My son struggles with ADHD. I'm having difficulty with his school because it seems that everything he does results in the most severe punishment. As a result, I don't give him a lot of negative consequences at home because I feel like the school has already over-punished him. Am I wrong?
Parents and schools alike should focus on teaching to, rather than punishing, undesirable behaviors. The most effective and beneficial way to lovingly help your child grow is to teach him the alternative positive behaviors you want to see as a way to correct the undesirable behaviors he uses. We can tell kids, "Don't ever do that again," but if we don't teach them what to do instead, they have to keep guessing and trying different things until they figure out what we want them to do. Therefore, it’s important to be clear and specific with your expectations.
Find out what kind of correction your child is receiving at school by calling or visiting his teachers. Support your school’s behavioral expectations by reinforcing those same expectations at home. When your child misbehaves at school, say something like, "Because of what happened at school today, you won’t be able to play video games tonight. Instead, we are going to practice what you should do at school tomorrow and every day so this doesn't happen again." Then, teach the right behavior to address the problem behavior and have him practice a number of times.
For example, if your son did not follow his teacher’s instructions, you would teach him the skill of “Following Instructions.” You can do this by having him follow these simple steps:
- When you (your son) hears the teacher's voice, stop what you are doing and look at her.
- When she is finished talking or giving the instruction, say, "Okay."
- Then do what she asks right away!
- When you’re done, check back and let your teacher know you’ve completed the task or behavior.
To practice, you can pretend to be your son’s teacher and give instructions you know she is likely to give him or the whole class. Have him practice with you until he can use a skill smoothly. Then, throughout the evening and again in the morning before school, give him instructions and have him use all the steps you taught and practiced. Praise him for his practice and improvements and remind him to use the skill throughout the day at school. You could even write a sticky note and put it in his lunch or on a notebook to remind him about using the skill and its steps.
Work on one skill at a time until you are comfortable that he has mastered it. You’ll know he’s using a skill correctly when you are no longer getting reports from his school about misbehaviors the skill was meant to replace or resolve. Review the skill daily along with any new ones you are going to teach and practice in order to replace misbehaviors.
Our 4-year-old son is a minefield of destructive and inappropriate behavior. He throws things, picks paint off the walls and pounds toys and other things on the ground. When he gets mad at us, he pees on the floor, yells at us, eats the cat food and steals treats when he thinks we aren't looking. Due to a physical disability, I have a hard time getting up and down and moving around quick enough to keep up with him during these situations, and he knows it. How can we get him more under control?
At 4, many children become more of a handful, even if their behaviors up to that time have been, for the most part, manageable. They test everything to see what they can get away with, where the boundaries are and how far they can push them. Here are a few suggestions that may help get your son headed in the right behavioral direction:
- Give him structure. Sometimes, increased structure, such as what’s provided in a preschool setting, can help a child get his behavior under control. If you’re not sure where to start when looking for a preschool, contact the school he will be attending for kindergarten and ask if someone can recommend a preschool that can provide the structure he needs in order to prepare for kindergarten. Then work with your son on skills and behaviors he will need when he gets to preschool. The first and most important one is controlling his bodily functions.
- Take him to the doctor. Some of your son’s behaviors, such as peeing on the floor and eating cat food, fall outside normal misbehaviors. You may want to schedule an appointment with his pediatrician to make sure there are no medical causes for these behaviors. Let the doctor know what you are observing and ask for suggestions. On a practical level, after you feed the cat, put its food away so your son can’t reach it.
- Put dangerous items up high. Move breakable, heavy and glass items out of his reach so that he can’t hurt himself or damage them when he is angry.
- Reserve treats for rewards. Use treats to reward his good behavior. Or, consider not having them in the house at all. If you do that, you can give him a coupon for good behavior that he can use to “buy” a treat when you go to the store.
