Tag Archives: non-conflict training

Surviving the holidays

If you’re like me, you may already be traveling to stay with friends and family for the holidays. The season is full of joy and excitement, especially for the kids, but it can also be chaotic since it often requires us to stray from our usual routine. Here are a few tips to get you through what’s left of the holidays.

Explain your expectations
Whether you’re visiting the usual family members or just having dinner at a friend’s house, clearly tell your child what you expect of him. Tell him what he can and cannot touch. Practice the interrupt rule. Tell your child he is to give you a “yes mommy” and eye contact when you call his name. Give him any special instructions so that he is fully prepared for the situations you will encounter.

Sleep and meals
Most of us will find ourselves operating on other people’s schedules over the holidays. Do your best to keep your child on his normal routine. Explain to family members how important it is that your child gets the sleep he needs to grow and be well behaved. The same goes for meals. Try to eat at normal times and limit sugar. If your mother-in-law is known for putting dinner on the table two hours late, bring a can of soup or something else to tide your child over or so you can feed him early and put him to bed.

Giving and receiving
With retailers starting their holiday sales before Halloween, gifts often become the focus of Christmas. Be sure to explain to your child what Christmas means and why you exchange gifts. Explain that giving and receiving gifts is a way to show our family members that we love them. When you put it in these terms, showing appreciation means more than just being polite. It impresses upon your child the importance of being thankful and receiving gifts graciously.

Also, teach your child the mechanics of opening presents. I sat down with my five-year-old today and we practiced opening gifts. I “wrapped” an old toy and gave it to him, pretending I was grandma. I told him to open it then look in my eyes and say thank you and something like “I love it” or “I’ve always wanted something like this”. I also told him he is not to toss it aside and greedily open gift after gift without stopping to show his appreciation to every giver. I also prepared him for receiving a gift that he doesn’t necessarily like. I asked him what he would say and he said “no thank you”. While this is polite, I told him that to show his love for the giver, he still has to say “thank you” and even pretend that he likes it.

A couple years ago, when my nephew was four or five years old, he opened one of our gifts and said, “I didn’t want this.” It was a purely innocent comment, possibly related to a list he had made or what he had told Santa he wanted. But it caught me a little off guard. Of course, I laughed it off, but it also made me realize the importance of teaching my kids how to receive graciously.

Discipline
There will undoubtedly be times when you will need to discipline your child when you’re away from home. This may be at grandma’s house or even in the store for last-minute shopping. Wherever it may be, scope out your location to look for a place to isolate your child when a timeout is needed. If grandparents disapprove of discipline, politely stand your ground and explain to them the importance of teaching your child (through your actions) what is and is not acceptable behavior. If you slack off on discipline, your child’s behaviors may snowball out of control and nobody will be happy.

Allow your child to take a break
We all get overwhelmed with all the people, food and chatter that happens during the holidays. Allow your child to escape it if he wants to. Find a spot in the home you’re visiting where he can sit and read books or even watch a video. If your child is acting up it could be that all he needs is a little peace and quiet.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, be sure to prepare your child for what’s expected and do your best to stick with your usual routine and disciplinary methods. Happy holidays!

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Where’s the discipline?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed discipline or correction ideas. Until now, most of my posts have been about the theoretical fundamentals that make up the Ezzo parenting series.

So why has it taken me so long to discuss discipline and correction methods? Well, aside from the fact that I don’t post as often as I’d like to, true followers of the Ezzo principles must have the basics under their belts before they can correct their children in good conscience.

Train yourself first
If you are new to the Ezzos or are starting with older children, you may have skipped straight to the discipline chapters in the books. I know I did! I felt like I needed to get my son’s behaviors in line and I needed to do it ASAP. I figured all the rest could wait until later.

But it doesn’t work that way. If you believe in the Ezzos’ teachings, you must work on yourself first. You need to change your habits. You need to change your perception of your child’s misbehaviors. You need to formulate a plan.

