those tools in their own toolboxes. I don't believe it is an issue of genetics, but one of learning."
I would consider my parenting career a HUGE success if my children come out of it without a temper-reflex.

Dealing with Confrontation
1. Let your body language match your words (it will help you cool off and then be able to discuss the issue. This is a new idea for me. I've always figured suppression-not showing the anger- is the best way. But it is also true that you can say you're angry, with body language to support it, without emotionally damaging others.)
2. Label your feelings. (I'm angry, or I'm hurt, or I'm worried)
3. State your belief(I believe we should each pick up our OWN clothes). 
4. State what they have done, but avoid derogatory/accusatory phrases. (this past week you have left your clothes on the floor in the bathroom every day, NOT 'you always leave your clothes on the floor'. Avoid ALWAYS at all costs. Never say never turns into never say always.
5. State what you want from them. 
6. Be open to their perspective.
7. Negotiate an agreement.

It is OK to:
1. Take a break
2. Refuse to take abuse ("it hurts me when you...)
3. Insist on fair treatment

1. Don't Minilecture-stating what they already know. ('You look cold,' instead of 'If you had put your coat on, you wouldn't be cold.')
2. Don't ask bad questions:
Questions with no right answer. (Why did you draw all over the wall?)
Questions with no options.  (Will you please be quiet?!? Will you please take out the trash?)
Questions that punish. (Can't you do anything right?)
Questions that are wishy-washy.
Don't ask bad questions, instead, replace them with a statement.
3. Don't give empty threats
4. Ultimatums
5. Putdowns, ridicule, sarcasim
6. Be careful! (this makes them not tell you when something went wrong, because they think you'll blame them for not being careful, when really, accidents are not usually a case of being not careful. [Except in my case as an extremely talented clutz, I really can prevent lots of problems just by slowing down and being more careful).
7. 'Think for yourself but listen to me.' (If you are trying to teach them to think for themselves but always tell them what to do... they can only really do one or the other.)

Accept realities and solve Problems.
"A problem well stated is a problem half solved." -Charles F. Kettering
I believe we too often dwell on unproductive things: the fact that there is a problem /wishing it hadn't happened/who's at fault. None of those things will fix the problem. And once there is a problem, there's no going back, only forward. Quit plaguing yourself worrying about blame and move forward to solve the problem. Accept realities and Solve the Problem.

Tantruming Kids:
Rub their back, stroke their hair. Talk calmly and label their feelings: "you're angry. I understand you're angry because you want so-and-so..."
-Acknowledge Feelings and Label them
There is HUGE power in this concept. People very often just want their feelings acknowledged, and that helps them move on.

Tattling vs. Telling
Teach the difference between tattling and telling. Tattling gets them in trouble. Telling gets them out of trouble. They weren't supposed to climb the tree. Telling is when they are falling out and screaming for help- you tell to help get them OUT of trouble, not to get them punished. There is also great power in this once they become teenagers.

Encouragement and Praise
Encouragement and Praise are different. Praise is manipulative. Constructive criticism or praise focuses on the deed, not the child. When a child comes home with something good or bad (think report card), don't get all excited or disappointed, ASK them to tell you about it. Then confirm their feelings or encourage.
'He who has the heart to help has the right to criticize.' -Lincoln
Don't read a mark of character into a deed well done or poorly done.
There is no 'good or bad boy'. The good or bad is the deed. Separate them.
I believe people are innately good.

My current conundrum:
In Primary I work with a couple of kids. One in particular can't sit still, a problem in Singing-time. They lie on the chairs, on my lap, sit on their feet on the chairs, play with my hair, try to start a tickle fight, share stories rather than sing or listen... And we sit in the very front row.
Lately I've taken to removing myself and the child from the situation. Sometimes I try to sit them up (physically position them. but that becomes a game they always win). One time I took the child out for an extensive period, but then the rest of my class was left to be crazy with no teacher. Last time I took the child and sat in the back. Eventually the rest of my class joined me (why were they wandering around? But once they came to the back they wanted to stay there with me.) But they weren't any better in the back of the room, I just felt better because now weren't distracting everyone. A parent came in for their child's scripture reading and sat in the back with us. She is a special-needs mother and teacher. She acted a bit disgusted by my class' behavior. Some tips would have been much more welcome than the disgust.
One week I talked to them about respect. I don't want them playing with my hair in singing time because it makes me look silly in front of everyone. I don't want them standing up in singingtime because then others can't see. I don't want them lying on the chairs in singing time because this isn't sleep time. Here\s the catch though, sometimes I let them lay on my lap because then they hold still for an extended period of time, and stay calm. Sometimes I braid their hair while they are lying on my lap to keep them still for longer. That backfired. "I don't want braids in my hair today, but I can braid yours for you!"

Anyone have some insight for me? Ideas?

1 comment:

  1. :) tehehehe. I love you. Just so you know, whenever I see you with your primary class (especially when their silly, and fidgetting) I am in awe with the intrinsic love you exude for your kids. I just think to myself- wow, she has been called to be those kids' leader. I'm so glad those kids get to be with her. She has such a loving and caring spirit. All I see is that those kids love you, and they trust that you'll love them, even if they just choose to be themselves- totally wacko. :) I appreciate your desire to improve. I feel like you are succeeding beautifully. Be patient in finding your own groove with the kids. I know you're there because you are the beautiful person they need to help lead, guide, and walk beside them. Sometimes- that's all they need... Be yourself, keep pumping the prayers, and you will be able to grow with them.. by the Spirit.