Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It REALLY is magic! (part III)

Read part I here. 

Read part II here.

I put him in time-out (calmly) three more times that morning.

After that, the magic kicked in.  And.... suddenly... I was the boss!  It was amazing!  Liberating!  Empowering!  If I wanted to say "no," I said "no."  If I wanted Soren to stop whining, he would stop whining.  Ultimate power was mine!  I threw my head back and laughed maniacally while electrical streams of lightning zapped out of my fingers.  

And now, a month into using 1-2-3 Magic, I find that entire days go by when I don't have to send Soren to his room.  Sweet parenting bliss is mine at last!

The hardest part for me in implementing the program has been remembering that I don't have to put up with obnoxious behaviors.  I'm so used to steeling myself against whining/badgering/tantrums, or saying "yes" when I don't want to, that I forget sometimes that I can take charge.

So, just to wrap this up, here are a few other thoughts I've had while incorporating 1-2-3 Magic into my overall parenting approach:

Validation.  I've tried to balance the no-nonsense approach of 1-2-3 Magic with validation.  I believe that it's important to acknowledge and respect your child's very real emotional responses to situations.  For example, when Soren asks for something and I tell him "no," he'll start to complain and I'll pat him on the back and say something like, "Hon, I know you were really hoping to have marshmallows for breakfast and I know you're disappointed about having oatmeal instead,  but you're going to just have to trust that I love you and want you to be happy and that my love for you compels me to not allow you to have marshmallows for every meal."  And then I'll sweetly add, "That's one."

He usually gets the drift.    

...but don't Underestimate the Importance of Shutting the Old Yapper.  Even before 1-2-3 Magic, I've always tried to be a stickler when it comes to not giving in.  When I say something, I try to mean it.  For the most part, I think I'm good about not giving in to begging/whining/tantrums-- at least, I haven't given Soren what he wanted initially.  But I had definitely gotten into the habit of giving him a sweet taste of revenge by allowing him to get me all kinds of riled up afterwards.  Since 1-2-3 Magic allows me to nip the problematic behaviors in the bud, I don't spew forth all kinds of gratifying emotional response for him.

Also, through making this small change, I've discovered that I spent way too much breath explaining myself.  Constant rationalizing with a child leads them to believe that they only have to comply if you've given them three good reasons to do so; it also opens up long arguments.    I'll say things like "You see, honey, I don't want you to go outside right now because it's raining," and he'll respond with, "But I can take an umbrella," and I'll say something like, "I don't want you to take an umbrella by yourself.  You might break it."  And he'll reply with, "But I'll be really careful with it."  And I'll say, "I'm sorry, I don't want you to be alone with the umbrella," and he'll say, "Then you come with me," And I'll say, "But I'm busy right now," and he'll say, "But I really want to go outside right nowwww!  I really, really, really want to go outsiiiide!"  This continues ad nauseum and (I confess!) he often wore me down.   This was not good.

So I'm not saying you shouldn't ever give a simple explanation when you lay down a law, but I am saying you must remember that don't have to get sucked into an argument about it.

And What About The Ambassador?  (And no, I don't mean that gosh-awful novel by Henry James.)   Early in my reading-about-parenting career, I read in a couple of places that you should think of your child as an ambassador visiting from a foreign country.  When the ambassador made a mistake, you wouldn't send him to time out!  You wouldn't slap his hand!  You would patiently explain that we don't do that thing and then show him something else he could do instead!  I totally agreed with this.  However, when Soren was two, and constantly battering his newborn brother at every turn, I remember thinking, "But what do you do when the ambassador pulls out an AK-47 and blows away some important public officials?  Particularly after you've specifically and repeatedly told him that's not acceptable in our country?  And shown him how to touch the public officials nicely?  You cuff that bastard and throw him in jail, that's what you do!"  

But the truth is, there is no little ambassador.  To make an analogy like that is totally misleading.  Children are children, with completely different brain structures than full-grown emissaries from a foreign land.

