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

Should you bring your child’s school behavior home?

Having a bad day at school does not mean they have to have a bad day at home.

3:12 PM: Mary’s pouting face at car pickup is all her mom needs to know. Her bookbag is dragging behind her as she walks slowly to the car. NOT normal.

“Did you have a good day, honey?” her mother says, knowing the answer. “NO,” Mary is quick to answer. “Can I see your folder?”

As Mary flops the folder onto the console, her mother can read the teacher’s note and see the color drawn on the calendar.

“Red day, huh? Why did you hit Joshua on the playground today? It says here you had to be reminded to be a good friend several times today? You did have a bad day.”

“Red” days happen, but should your plan at home include behavior from school? 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

The difference between attention and ignoring

When thinking about what to reinforce, what to ignore, and what to punish, it is important to know its not necessarily how awesome the reinforcer is or how well you ignore, or even how powerful your punisher is. The important thing is the difference between them and when you use them.

For example, ignoring an undesirable behavior will not be effective if you ignore all the good ones too. If you reinforce a great behavior, it will not be as powerful if you indiscriminately reinforce all other behavior in the same way.

See more about better reinforcement,side effects of punishment and effective ignoring strategies.

“I’m going to teach you a lesson, young man!”

A parent marches over to a child who has misbehaved in some way. The parent clearly does not like what just happened and it shows. The footsteps increase in pace and in strength as the child winces.

“Im going to teach you a lesson, young man!”

When has it ever been a positive thing when someone says about a kid, “I’m going to teach that kid a lesson!” Maybe the best thing to do is look for opportunities to “teach a kid a lesson” when they have done something good. Think about that. Think about how many more “lessons” can be learned if you dont sit around and wait for the bad moments to happen.

See more about punishment…

Three strikes? Who’s out?

Recently, on the BehaviorBandAid facebook page, I posted an article by renowned parenting expert, John Rosemond.  In this article, a mother asked a question about loud, screaming kids.  Apparently, when the kids play together, they are super loud, banging stuff…well, Im sure you get it. Kids being kids, but a little much for inside the house.

He proposed the “Three strike rule,” which is fairly simple: if the kids get too loud, they get 1 strike.  Loud again, two strikes, and after the third strike the two are separated from each other for an hour (“each in their respective rooms”).  After the hour, they can begin play again.  Three strikes two times in a day?  He says they spend the rest of the day in their rooms and go to bed early.

Here is why I am writing about this article:

  1. I don’t always agree with Rosemond, but there are some things in here I like
  2. If misused, you can be in some trouble
  3. Explain why this works and how this works so you are less likely to make those mistakes. Continue reading

“Doing nothing” is often better than “doing something”

“I pull out my ammunition-my superior size, my position of authority-and yell or intimidate or I threaten or punish.  And I win.  I stand there, victorious, in the middle of the debris of a shattered relationship while my children are outwardly submissive and inwardly rebellious, suppressing feelings that will come out later in uglier ways” (Steven Covey,“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”).


Wow…read that again.  How often do you find yourself in this position?  

When we punish

I have mentioned this before: sometimes when we punish, we feel that it “worked” because it stopped the behavior in its tracks, affected the kid in some way (maybe he got upset, maybe she cried), and maybe resulted in an apology (“I’m sorry I kicked the dog, mommy,” “I’m sorry I slammed the door, daddy”).  Sometimes we feel bad, sometimes we actually apologize to our kids (as we should) when we react too impulsively and more based on our emotional state than the actual behavior that was exhibited.

With this, I have warned that the true sign of punishment “working” is the overall reduction of the behavior in the future AND the absence of any side effects.  The range of side effects of punishers are too many to list here, and, unfortunately, are often not realized until much later after the punishers have been used.   Be careful.


Specifically, for this conversation, I am talking mostly about when parents punish in some context of the child being “disrespectful,” “oppositional,” or “downright rude.”  It might be language, it might be interesting noises, or talking back to you.  Recently, our son realized that if you put a little more ummph into the word “NO,” that it takes on a new meaning.  This is the type of stuff I am talking about here.

I have to do something!

So many parents continue to inappropriately punish kids because the feel “something has to be done” or “I can’t just let him get away with that!” “She canNOT talk to me like that!”

Sad really.  What this communicates to me is,

“I have a feeling this is not the right thing to do, but I had to do something to let him know that was NOT OK.”  

Usually that “something” ranges from a harsh voice, a talk about “you cannot talk to me like that, I am your MOTHER” (usually accompanied by the old finger pointed towards their nose), removal of privileges or a swift one on the rear end.  But, we often know it isn’t the right thing to do.

Many times, doing “nothing” is the best “something”

There are many times when parents look at me like I have 3 eyes when I tell them, “don’t do a thing” when they ask, “what should I do when he does that?” My point is the conflict that follows usually does two things: reinforces the “disrespect” by piling a bunch of attention on it and creates more opportunities for the parent and child to continue to be “disrespectful” to each other.

Oh, yeah…there is a third thing:

Your kid will likely grow more argumentative and your relationship will suck.  I knew there was a third thing.

 Stop it…it takes 2 people to argue.  If you stop, the argument automatically stops.  


If your kid follows you when you are trying to walk away, you know your “doing nothing” is the right “something” to do.  You are taking away the attention and the conflict and your kid is trying to re-establish it.  Tell him you will talk when he has been calm for a while and move on.  Go read a book, watch Dr. Phil, check your Facebook.  You probably need to chill too.

“So, you just want me to take that?”

Nope, I want you to stop feeding the beast.  Doing nothing in these moments is actually doing something…not attending to the ridiculousness.

If this truly is a problem in your home, you will need to set up a way to respond to the behavior without responding to the kid.  I will explain that next time.  Until then, be mindful of the harm your “punishers” might be causing…  

…and catch up on some reading too: 

Putting the power on your side: a lesson in how to respond in advance to these behaviors.

Make up your mind about access to privileges: a lesson about access to privileges