Be consistent and firm, yet loving with your son. With a little structure and a lot of patience, you can help him turn his behavior around and learn how to express his emotions in a more positive, peaceful and healthy way.
My 4-year-old gets very upset when I correct her. She asks, "Are you mad?" I answer with "Yes." Then she says, "Do you still love me?" I reassure her I love her and will always love her, but she has trouble separating love and discipline.
It’s easy to give up on enforcing your expectations and boundaries when a toddler questions your love. But you can correct and encourage positive behavior and maintain a healthy loving relationship with your child. Here are some simple guidelines:
- Frequently tell your daughter you love her throughout the day.
- Instead of telling her you are "mad" when she misbehaves, specifically describe the problem behavior and specifically describe the positive behavior that you want her to use. This is a teaching response rather than a personal response to her behavior. By simply describing behaviors (positive and negative), you avoid making the situation one that is personal. When you tell your daughter you are angry, it makes the situation personal and this is why she may question whether you love her.
- Let your daughter know that you love her, but that you do not like her behavior.
- When she displays acceptable behavior, lavish her with praise.
By consistently practicing these strategies, you can help your child understand that discipline, and not the absence of it, is a solid sign of your love for her
Is discipline the same thing as pressuring? As a father, I have high expectations for my son but it’s only because I love him and want him to complete his tasks and responsibilities in a timely manner. He has told his mom that he feels pressured by me. Should I lighten up?
A household usually runs more smoothly when there is mutual respect among family members and behavioral expectations are laid out so everyone knows what is expected of them. The hard part is finding a good balance between using appropriate discipline (teaching) and letting your child occasionally fail so he can learn from life’s experiences. If your friends and other family members (and your son), are telling you that you are putting too much pressure on your son, it could be a good sign that you are. If that’s the case, take some time to examine your motives and consider what you may be able to do differently.
Children need consistency and order. Most kids feel safe when they know what is expected of them. Maybe you’ve set a few responsibilities or rules that need to be altered a bit so your son is not feeling overwhelmed. Consider having a family meeting to go over any new changes; your son might have good suggestions. Sometimes, involving your child in planning and problem solving can ensure that he is on board and will strive to meet goals because he helped set them. It sounds like you simply want the best for your son. But the future you have in mind for your son and the future he has in mind for himself may not be the same.
Be flexible and open and you should see your child blossom under your care rather than cower beneath it.
All my 7-year-old son wants to do is play his Wii or play on our Smartphones. When his allotted playing time is over and I try to make him do something else, he melts down. How can I limit his time with electronic games and gadgets and help him understand why I’m doing it?
As a parent, you should establish consistent, specific rules and time limits that govern how your children interact with technology, especially video games, Smartphones, computers and TVs. Technology is good but can be harmful to children if they are allowed to overuse it. Setting limits on the time and places your children can use technology for pure entertainment or pleasure is one of the most loving things you can do as a parent. Since your son is throwing temper tantrums whenever you take the Wii away from him, you should continue to consistently enforce the limits you set and explain to him why they are necessary. Over time, you should see his tantrums become less frequent and less intense. Here are a few limits we recommend:
- Cell phone games can be played only when a parent does not need the Smartphone
- One hour of TV per weekday and two hours of TV per weekend day
- No Wii at all during the school week and two hours of Wii per weekend day
- Computer is used only for school work during the week and can be used to play computer games for one hour per weekend day
Model reasonable use of technology for your son by making sure you’re not constantly plugged in to something, too. You can also plan family activities such as playing a board game together or going on an outing. When kids spend too much time with technology, it cuts in to the physical activity they need, interferes with conversation time, discourages reading time, encourages a demand for material possessions and can affect schoolwork.
If your son begins telling you that he’s bored when he can’t play Wii, create a “bored” jar filled with slips of paper that have small tasks or activities written on them. Each time your son says he is bored, have him take a slip of paper from the jar. Tasks or activities can include reading for 20 minutes, taking out the trash, drawing a picture, playing outside and others.