Prevention is key
You may have clued into the fact that the Ezzo principles are all about prevention. All of the work you put into your parenting and your marriage will prevent misbehavior from your child. Before learning about the Ezzos, our life looked something like this: 80% frustration, 15% discipline (mostly in the form of yelling, threatening and repeating) and 5% prevention. Today, it looks like this: 90% prevention, 9% discipline and 1% frustration. (I think even the most perfect parents get frustrated with their children at some point.)

Fundamentals
To recap my earlier posts, here is how you go about preventing misbehavior:

  • Put your marriage first. Do couch time, go out on dates, and make time for yourselves.
  • Make sure your child knows he is not the center of the universe. See my posts on child-centered parenting.
  • Create and follow a schedule. Do this even if your child is in school six hours a day.
  • Do non-conflict training. Make sure your child knows what is expected of him and don’t confuse him. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t allow yourself to become a threatening, repeating parent. It happens to the best of us, so make a conscious effort to avoid it.
  • Make sure you have your child’s attention when you are talking and especially when you are giving an instruction. Getting eye contact and having him say “yes, mommy” are crucial.
  • And most of all, love, encourage and praise your child.

Follow the tags on the right or do a search to review my posts on these principles.

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Funnel Pitfall #3: You don’t require your child to ask for permission

One of the most important things you can do to keep your child inside the funnel is to require him to ask for permission. If you’re ever unsure as to whether your child should be engaging in a particular activity, have him ask for your permission first.

My contact mom taught me this concept when we first started implementing the Ezzo principles. We were on the phone talking about William’s behaviors and I mentioned that he was putting on his rain boots to go outside. By then, he could open the sliding glass door by himself and before I knew it, he was outside playing on the deck. I asked her if she thought it was okay that he go outside on the deck by himself, and she asked if he had asked for permission first. Of course, he hadn’t, and I couldn’t believe I had skipped such an important step in my parenting.

Here are some signs you need to have your child ask for permission:

  • It’s very quiet in the other room and you discover your child elbow-deep in playdough…on the carpet!
  • Your child goes out back (or front!) by himself.
  • Your child pulls out bubbles and other messy crafts at will.
  • You’re playing outside and he pulls out his bike, scooter, soccer ball and tennis racket. By the time he’s done, the entire neighborhood is scattered with your belongings.
  • Whenever the mood strikes, your child rummages through the pantry or refrigerator for a snack.
  • Your child acts like the house is his playground. He is allowed free access to any room.

Think about the things your child does that nag at you a bit. If that little voice of intuition is speaking to you, it means something. Take note of that feeling and make a list of activities your child will need to ask for permission first. These will often be activities that he is allowed to do (like the playdough) but on a limited basis (not on the carpet!) or only under your supervision.

Sit down with your child at a time of non-conflict and explain to him what asking for permission means. Show him the importance of getting your eye contact when asking for permission and waiting patiently for an answer before he moves forward.

The great thing about having your child ask you for permission is that it gives you time to decide whether you should allow a particular freedom. Rather than letting something go because he didn’t ask or disciplining after he has already started, having him ask for permission will allow you to think through whether it is an activity you want to allow. It prevents any problems or frustrations before they arise.

The other nice thing about this concept is that you don’t have to make everything 100% off limits. There should be certain things that are completely off-limits, but if there is something you think your child will grow into or if there are activities that take more time than others, having your child ask for permission first will give you the opportunity to allow those freedoms at some times and not others. It allows you to maintain control over your child’s activities.

After working on this for almost two years, William does a good job of asking for permission. Our problem now is that he will often tell me he is going upstairs or whatever it is rather than asking me. I will stop him and say, “Are you asking me or telling me?” It’s my little reminder that he needs to ask for permission before he goes.

Even your non-verbal toddler can ask for permission. Teach him the sign for please and have him look at you and point to the activity or toy he wants while signing please. Now that Lucas is walking, I will start reinforcing this idea. I might even teach him to come get me and bring me to the toy if I’m in another room.

