When your kid says “NO!”

Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov via Flickr

Are there times when you think your child’s favorite word is, “NO?”

Whether it is picking up socks, eating a few measly carrots at dinner, or going to bed, your kid is going to tell you “no.” So how should you handle that?

Here are a few things to remember: Continue reading

Lead your children in the right direction instead of away from the wrong

photo by vastateparksstaff via Flickr

When you were a kid, did you ever play the game, “HOT and COLD?” I am not sure what you called it, but you play by hiding a prize and your friend has to look for it based on your direction. As your friend gets closer, you say, “getting HOTTER!” and when walking away from it you say, “getting COLDER.” The final steps right before your friend gets to the prize usually results in, “HOT, HOT, HOT, FLAAAAMMMING HOT!” Or maybe your friend is way off and you say, “ICE COLD, FREEEEEZING COLD.” Fun game. I remember it well. Continue reading

Stop acting so silly!! 4 tips for getting kids to calm down

photo by HurleyFamily via Flickr

Look, kids are going to be silly. They are going to be loud, laugh at nothing, and run around the house screaming with socks on their ears and underwear on their heads. I am pretty sure that is what makes them kids. (And the fact that it annoys us as parents, makes us parents).

The problem with silliness is when it goes too far, gets too loud, or happens in the wrong place and you need it to stop or to slow down a little.

How do you do it? How do you make it stop? Continue reading

“The only way I can get her to do it is to yell and scream…and I don’t like that” – How to switch from negative to positive.

photo by martinak15 via Flickr

Recently, I posted an article on the BehaviorBandAid Facebook Page that was intended to be about discipline techniques for children with ADD/ADHD (read it here). I thought the discipline techniques they listed were true for ALL children, so I posted it. The article included a list of common mistakes:

-Not communicating with the child what he or she did wrong (what you need to tell them is what they can do instead…and be specific)

-Flying off the handle

-Failing to follow through

It also included simple reminders and lessons for what to do: Continue reading

Backseat brawls – How to handle the kids in the car

photo by Will Hale via Flickr

It was pouring down rain and I could hardly see. The windshield wipers barely kept up with the sheets of heavy rain. The only thing I saw was the flashing hazard lights of the car in front of me. People were pulling over.

I plowed through. Wheel gripped tightly, eyes squinted, I plowed through…

because the two kids in the back seat were about to tear each other’s face off. I think they were collaborating with each other to see how much they could annoy me.

There wasn’t a storm in the world that was going to delay me getting home and getting out of the Hell hole that was my vehicle. The kids might be possessed. Continue reading

Good grief! How long is does it take you to do that?!?

Photo by Aniket Thakur via Flickr

Sometimes the most important things can be the hardest to notice…getting dressed and ready in a timely manner is one of them. Here are some things to do about it.

7:25 pm –

Walking out of the room where my child stands naked after taking a bath, I quickly say, “Alright, man…here are your pajamas. Go ahead and get dressed.”

From Thomas the Train undies to the Toy Story PJ set, this is a 2 minute task…OR SHOULD BE.

Ten minutes later I open the door ready to read the bedtime story and all I see is our son in some naked Yoga pose over a set of trains perfectly lined up on a new track (like, “new” in the last 10 minutes “new”). “Why are you not dressed yet?” I ask, not expecting an answer I would approve of.

Why this is important

I tell this story because it reflects two bigger issues I think we all deal with as parents:

1. We often forget to notice and reinforce behavior that doesn’t seem really great, but really makes a difference when it doesn’t happen (i.e., there is a big difference between a morning before school with a kid who gets ready on time vs. one who messes around and requires constant nudging to get ready).

2. When kids are slow in doing something you want them to do, they are simply being kids. The behavioral explanation for this is there are competing reinforcers. This is not hard to understand, but sometimes difficult to get through. I will help you out.

Hard to notice good behavior

Simply stated, there are a lot of behaviors that are just not that noticeable, like getting dressed in a decent period of time, picking up something when dropped, closing a door instead of slamming it, NOT freaking out when told “no.” Sometimes we refer to these as the should behaviors (i.e. “he should be able to do that”) and other times the behaviors are nearly impossible to notice (e.g., a flushed toilet, socks put away, having a bookbag put together).