Remember to set limits that make sense for your family and be consistent. As your family does more things together and fewer things individually, you’ll find your relationships growing stronger than your Internet signal has ever been.
My 13-year-old stomps to his room, slams the door and destroys things in his bedroom whenever he’s upset. How can I teach him to control his temper?
We are our children's first and most important teachers, and our goal should be to teach them the skills they will need for success in future situations and help practice them these skills before they need to use them. Your son doesn’t yet know how to use the skills of “Accepting Criticism” and “Accepting Consequences.” Both of those skills can be taught and practiced. If your son continues to express himself through anger and aggression, he will eventually get in trouble at school, lose a job, get kicked off a sports team, lose friends or a girlfriend, or experience other negative consequences. Here are a few things that can help you communicate this concern to your son.
Talk to Him About His Anger When He’s Calm
Approach your son at a time when things are calm. Start out with something positive, like a recent conversation you had with him when he looked you in the eye or a time when he and his brother worked on something together with no problems. Thank and praise him for that positive behavior.
Tell Him It’s Okay to Get Angry
Tell him your concern, but explain that the emotion of anger shouldn’t lead to unacceptable behavior. It is okay to get angry. People feel what they feel. Let him know it is how he handles his anger that counts. The goal is to teach him to do something else when he feels angry, something that is more socially acceptable than tearing up his room.
Help Him Handle His Anger with Better Actions
Think about the times you’ve see his anger building up – maybe he clinches his fists, moves in close to the person, hits the person, screams or starts breathing heavily. He must learn to change those physical actions and replace them with behaviors that will help him maintain self-control. You can teach him to open up his hands, take two steps back, keep his arms to his side or take three slow deep breaths. Have him practice these behaviors and have a code word that you can say to him when you see his temper escalating.
Set Consequences for Future Tantrums
Consequences are one of the most powerful tools you can use to help change your son’s behaviors. Teach your son the skill of “Accepting Consequences” (look at you, say “Okay” and stay calm), then tell him what negative consequence he will receive when he does not handle his anger appropriately. Maybe he loses access to his electronic devices for the remainder of the day if he refuses to look at you when you’re talking to him or he fights with a sibling. Kids know how to push each other’s buttons, too. You might want to talk to his siblings privately to let them know their brother is working on controlling his anger, and that if they start an argument or fight, they also will earn a negative consequence.
It will take a lot of practice and patience before your son catches on and begins using appropriate behaviors when he gets angry. But with teaching and consistent use of consequences, his tantrums will become less intense and less frequent.
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I need help coming up with a chore chart for my three children (14-year-old daughter and two sons, 11 and 10) so there is no whining or complaining when it's their turn to do a chore.
A chore chart is a great idea, especially with three children in the home. Chore charts are useful because children know what is expected of them each day and chores can be fairly distributed. Here’s our advice on how to create a chore chart:
- Divide your chores into daily and weekly duties.
- Look at pictures of chore charts online to get an idea for how you want yours to look. It can be simple or elaborate, depending on how much time you have and your style and personality.
- Set simple incentives to motivate your kids to complete weekly chores. These positive consequences don’t have to cost anything; for example, give an extra hour of TV that weekend or extend curfew by an hour.
- Consider what consequences your kids receive for not completing chores. (Adding chores may not be an effective consequence since they had trouble completing chores to begin with.) Consequences could include not being able to out that weekend or not using any electronics on Friday night. Think about your list of consequences, both positive and negative.
I need resources on how to be more organized and how to stay on schedule.
Time management and organization are two skills that many people struggle with, so we're happy to see you are reaching out for help with this. These skills can definitely make life a lot easier and less stressful if used effectively. Here are a few basic time management tips:
Tip #1 – Take time to write things down and use a planner to schedule your events and appointments.
