Friday, March 5, 2010

Parent Ed. Talk Part One

When my oldest was around nine years old, I had just began working for the Montessori school. My two boys were having a conflict over something and I stepped in and spoke to the oldest. I used my best teacher voice, and Montessori language. I thought I had handled the conflict beautifully and for a brief moment I even had a fantasy that because I had spoken to him so eloquently that he would never pick on his little brother again.

Then he commented to me that he “didn’t like when I talked like that.” “Like what?” I asked. “You know,” he said, “like my teacher.”

Honestly, true story. And when you start using some of this language yourselves your children will say this to you too. Now, my son’s teacher at the time just happened to be my Montessori mentor, someone I respect greatly, and I walked away from that comment of his…joyfully thinking to myself,

“I sound like his teacher, I sound like his teacher! I am a teacher!”
So confession time. I was far from what I would call a ‘Montessori teacher’, I was just getting started, that was almost ten years ago. I have worked with children age zero to age seven for over 16 years now. I have three kids of my own, ages 17, 11 and 3. And every day I am learning. I learn from my own three and of course I learn so very much from the children in my class.
But being a teacher and being a parent are too very different things. So although I have NEVER said this in the classroom, I’m going to admit something to you that I HAVE said this(as a parent) and probably will say many more times….because it’s a pretty darn good answer to allot of questions.

“because I’m your Mother THAT’s why!” on occasion.

I know you think less of me now. But it had to be shared. Okay, now that, that’s off my chest I will move on.

There are some days (especially in February) that seem as if all we do as parents is say one word
''No, James can't spend the night. Your brother has the flu.''
''No, you cannot go bike riding right now. It's getting dark.''
''No, we can't walk to the muck, it's supposed to start snowing soon.''

Bad weather, illnesses and long nights seem to conspire to make the shortest month of the year the longest.
Add to this wintry mix, young children~
who, when hearing the word ''no,'' see it as a call to arms, as a personal attack on their independence, and turn all their pent-up energy and frustrations toward their parents.

These children have tantrums, screams, call names, stomp off, slam doors and pout. I hope none of these darling children live at your house but they do live at mine.
How can we stand firm when we must answer negatively to a request? While at the same time side-step confrontation, maintain harmony in the household and allow our children to preserve their independence and dignity?
Did I include, ''retain our sanity?''

Okay, help is on the way! Here are some helpful hints from the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. First published in 1980. The author’s suggest the following:

Give information.

When met with a situation, we can give information that will help the child figure out that right now is not a good time.
For, ''Mom, can I invite Jimmy over to play?'' instead of saying, ''No, you can't,'' give decision-making facts.
''Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.''
You don't have to say no, and your child should have enough information to see that the answer is in fact ''no.''
Accept feelings.
Sometimes we can lessen our children's disappointment or frustration if they sense we understand their feelings.
''But Dad, I don't want to go to bed right now.''
Instead of ''no,'' we might say, ''I can understand if it were up to you, you would stay up all night, so you wouldn't miss a thing.''
Describe the problem.
''Mom, can I have more ice cream?”
''I'd like to say yes, but it says right here on the ice cream container: one serving = one bowl''
Give yourself time to think.
Your child says, ''Dad, can I have a horse at my birthday party?''
You can respond, ''Let me think about it, please.''
[A follow up conversation might include allowing your child to tell you why they think having a horse at the party would be fun and you sharing what needs a horse has…etc.]
When possible, substitute a ''yes'' for a ''no.''
Your child asks, ''Can we go to the mall''
Instead of saying, ''No, I've got to finish the laundry,'' you could say, ''Yes, just as soon as the laundry is folded and put away.''

These suggestions may seem like a lot of work and the hard way to say ''no.'' But considering some of the drama we may encounter, sometimes the high road is the shortcut to where we want to go.

If none of these work for you, there is always,
''Because I said so.''
I say this only half jokingly, sometimes young children want to know exactly WHO is in charge. Their emotions can be overwhelming and knowing that you, their parent, is making the decisions can be comforting.

To review: Some Alternatives to Saying ''No''from the book: "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk"

Give information.
Accept feelings.
Describe the problem.
Give yourself time to think.
When possible, substitute
a ''yes'' for a ''no.''
and my personal addition:
''Because I said so.''

Another list, this one from Chick Moorman's book Spirit Whispers (modified by me)

The 5 things you should avoid saying to your children:

1.) What did I just tell you?
2.) That is the third time today you…
3.) Stop whining!
4.) Don’t run/yell/throw/cheat/lie
5.) Tell her you’re sorry.

