Over the last few months I’ve been sharing some insights from Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, Have a New Kid by Friday.
These are the last two strategies from Dr. Leman that we will cover in these letters. Strategy one, “Let reality be the teacher.” And the second strategy is, “B doesn’t happen until A is completed.”
He stresses that as much as possible allow natural consequences to teach lessons to your child. Don’t be constantly reminding them of the consequences, just let them feel them. Don’t micromanage your child’s experiences.
For example: as much as possible, feed your children when you eat and give them the same food you eat. Once they get down from the table, the meal is over. So if your child refuses to eat the food you serve, they don’t get anything else to eat until the next regular meal. It is hard to hear them say they are hungry later, but let that empty tummy teach him to eat what is available. He will not starve himself, but he will be extra hungry and willing to eat what’s on the table. (Don’t keep the food he didn’t eat. Each meal should be a new experience.)
You can use this strategy when your child won’t stop playing with toys when it is time to get ready for bed. If the next thing is usually fun play in the tub before getting soaped, rinsed, dried, and in pjs, simply say, “Since you took so long to quit playing with your toys, there is no time to play in the water before bathing.” Just soap up, rinse, dry, and dress her. (I like to use the words, “When you wouldn’t stop playing with toys, you chose to not play in the bathtub tonight.”)
“B doesn’t happen until A is completed” is a strategy that works for toddlers and older children. If you have asked your child to do something and it’s not done, you don’t go on to the next event–no matter what that event is. Here’s an example of how this works. When your little child decides to ignore you, he is really trying to get your attention. Don’t try to figure out what is wrong or go out of your way to try to make him happy again. Just continue doing what you ordinarily would be doing. But don’t do the next thing on <em>his </em>agenda. If snacks would ordinarily be the next thing to happen, don’t give him a snack. When he begins asking where his snack is, say something like, “Since you chose to ignore me and not cooperate with me, I choose not to give you a snack today.” You must stick with it. Don’t give him a snack that day and continue on with that you want to be doing. He won’t miss more than a snack or two before he figures out that ignoring you is not a good way to get your attention.
This also works for talking back. Dr. Leman says it is best not to say anything, turn your back, and get busy doing something else. Then wait for a time when she wants something from you or needs you to do something. No matter what the child wants, the answer is no. When she asks why you keep saying no, say, “I don’t like the way you talked back at me, so I don’t feel like doing this for you.” So B doesn’t happen until A is completed. A sincere apology is what you are looking for. Don’t prompt her for an apology, wait for her to be truly sorry for being disrespectful.
Dr. Leman has many more examples of ways to use these techniques in his book, but most are for older children. The joy of using his methods is that it reduces the stress and temptation to yell. Quietly turning away and doing what you really want to do and letting the child figure out she won’t get your attention or help until she acts appropriately puts the responsibility for her behavior in your child’s court, not yours. Real learning can happen. Your child will learn to be quieter, more respectful, more cooperative and happier.
I encourage you to get the book, read it, and keep it as a reference for difficult behavior problems in the years ahead.