Tip #2 – Make lists of things you need to remember or tasks you need to complete. Then assign a date or time when you would like to have those tasks completed. Check this list every day to remind yourself of upcoming tasks.
Tip #3 – If you struggle with time management and following a daily routine, create a schedule and allow yourself a certain amount of time for each task you need to complete. For example: 5 minutes to brush your teeth, 10 minutes to get dressed, etc. Then set a timer in the morning for each task to help you stay on schedule.
How do I teach and discipline my hyperactive 4-year-old son without breaking his spirit or making him resent me?
Many young children are hyperactive and struggle with listening, staying on task and focusing. You can help your son most with focused, intentional conversation techniques.
Talk to him in a very specific way.
Whenever you speak to him:
- Make sure the two of you are looking at one another.
- Get on the same level.
- Use a normal voice tone.
- Remove any and all distractions (e.g., turn off the TV, put down the video game controller, move the food aside).
When you are asking your son to do something, make sure you are clear and specific. At some point, demonstrate for him what you want him to do and have him repeat the task so you know he is capable of doing it.
Look for opportunities to praise him.
This will get his attention and improve his listening skills. Look for praiseworthy actions in three areas:
- Things he already does well and you want him to continue.
- Small improvements in the right direction.
- Attempts to do something new.
When praising him, make sure you:
- Show your approval with encouraging phrases like “Great job!” and “You did it!”
- Describe what he did well.
- Give him a reason to continue to do it that way.
- Reward him with a hug, a high-five or even a smile.
How do I deal with my 15-year-old daughter’s choice of clothes, which I feel are too short, too tight and too revealing? How can I help her understand what true beauty is?
Your child’s image, including her clothing, hair, make-up and behaviors, must follow guidelines you set as a parent. Once you’ve set those guidelines, you must reinforce them, giving positive consequences when they’re obeyed and negative consequences when they’re not. Negative consequences can mean a loss of privileges and/or added work chores. It sounds simple, but it will take some work on your part to get your child to understand the rules and why they’re important, and then to constantly and consistently enforce them so they work.
Image and clothing is a sensitive issue, especially for teenagers. If you want your daughter to understand about your image message, plan your approach and have good reasons ready for why changes need to take place. First, clearly describe her behaviors and let her know which ones need to change. This may mostly involve her appearance, but it also can include body language, posture and word choice. Teach her what would be more acceptable and appropriate, and give her a good reason for doing it that way. Then have her practice those behaviors.
Specifically tell your child what needs to change, from her underwear to her outer clothing to her jewelry and anything else. If you object to her clothing, you can require her to give up what she’s been wearing and not have access to it. You and she can shop for new clothes or identify what she has in her current wardrobe that is appropriate. Then you can talk about how this clothing will portray an "image" that is more socially acceptable. Focus on the beauty of comfort and modesty over trendy, skin-tight tank tops and short skirts.
To enforce these changes, clearly lay out privileges your daughter can enjoy when she complies and but will lose when she doesn't. These should include access to her cell phone and other electronic devices, TV and video games, and time away from home with her friends and after-school activities. To ensure a successful transition, you will monitor her more closely by dropping in at school unannounced, checking her room and backpack, and checking on her other times when she is away from home. Each time you "catch her being good" (complying), she should be allowed to use her privileges. If you find unacceptable clothing in her room, her locker at school or anywhere else, she loses her privileges until she rebuilds the trust that has been lost.
Be Clear About True Beauty
There are probably several opportunities every day for you to have “teaching moments” with your daughter about what beauty is. For example:
- Compliment her on a “beautiful” job of completing an art homework assignment or making a meal.
- Point out the beauty in another person’s actions, such as a young boy opening the door for an older person or a friend sharing a treat with another friend.
- Read a book together that describes the beauty of or an appreciation for differences like race, hair color, size or ethnicity.
Teaching your daughter to dress modestly and understand true beauty will help her develop a healthier self-image and self-respect she can carry throughout life.