Teaching rudeness!

Photo by The U.S. Army via Flickr

Photo by The U.S. Army via Flickr

How many times do we look at our children, sometimes in disgust or with red faces and say, “that was RUDE!” Or, better yet, we ask our kids, “why would you do something so rude?” We already know the answer to this question…and they do not.

A comedian I once heard recounted a story of being at a local pool with his 4 year old son. As the story was told, an overweight lady wearing a Guess jeans T-shirt with the word “GUESS?” written in bold across the front walked by. The child walked up to her, turned his head to the side and said, “200? 250?”


Things such as “rudeness,” “politeness,” and other social rules and boundaries are learned over time, experience after experience. Our role as parents is to show our kids where these lines are, but more importantly, to give them experiences that will result in positive outcomes so they will be more likely to engage in that socially acceptable behavior again. Continue reading

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

Make sure your child’s new “phase” doesn’t stick around

photo by Heather Ruiz via Flickr

As I talk to parents of children of all ages, it seems we are all concerned with some new “problem” or “frustration” in parenting. Whether it is getting a newborn to sleep in his bed, getting a 5 year old to clean up her room, or getting an elementary child to be organized and complete homework without having to threaten loss of life or limb.

I think it is fair to say parents should expect changes all the time and be responsive to those changes. Continue reading

Hold my hand


Make sure you hold your kid’s hands when you are doing fun things and going to fun places instead of only grabbing their hands when you are doing not-so-fun things and taking them to places they dont want to be (e.g., time out, dentist, away from their play partners, etc.).

I have seen teachers and parents reach out their hands and the kids start walking (or running away from them). Yes, sometimes this is the kid trying to engage in an ill-timed game of chase, but it showed me the kids knew what was about to happen…only by seeing that outstretched hand.

In the case of a recent trip to a preschool playground, the teacher reached her hand out and it meant, “you have to come off the playground and go potty.” Those kids weren’t going down that easy. But it is not always when the kids had to leave the playground…it was at other times when leaving might have been something they wanted to do, they just did not know, so I think they were banking on their experiences of, more often than not, being taken somewhere they did not want to go (otherwise, they would have simply walked themselves).

If you need to take your child by the hand when they are unlikely to come to you…go to them. Don’t hold your hand out from 20 feet away when you are telling your kids its time to leave the pool. Its not likely to happen and you might run the risk of your outstretched hand becoming a warning sign saying, “RUN!”

Have fun when holding hands…they won’t treat you as if you have cooties on your hand at other times when it is more important for them to be with you.

Watch this…you dont want to teach them that when you reach for their hand it means something bad is about to happen.

Football season over…when to “punt” as a parent


There are times in every parent’s life (maybe more often than we expect) when we have to “punt,” which is to do something to make our kids comfortable when things don’t line up in their favor.  I’m here to give you permission to punt…lets talk about it.

Alright…lets face it: we can’t control everything that affects our kids’ behavior.  There is no way around that family reunion, the power is going to go off every now and then, your father-in-law is going to require everyone to sit together, including the 2 year old, to hear family stories “because they will appreciate it later.”  No-win situations for the kids (or for you if you don’t watch out).

These are opportunities for your child not to learn how to manage difficult situations. What I mean by that is, sometimes all I want a kid to do is NOT learn how to escape terrible situations by screaming and crying, NOT to freak out and hit cousin Millie because she has never been allowed to lose a game (and now she has), NOT to scream “I DONT CARE ABOUT MY GREAT GREAT AUNT, HALF REMOVED! (“what is ‘half removed anyway, Mommy?’”).  These are infrequent, but potentially powerful moments in parenting.  

Punting is OK.

Because these events are infrequent (and even if they are not), I am giving you permission to bring the DS, to bring the My Little Ponies, to allow Harry Potter to come along for the ride.  This is “the punt.”  Your goal is to get through the day, hour, half-our and sometimes the best treatment is preventative.