Having your child ask for permission is one of those key concepts that prevents disobedience from your child. Use it often!

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Achieving first-time obedience

In my last post, I described what first-time obedience looks like. Now we’ll get into the details of how you can help your child obey the first time. It’s not easy but so worth it!

Lay the groundwork. It’s all about your tone.
Before you start requiring first-time obedience, you need to ensure your own attitude is in the right place. For those of you unsure of your ability to command authority, reach down within yourself and find your courage. Do not fear your child. Do not let him make the choices for the family. If you have read one or two of the Ezzo books, you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage takes priority in the family. Your child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Let that attitude carry you through your daily interactions with your child.

Some of you may have a strong handle on your authority but might take it too far. Don’t expect that he will disobey or he will. Don’t think that having authority over your child means that he’ll comply with unreasonable expectations when he’s tired and hungry. Don’t equate authority with anger and power. We want wise parenting, not power parenting.

If you have found the right attitude, you are likely at a place where you want to set your child up to succeed but will maintain a matter-of-fact tone if he doesn’t. When your child disobeys, you don’t accept it or get angry. You say to him, “Oops, I see you’ve made the wrong choice. Too bad. Here is what your consequence will be.”

Be consistent!

One of the most important things you need to require of yourself is consistency. If you want first-time obedience from your child, you must be 100% consistent. If you slip, he will too. But if you require it, he will meet your expectation. Your child will only rise to the expectation you set for him. Set the bar high but keep in mind you need to do the work to help him get there.

Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your child respond to the call of his name with a “yes, mommy” and eye contact. Before you give any task, especially one that he won’t want to do, you need to get his attention and know that he is listening. Maintaining eye contact while you give the instruction is key. Refer back to these posts for more.

Don’t repeat yourself
One sure-fire way to not get first-time obedience is to repeat yourself. How can he achieve first-time obedience if you’ve already given your instruction 5 times? Give him your instruction clearly and while maintaining eye contact and you have no excuse to repeat yourself. You know he has heard you loud and clear.

So what do you do if your child doesn’t respond after you’ve given your one instruction? Wait. Don’t wait 20 minutes, but do give him a chance to comply. If he still doesn’t respond, don’t say another word. Simply take him by the hand and physically help him complete the task. If you’ve asked him to put his Legos away and he ignores you, take his hand and bring him over to the Legos. Then take his hands in your own and start picking them up together. Be sure to do this with a very calm demeanor or he will strongly resist you.

After you have completed the task together, explain to him that you had to help him this time and that next time, you want him to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. After you have given it a few days of helping him obey you, move on to expecting him to obey you on his own. If he chooses not to, then you move on to your consequence.

Decide ahead of time what your consequences will be
Spend some time with your spouse thinking through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Then decide on a logical or natural consequence for each of those behaviors. Write them down and post them in the kitchen so you can refer to them often. Perhaps picking up his toys is where he struggles the most. You might decide to take those toys away for a day. Let the punishment fit the crime, and make sure your consequences are ones that you can follow through on, even at your own weakest moments.

The key here is that you plan ahead so that when you’re faced with disobedience, you’re not scrambling to come up with a consequence. You want to respond swiftly, especially as you’re just beginning. Refer to my post on intentional parenting for more.

Do non-conflict training
Whether he’s 2 or 12, take the time to explain to him your new standard of obedience. He needs to know that you are changing the rules of the game and that you will be giving consequences the first time he disobeys. Clearly explain to him that you expect him to respond to your instructions the first time you give them. Be specific. Tell him that if he runs away from you at the park, you will go home the first time. Tell him that if he speaks to you with disrespect just one time, he will lose his TV privileges. Remind him often, several times a day every day.

Follow through
This is where you make or break the deal. You can do all of the work I describe above, but if you don’t follow through when your child disobeys the first time, all of your work will be for nothing. Not only will it have been a waste of time, but now your child won’t believe you when you say you will require first-time obedience. If your child disobeys just one time, issue the consequence, no questions asked. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t threaten. Don’t get angry. Keep a calm demeanor and follow through.