The 5 things you could say instead:

1.) Next time…
2.) How does that make you feel?
3.) Can you tell me more?
4.) Sounds like you have a problem
5.) Choose/decide/pick

And WHY NOT say these things Chick?:

1.) What did I just tell you?
this tells you nothing, except that your child may or may not have a good memory? And it sounds like a test. What’s your follow up question? “Okay, you DID hear me, why didn’t you do what I said?” it’s kind of pointless.
2.) That is the third time today you…
in case he/she didn’t know, we ARE keeping score. Just wait, I guarantee that this phrase will back fire on you in plus three years. Your child is 3 now +3= 6years old, they will say something along the same lines to YOU. “That is the third time you said you would take me to the baseball card store…” once they can tell time, they will tell you how many times.
3.) Stop whining!
Whining is effective with some caregivers, maybe not you but your parents? An aunty or baby sitter? If your children are over four years old and still whine, someone in their life responds to this in their favor, some of the time. Kids are very smart. It worked once with one person, I’ll try it again.
I have found it is much more effective to say,
“When you whine (imitate sound) that sound bothers me and I am not going to answer you until you stop whining. Define it and clearly say, “I will not respond to you.”
4.) Don’t run/yell/throw/cheat/lie
ah…okay? I remember reading a book called, “1,2,3 Discipline” Has anyone read this? Anyway, I remember the scenario they gave in that book that always stuck with me because it was so funny. Picture it: You’re in line at the supermarket, a snow storm is coming and your cart is full (with frozen items) your child whines for candy. Despite your instructions to “stop it” your child continues and begins throwing the desired candy at you! You yell, “Don’t you throw things at me!”
This is where we have to get honest with ourselves is your desired response:
that your child will stop throwing candy and pull it together and once again become a reasonable member of society?
How many people think this will happen? Ah, your wrong. When we say, “Don’t do that…” it’s like pouring lighter fluid on a fire. Instead try,
“when you stop ________, I will _________”
this is between your child and you, not the other people in line, not the checkout girl, not even Santa…you can’t threaten or lie to get them to stop behaving in an inappropriate manner. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Follow the “when you/I will” sentence with,” this is what IS happening…………” and give them one chance to be part of it.
“we are leaving the store now, are you going to walk out (help me push the cart/carry a bag) or am I going to have to carry you?” And just FYI, most grocery stores will hold your cart full of groceries in the refrigerator section while you remove your child from the store, calm them down and then return. Believe me.

Also during the presentation my Director was present for, she added that we Montessori teachers have had great success by turning negative statements like "Don't Run!" into positive ones like: "Please walk." And this works VERY well.

5.) “Tell her you’re sorry.”
I need to say this, your children may not BE sorry. You’re sorry it happened, you’re sorry your child hit someone because it is embarrassing for you. THEY are not invested in public appearance like you. They have just experienced a strong emotion and the “pot boiled over”. Do they need to know what they did was not okay? YES! Do you need to address it? YES! I’m sorry, but you do, my suggestion:
Tell your child what just happened, “you just hit Mary on the head, she is crying because you hurt her body.”
Point out the ownership (put credit where credit is due), next allow time for your young child to process this information. Give them an opportunity to apologize genuinely and then if they are unable to, you should for them. This lets them hear the words they should have said and you become the role model for future situations you may not be present for.

okay, I've got a little boy who is in need of some Mama time. I will post again tomorrow the 2nd half of this workshop. Thanks for reading all of this!
Hope it is helpful.
In loving PEACE,


Mamá Gallina said...

It was wonderful to find your blog. I am a Mexican mother, I have a beautiful son and I am fully convinced of the Montessori system, in fact my 3 year old son attends a Montessori school here in Mexico. Just sit well me your story about providing options for children when they are upset, it is very important to have available, many paciencioa and always be open to dialogue with our children that end are human beings like us. Thereafter will come to you more often and sometimes, if I may, I'll reference. This now include your link on my blog. Best regards!

Anonymous said...

What a profound entry of yours. Now close to 04.15 in the morning over here, it kept me awake and interested to read. Even though working in a few hours from morning 'till late evening, I shall try to make as much usage of it as possible. Thank you for sharing. Please have a wonderful start into the weekend.

Gypsy said...

Thank you for such a detailed post. I love that book and this approach, it is such a paradigm shift for people but when you see it in action is it a beautiful thing!

Debs said...

I have read the books you have been talking about and found them very useful. More recently I have read 'Have a new kid by Friday' by Kevin Leman. I really enjoyed this as it is so well written and humourous and has an A-Z of common situations and how to deal with them in it. I have now realised that I have been allowing my eldest child to negotiate her own way with me all this time - and I thought I was in charge! Now I am following his parenting strategies and she is learning to take more responsibility for her behaviour. (She is 8 yrs old.)

Elise said...

I wanted to let you know that I have just linked my recent blog post to your blog and your felt flowers. We recently made them after seeing them on the blog: Joyful Learner, where the author linked back to you for the original idea. I think your felt flowers are fabulous and my three year old daughter really enjoyed making them. Thank you for sharing.

I agree with using the alternatives suggested instead of saying no. It's amazing how an approach where children can own their behaviour and have a choice in the decision making (if appropriate)can
lead to a more harmonoius outcome than simply brushing off their requests by saying "no".

Kelly said...

Wonderful reminders; thank you. I tweeted a link to this post - it deserves more reads. :)
I have to take How to Listen/Talk back off my shelf & read it again.
kelly (@kblogger)
my blog

beermanfamily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beermanfamily said...

Lovely, Jennifer. I'm so proud of you.


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