That said, I want to make it clear that I am a big believer in using skills training, coaching, and logic to teach children how to make good choices on their own.  It's so important for a child to understand the reasons behind their choices and to learn how to manage their emotions and think through consequences.  Using a skills-training-based approach helps foster independent decision-making skills that will enable children to make good choices even without the external threat of punishment or hope of reward.  For a long time, however, I believed skills training was all I needed in order to be able to properly manage my children's behavior.  I was wrong.

Over time, I have discovered that there is value in using rewards and punishments with children (and by punishment, I mean a "negative reinforcer," a response that occurs immediately with the behavior to create a negative psychological response to the circumstances where the negative reinforcer was introduced; ie, having to go to time-out when you're whining).  My thinking before was that when you use rewards and punishments, you're not necessarily teaching kids to make good independent choices.  This is true; however, what you are doing when you use rewards and punishments is helping children establish a pattern of compliance and develop good behavior habits.  Sooner or later, a child will hopefully be developmentally ready to make positive choices without external motivation, but it can't hurt to already have those good habits in place.

We were able to bring out some very positive changes in Soren's behavior when we started using a reward system about a year ago, not the least of which is that he got out of the habit of hurting Liam every three seconds.   1-2-3 Magic just helps us provide motivation on the opposite end of the spectrum.

So there you have it, friends.  1-2-3 Magic.  It really, really, really is magical.  It even made lightning stream out my fingertips.  You should totally buy it, even if you don't have kids.  It's just that good.


Lara said...

We've been using the Love and Logic program for a couple years. So many similar principles (judging by your post. I haven't read 1-2-3 Magic but now I want to). And I do believe in negative consequences/punishments. Not extreme stuff, mind you, but just like you stated here. There is so much of this "no time out" stuff going around I feel like I am alone in that I still believe in it. Anyway, I am going to read this book now. Thanks.

blakecgriffin said...

Sweet relief to finally know the ending of this story. I'm so happy for you that you've found something that seems so uplifting and productive. Discipline is just so incredibly complex, at least that's how I see it as a single, childless uncle. Glad to hear things are working in your favor!

Natalya said...

This was a link-clicker of a story. I even panicked for a second when I got to the end of part II and you had not provided a handy little link at the bottom for III (but I found it in the archives).
I am sloooowly arriving at the conclusion that I cannot completely cut out rewards and punishments, and I have been sloooowly formulating the idea that they are justified because they help form good habits/get rid of bad ones. I had not yet arrived at the place that you can make a wonderful mix of all kinds of techniques, so thanks, that fast forwards my idea evolution by quite a bit. And I have definitely not started anything definitive yet, though Kate told me a good idea from one of her bishops that had a bunch of kids. (I have a bunch of kids, so I was feeling like it compared for my situation.) He and his wife would choose 3 "things" to work on for each kid. Example of "things": grunts meanly at strangers when they say, "ARe you enjoying summer vacation, sweetie?", leaves plate on table, pees on the floor a lot. So you talk to each child about how you're going to work on these things, and you COMPLETELY ignore any other annoying habit the kid has. That way he feels like you're not always on his case and you feel like you're not always having to be on his case. So far I have picked one thing for some of my kids.
It's nice to bring some kind of order into this swamp called raising a family.
P.S. I also knew making limits was appropriate, but was head-scratching about defining them and enforcing them.
Congratulations! I knew you could do it!

Rachel said...

Lara- Is there a "Love and Logic" program for very young children? All I've ever read seems to be targeted towards the 8-year-old to teen age range.

Blake- Holy yes is parenting complicated. I wish I'd been required to go to medical school and earn a phd in psychology before reproducing. It's amazing any of us grow up to be even partially sane.

Nat-- I like the idea of focusing on three things per kid. That might be a little overwhelming with five kids, though! So maybe one at a time is good for you. I think maybe I'll try that approach with myself-- find three things at a time to focus on improving.

Lara said...

Yes, Rach, there are books/CDs geared to younger kids. In fact, we started doing "alone time" when Joci was eight months old and pulling ornaments off the Christmas tree. It worked great and people have been surprised that we were able to have a nice Christmas tree with a baby/toddler. :)

Karen said...

So glad it's working for you! I always admire your resolve to keep trying until you find something that works. Such a good mommy. :)


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