Now, don’t kick yourself if you slip once or twice. You are both acquiring a new skill, but do make it a priority. Even set aside a few days when you can stay home and work on it.

Set your child up for success
You want your child to achieve first-time obedience, right? So set him up to succeed. Don’t start your work on first-time obedience by asking your 4-year-old to mow the lawn. Take baby steps. Start by giving him a task you know he’ll do willingly. If he does it the first time, praise him! Expect that he will succeed. Make it so that he wants to give you first-time obedience. Then once he is doing well with simple tasks, move on to more difficult ones.

Be fair
You cannot expect your child to give you first-time obedience if you haven’t done all your work first. You can’t issue a consequence the first time if you haven’t told him what you expect. For all he knows, you’ll repeat yourself 20 times like you usually do. And consider context. Don’t start expecting first-time obedience when your fuse is short and your child is tired and hungry.

Require a happy heart

I started this post by asking you to work on your own attitude, and I’ll end by saying you need to ensure your child has the right attitude as well. A big component of first-time obedience is doing it with an attitude of submission. You might want to spend a week or two working on the mechanics of first-time obedience before you move on to changing his attitude. But once you are ready to do so, explain to him at a time of non-conflict, what you expect of him. Then if he gives you first-time obedience but sulks off after complying or whines about doing the task, start requiring him to respond with a happy heart. One of the best ways to do so is requiring him to do the task over with a better attitude. If he needs a few minutes in isolation to find his happy heart, let him go to his room and then come back to you when he’s ready to comply with a better attitude.

This was a long post full of weighty ideas. Refer back to it often. Good luck!

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Watch your tone

We may often tell our kids to watch their tone, but this is something we need to do as parents as well. It may seem obvious, but barking orders at our kids never works as well as speaking nicely and using a positive voice to get our kids to do what we need them to do.

Use positive words
It is always best to tell your child what you want him to do rather than what you want him not to do. When you tell him what not to do, he may honestly not know what the better alternative is. So rather than telling your child not to run in the mall, tell him he needs to walk next to you while holding your hand or putting one hand on the stroller. Read more about this in my post on non-conflict training.

In addition to using positive words, explain with a few words why you are asking him to do something. Explaining to your child why he needs to wash his hands is far better than simply barking an order at him to do so. Consider the difference between the following:

Bad: Put your shoes on.
Good: William, we’re going for a walk. Now go put your shoes on.

Bad: Get in bed.
Good: William, it’s time for bed. Go hop in so I can read to you.

Bad: Eat your broccoli.
Good: It may not smell or look great, but broccoli is really good for your body. It will make you healthy and strong. At the very least, you must have one “no thank you bite”.

My one caution with this is that you don’t want to be explaining so much to your child that he thinks he has the power to negotiate with you. It’s fine to tell him you are going for a walk and that he needs to put his shoes on. It’s not okay for him to say he doesn’t want to go for a walk so he doesn’t need to put his shoes on, and thus defying your command.

Use praise and encouragement
While you should always praise your child for a job well done, you should also use praise and encouragement when telling him to do something. For example:

Bad: Put your cup on the counter.
Good: You are always so good at remembering to put your dishes on the counter. Don’t forget your cup.

Bad: Go get a diaper for your brother.
Good: You are such a good helper for mommy. Please run upstairs and grab a diaper for your brother.

Bad: What does this letter say?
Good: You do such a great job sounding out your letters. Let’s see what sound this letter says.

Always make sure your praise is valid. If he consistently fights with you to brush his teeth, you don’t want to tell him that he is good at it. And don’t praise him 3,000 times a day. You want your praise to be valid and given in small doses so it doesn’t become inflated and meaningless.

Be specific
Find a way to be specific in your instructions to your child. If you want him to clean up his toys, tell him to put the cars in the car bin. Once he’s done that, have him put his books on the shelf. Telling him to clean up is too vague and too big of a job for him to compartmentalize on his own. Break it down for him and he will comply much more willingly.