Now, don’t confuse me.  If you can control, either through practice or through management of the environment (making sure your kid doesn’t play Chutes and Ladders with Millie, leaving the party before Uncle Dave starts using “potty words” or speeding through the grocery to get the last minute items) absolutely do it.  You cannot win a game by punting all the time.  You can win if you punt at the time when the alternative ensures the loss. 

I have talked over and over about preparation and practice, and how important it is to expose your kids to difficult scenarios little by little to ensure success.  However, sometimes there is not a possible way to re-create or to practice a certain circumstance. You do not have ample control over the environment (the things, people and places you might run across), so you are at a loss before you start.  

So what is “the punt?”

“The punt” is what you would do to give into your kid when she starts protesting, but doing so BEFORE it happens (not after…that would be silly and would defeat the purpose).  Do not wait, just go ahead and let him bring the trains along to entertain himself, take advantage of a portable DVD player, YouTube on your iPhone for crying out loud (seriously, crying out really loud).  


You know it is going to happen, heck you even want to rev up the engines and get out of there.  You ask for another glass of wine to get through it…the least you can do for your kid is to give her a little extra Elmo time to get her through.  You cannot force it…you will regret it.

Your family won’t remember your kid was in the other room watching TV, they will remember the massive tantrum during the 3rd course of dinner.  But that is not what this is about.  This is about NOT putting your kid in a situation where behavioral failure is inevitable.  You have been there before, you will be there again.

I give you permission to punt.  It might be the best defensive move your offense has made.

“Sit DOWN!” Batting practice for your kid


Imagine a child who just “can’t sit down,” is “always running around” and rarely sits when asked.  The usual routine is to point the powerful parent finger at the seat (or at the kid) and say more firmly, “SIT DOWN” as if he  did not hear you the first time because you were not loud enough. 

Sometimes, when things go really wrong, one of two things happen: 1) we give up and say something ridiculous like, “OK, then you can’t watch your Buzz Lightyear goes to the North Pole episode” or something even more ridiculous like, “TIME OUT!!” or 2) we get so emphatic with our words that the kid sadly slumps into the seat and pouts.  Neither is good.

This is a lesson not simply in teaching kids to sit down, but to do other things they are not likely to do. 

Many times we try to teach these behaviors when they naturally occur: sitting at church, staying in bed at nighttime, using a “quiet voice” at the library, saying nice words when at Grandma’s doorstep.  You get the point?  Think about it…do we teach baseball players to hit only when the bases are loaded and there are two outs?  This is obviously not the optimal time to teach hitting. 

So what does “batting practice” look like for your kid?

Back to sitting still.  There have been multiple times when we have introduced the “sitting game” to families and teachers.  The game is simple: sit for some period of time and you get praised and you get to get up.   Pull a chair over in front of you and introduce the “game” to  the kid.

O.K. Let’s start…Sit down!”

Count quietly for several seconds (maybe have a timer that beeps, but don’t show them the timer), and when the time is up say, “Times up! You did it! Go play!”  Let her play for a minute (I would actually do less than 30 seconds or so).  Play with her…make this really fun.Extend the time, make up new “rules.”  Remember: it is a game!

Repeat.  Change it up…do some increments shorter and some longer.  Make sure success happens.  Don’t interact with them during the sitting time…the game is to sit!

The objective here is to teach a behavior at a time when the focus can be on rewarding the behavior, making it fun and creating some momentum.  Next time when real sitting happens, the kid will have had a lot of practice behind them with a lot of positive experiences.

This can be used for so many other behaviors.  Maybe its not sitting in your house.  Maybe it is “quiet voices,” “telling the truth,” or “walking with mommy.”  Practice “STOP/GO” (kinda like red light/green light, but using the word “stop” is important) next time you are waiting outside a restaurant.  Make a point to practice when there is no pressure,

when the chances of succeeding are more than the chances to fail,

when failing doesn’t mean you have to carry them out during the sermon or run out into the parking lot because they did not listen to you saying “STOP!”