1. Show empathy! As silly as it seems to an adult, the color of a sippy cup can create a crisis for a child. For that child, the crisis is real, so do not dismiss it. Have a tender, meaningful, short phrase that you use consistently to change the mood from aggravation to showing empathy: “That’s too bad,” “Uh oh,” or “I know” can help your child calm down, feel acknowledged, and set the tone for the rest of your discussion. When a melt-down is imminent, don’t engage; simply pull out your empathy phrase!
2. Give your child two choices that YOU can live with. As parents, our job is to set limits in a loving way. Giving a child two choices within those limits hands the problem back to them, enabling them to feel they have control of solving problems themselves. Every choice that the child makes is a “deposit” into their emotional bank account, building their sense of themselves as capable decision-makers and problem-solvers.
“Would you like to have the blue sippy cup for dinner tonight after it comes out of the dishwasher or would you like to save it for tomorrow morning?” Or, “Would you like milk in the green cup, or would you like a juice box?” If the child doesn’t decide within 10 seconds, the parent decides for him/her. (They soon learn to make their decision quickly!)
3. Your word must be GOLD! Once you make a statement to your child, you must mean it and follow-through with it. Personal statements set boundaries “You must hold my hand in the parking lot. Kids who hold my hand and get to the store safely can pick out one treat.” If one child holds your hand and the other doesn’t, guess who gets to pick out a treat? Be sure to use your empathy statement with the sad child who didn’t make a good choice!
“We’ll read a story once all your blocks are picked up,” must result in the toys being cleaned up before story time begins. “Children who get along and don’t fight while we wait at the doctor’s office can have 30 minutes of electronics when we get home,” must mean that TV/Computer time is withheld if there is any hitting, kicking, or arguing.
This is challenging, and requires adults to carefully consider their words. Saying things that end up not coming true teaches children that parents (or perhaps, adults in general) will not hold them accountable. Children will look for wiggle room from there on out and improve their strategies to wear you down! If you can’t follow-through, don’t say it. Do what you say. No matter what. Do not give in. Your word is gold!
We are all human, so if you ever catch yourself saying something you wish you hadn’t, rescind and restate: “I shouldn’t have said that your consequence for fighting with your brother would be one month without electronics. Hitting your brother is not acceptable. The consequence is one day without electronics.” It’s ok to show children that adults make mistakes, too! Make this a learning opportunity by modeling admitting your mistake.
Love and Logic requires patience, thought, trial and error, but more than anything it requires follow-through. Get started with the 1,2,3 plan and check out www.loveandlogic.com for more information.