Also figure out whether he truly understands what you’re saying. Getting William to pre-school can be a stressful time for us. It’s not uncommon for us to be running a little behind. I’ll tell him to hurry and that we’re running late. Recently, it occurred to me that he didn’t equate running late with moving faster. So I told him, “William, we’re running late. That means move faster!” And he did. That’s all it took. I stopped stressing. And we got to school on time.

Use your imagination
Starting around age 3, your child’s imagination will begin to flourish. Rather than lining his cars up in a row, he will drive them through a makeshift tunnel (made of a paper towel tube). Rather than squeezing his toy duck in the bath, he will have it “swim” in the water. As your child enters this phase, you will want to follow his lead and let your own imagination grow, too. This is important so that you can play with him, but also so you can use it to your advantage. Use his imagination (and yours) to get him to do what you want him to do.

The one caveat to this is that you still want your child to obey your word simply because you are his parent and you are his authority figure. To use your imagination to get him to do what you want might seem like coaxing or cajoling him when you simply want him to obey. This is certainly important, but you should always consider alternatives. If you find yourself barking orders at him constantly, try finding a fun and creative way to explain to him what you want him to do. You’ll find that he is much more likely to obey and everyone will be happier for it.

Have fun
While we should always fulfill our role as our child’s teacher, we should also consider the importance of having fun with our kids. Whether that means sitting down with your child to play Candyland or racing to the top of the stairs, always allow for a dose of fun in your daily interactions with your child. Starting around age 3-4, your child is beginning to form memories he will hold for the rest of his life. Make those memories positive ones.

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The ebb and flow of parenting

As you get accustomed to implementing the Ezzo principles in your daily life with your child, you will notice your child’s behaviors improve. This is wonderful and what we all want to see. But one negative effect of this is that you will start to slack off on your consistency. This is the natural ebb and flow of parenting.

Here’s how it typically plays out:

  • You are consistent in requiring a “yes mommy” and getting eye contact from your child.
  • He meets your level of expectation by doing as you ask. It doesn’t happen immediately, but he gets there eventually.
  • You are pleased with your progress and notice how compliant he has become.
  • Fully unaware that you are doing so, you begin to slack off on requiring a “yes mommy” and eye contact. It takes work to remember to do these things and if you are not reminded every day of your child’s misbehaviors (which are not as apparent as they used to be), it is easy to forget.
  • Because you have slacked off, he does too. You may have been at 90% first-time obedience, but it quickly slips to 50% without you even noticing.
  • At some point, you start getting frustrated with him and find yourself getting more and more angry in your daily interactions. Then it finally dawns on you that you haven’t been very consistent. No wonder he hasn’t been listening. You haven’t been asking for a “yes mommy”, requiring eye contact, training him in times of non-conflict, etc. You apologize to him for your previous anger and explain to him what happened and that you are going to bump up your consistency.
  • Again, he meets your level of expectation.
  • And the cycle repeats itself.

So if you begin to notice that your child’s behaviors have gotten worse, look to yourself first. Our children will rise to whatever level of expectation we set for them. (See “Say what you mean. Mean what you say.”) Have you started slacking off? Do you have something going on in your life that is requiring all of your attention (a new baby, a family crisis, etc.)? Have you and your spouse slacked off on couch time? Look closely at yourself and your behaviors, and you will easily find the answer to your child’s problems.

Then get back into the groove of requiring a higher standard from your child. Pick up your copy of Childwise and start rereading a chapter or two. Start rereading some of my previous posts. Start listening to the Mom’s Notes if you have them. All of these resources will help remind you how to apply the principles and will inspire you to get back to work with it.

Above all, don’t beat yourself up over this. This ebb and flow in our parenting is a natural fact of life. If you are human, it will happen. Just get used to it and be mindful of it so your child’s behaviors don’t get so out of control that they are doubly hard to correct. In fact, you will likely notice that your child’s behaviors might slip a bit, but he will never go back to where you were before you started implementing these principles. Your child will have become used to them so it won’t take him long to rise to your new higher standard. And the more you apply them the more natural they become, so it will be easy to jump right back in after you have slacked off for a little while.