Do this today…yes, you

Sit down and make a list of these behaviors that happen frequently enough, but when they don’t happen, it really annoys you or it causes a hitch in your day. Put this list somewhere that will help remind you to pay attention to these things. Remind your kids before the behaviors happen (i.e., right before they are getting dressed, when you know they are about to go to the bathroom). When it happens, pay attention to them…praise them…thank your kids for doing these things.

Sounds simple. It is. It is as important as it is simple.

Find more powerful motivation if you need

I have written about competing motivations before, but it is worth mentioning again. If your  kids are consistently dragging and taking forever to do things, you might need to set up some other reinforcers or things to motivate them at the time these things usually occur.

Make sure the requirements/criteria are clearly stated (written on a list for older kids). This can be something as simple as a special breakfast choice if ready for school before a specific time (state the time and use the clock in the kitchen) or as easy as “as soon as you finish getting dressed you can _______.” You could even read the posts on token systems and use something like that for these times.

Try to make the reinforcer/reward as close to the behavior occurring as possible. The quicker the fun thing occurs after the behavior occurs, the better it will be. For older kids, can you get away with something special after school for a job well done in the morning before school? Yes, but it will not be nearly as effective as something that they get in the morning.

Hopefully things will speed up a bit for you…having the night-time 10 minute episode of Thomas the Train turned on when we leave the room at PJ time sure has sped up our little man.

The Parent Who Cried Wolf – why your child does not listen


You know the story…a young shepherd boy routinely tricks the townspeople into thinking his flock is being attacked by wolves. Over and over, he cries “WOLF!” and the townspeople come running. Then, the moral of the story comes around when a real wolf shows up and no one reacts when the shepherd boy calls for help. The flock is destroyed.

Why has this not become a story about parenting? What is the moral of the story for parents?

As parents, we are always on the lookout. We are the protectors of our own little herds.

But, sometimes we talk too much.  WAAAY TOO MUCH.

When we talk too much, our words, our warnings, our “lessons” can become less powerful because they get lost in all the other words. You’ll end up sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher and your words won’t mean much.

Sometimes children do not listen to warnings or follow directions simply because they are given too damn many. A parent who gives too many directions will more than likely have children who are less likely to follow them (including the important ones). 

Think about it…its a simple truth

The more directions you give, the less likely each one will be meaningful. No parent is going to follow through with every request, but at least be aware of it. When you get ready to ask your kid to “come here,” you better be prepared to get up and walk her over when she does not follow the direction. If you really do not want to get up (and ultimately won’t), don’t ask…it must not be that important anyway. 

If you give 20 requests or directions within an hour, and you follow through on one of them, guess what? You just taught your kid that 19 of 20 directions do not matter. You have actually taught your kid more about NOT following directions than you taught her about being compliant with directions.

The same is true about warnings and cautions of danger.

If you over-caution or over-warn your kids, they will be less discriminate of things that are actually dangerous or require caution. They will learn this because you have “cried wolf” too much.

“Don’t touch that” has been said so many times and, most of the time, touching “that” has been reinforced by touching something that looks or feels cool. No danger really. “Actually, this is pretty cool,” they say as you turn the page on the most recent People magazine to see who is pregnant and what celebrity marriage has “surprisingly ended.”

Guess what happens when they are hovering over the poison ivy plant and you say, “dont touch that?” You’re looking at salt baths and caking on layers of nuclear looking pink liquid for the next week. You follow this with your frustration of saying, “I told you not to touch that,” as if the lesson is going to be learned “this time.” No its not. “This time” is the single, seemingly random occurrence when something bad happened when you said “don’t….” All the other 500 times NOTHING happened. Stock up on the lotion…

So what is the moral behind this story?

Be careful about how many requests you give.

Be careful when you make requests. Make them count. Make sure your kids follow through with requests more often than you let them be noncompliant. Don’t give requests that are simply not going to be followed.

Sounds simple…it is. Doing it is the hard part.