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Dialogue questioning

Dialogue questioning is another technique you can use to train your child in times of non-conflict.

“Parents can also accomplish pre-activity encouragement through dialogue questions. With verbal reminders, you tell the child what is required. With the dialogue method, the child tells you what is expected…. Your children are more apt to take ownership of their behavior when they hear themselves verbalize the rules of conduct and receive praise for the right answers,” (p. 139, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition).

Before you practice dialogue questioning, it is important that your child first understand the basic rules of any situation you may encounter. You cannot question him about it until you have first taught him. The dialogue questioning serves as a reminder before you face a particular situation.

I use dialogue questioning before we head out in public and into situations that could potentially cause trouble. I be sure to get a “yes, mommy” before I start talking. Here’s how it works:

Situation #1: We pull into a parking spot at the grocery store. Rather than getting out of the car, I stop and turn around to look at William. He is strapped in and I have his full attention.

Me: William?
William: Yes, mommy?
Me: We are going to get some food for dinner tonight. Where does your hand belong when we’re in the store?
William: On the cart.
Me: Good. Now is it okay for you to pull the cart while I try to push it?
William: No.
Me: What happens if you take your hand off the cart or pull it around?
William: You put me in the cart?
Me: Right. Is that what you want?
William: No.
Me: Good. Now show me how you can be on your best behavior in the store.

Situation #2: We are going to a restaurant for dinner. Again, I stop in the car and talk to him before we enter the restaurant.

Me: William?
William: Yes, mommy?
Me: We are eating dinner at a restaurant tonight. How do we behave at restaurants?
William: Good.
Me: What does that mean? Do we use our inside voice or outside voice?
William: Inside voice.
Me: How do you sit?
William: On my booty. No bouncing.
Me: Do you get out of your chair while we’re at the restaurant? (This is usually not even an issue, but I will ask him anyway.)
William: No.
Me: Why do we act nicely at a restaurant?
William: To be nice to people.
Me: Right, we want to consider other people. We don’t want to ruin their dinner by distracting them with loud noises or bouncing in our seats.

Situation #3: The park we go to frequently has a play structure surrounded by wood chips. Outside that area is a large forest and a wide grassy area. William is often tempted to follow other kids into the forest. As we pull up to the park, usually on foot, I will stop and ask a few questions.

Me: William?
William: Yes, mommy?
Me: Where do you need to stay when we’re at the park?
William: In the wood chips.
Me: Right. Is it okay to go in the forest?
William: No.
Me: What happens when you go into the forest?
William: We go home.
Me: Right. Why do you need to stay in the wood chips?
William: Because I could get dirty and get lost.
Me: Right. I have to stay here with Lucas, and I can’t see you when you’re in the forest. I don’t want to lose you.

So as you can see, he clearly knows the rules. He knows what I expect of him in every situation. If he ever forgets the answer, I will just answer for him. I also make sure I have his complete attention, with eye contact, throughout the conversation. Sometimes he’ll surprise me by giving an answer I hadn’t thought of before. Or he’ll give a totally off-the-wall answer that cracks me up. It can be entertaining for sure.

You can practice dialogue questioning with your non-verbal toddler as well. If he can nod or shake his head to say yes or no, ask him questions that have a yes or no answer. If he’s not quite there yet, you can still do this and just answer your questions yourself. You might feel a little silly doing so, but your child will pay more attention than if you simply give a lecture about the behaviors you expect from him.

With older children (maybe over 5) be careful when using this technique. Your child will reach an age where he is too old for this technique. To an older child, you will come across as condescending.

So add dialogue questioning to your list of techniques to use when teaching your child at a time of non-conflict. It’s a very useful tool and will prevent many sources of frustration for the whole family.

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