Caught my kid lying! She started telling one excuse after the next, with more and more lies coming out... I was not happy with her. In the moment I saw myself though...
When I am confronted by my spouse, colleague, friend, or family member with something I've done wrong...a mistake I made. That's my go-to... make excuses.. try to rationalize my behavior, get defensive. I put myself in her shoes...
I then told her calmly, "Look, you feel your heart beating fast? You can feel the pressure that you made a mistake and you want to avoid getting in trouble... You can keep making excuses...I do the same thing when your mom is upset with me, or... you can just simply say "I'm sorry Dad, I'll try to better next time"
I gave her a moment to think about it then she told me she was sorry and she'll do much better next time. We had another heart-to-heart that evening to think of alternatives to her choices. Sometimes it helps to put yourself in your kid's shoes and think...
"What skill can I give my kid at this time? What will help them when this situation arises again?"
It's all about first increasing the behavior we want to see (telling the truth) then second we can focus on decreasing the behavior that is causing conflict (lying).
Is your kid receiving more screen time during this time of the pandemic? Do they constantly ask for the phone or tablet? Are they more whiny and irritable? How in the world can we take that first step to decrease this "addiction" to the screen?
I once had a friend explain to me that he hid their TV in the closet for over 5 months when their 4 year old child was becoming so entitled to his TV time. The Dad hid it one night after bedtime. In the morning he told his son... "The TV is broken and we had to bring it to the store" He felt bad that his kid kept asking for the first few weeks "Is the TV still being fixed?" ...their son must have been thinking...Geez, how long does it take to fix a TV!?
Their son stopped asking for the TV all together and found things to keep himself busy or played with his parents.
Finally the Dad had enough of no TV and having to instead engage his son...and brought the TV out again after 5 months. Sometimes just changing the environment takes our authority as a parent out of the equation. Instead of us having to say...
"No you can't have it" "Not today" "You need to find something else to do"
It's one more thing we are limiting them and TAKING AWAY their perceived freedom and preferred items.
Worked out with my 7 year old daughter yesterday. Her plank was arched... Her squats didn't go low enough... Her sit-ups were too floppy... But guess what? She enjoyed it and she was sweating! ...and she wants to do it again!
I could have critiqued her every move and dampened her spirit. She would have been trying but her effort would have felt to be not good enough. You can definitely give her advice and help your child develop a new skill, but 80% of your focus should be on what they are doing right...then only 20% on things they can improve.
So instead of "Head up...put your feet down...get lower" It may sound like "Yes! Keep it up! ...that's exactly where your feet should be! ...you're staying with me! ...pull your shoulders back like this..." Over time their skills will improve by you focusing on the 20%.
Just remember... you may need to model the skill or physically help their body learn.. most kids (and adults) need more than just verbal directions to know what to do. Imagine putting together an IKEA piece only with VERBAL DIRECTIONS!
Have you ever done something hurtful to your spouse or friend that it took you hours or days before you could say “Sorry”?
Saying “sorry” can be really tough. Now imagine someone forcing you to say sorry… IMMEDIATELY!? That would NOT end well! The best way to get a meaningful apology out of your kid is to…
Wait an hour, wait until bedtime, wait until they request or have access to a preferred item/activity. These conversations and apologies will be much more meaningful. Now you both will be ready to communicate.
“Tell me what happened earlier with your sister?”
“Sure, let’s play a game but first…is there something you want to say to your mom?”
“Are you feeling better? What can we do next time when something makes you frustrated like that?”
They will see these conversations not as a chance to be defensive or embarrassed but as an opportunity to learn and grow. It teaches us so much as adults, that we also need to apologize when it’s necessary. It takes such a load off our shoulders and opens up the relationship for communication and trust.
As parents we are constantly on top of our kids, telling them what to do and when. When we tell them to do something we expect that they do it. If we struggle with consistency though, the child will pick up on it quick. Our words will have less value associated with them. Think about the simple act of calling your child's name. Let's call him "Joe".
When trying to get Joe's attention, we might say over and over... "Joe...Joseph...Hey Joe! ...Listen up, Joe!" Joe's name has lost value coming out of our mouth because we're having to say it multiple times. When we give an instruction, we should say it one time and if the kid doesn't comply then we help them comply. They learn that we are incredibly consistent and that our words have meaning. So for Joe, if he doesn't respond after the first "Joe" then we help him respond. We go right over to him and get in his line of sight and say it again and this time he'll look. We can give him Behavior Specific Praise "Thanks for looking when I called your name!" or we can just move on with whatever we needed his attention for "I need your help with..." Over time, Joe will understand that when we call his name that he is expected to react promptly and accordingly.
Another example of how consistency over time pays off is how we taught our older daughter how to take turns. We did this when she was maybe around 15-16 months. My wife and I took our daughter for a walk on a nice day to get some Boba tea. My daughter had never had this tea before and we didn't want her to have too much because of all the sugar, plus we wanted some for ourselves. ;)
On our walk home we gave her a sip of the drink and she was hooked! When we would take it away from her for our turn to drink she would scream and throw her arms up reaching for the cup. What should we do!? Just give her the cup back so she stops screaming and making a scene? We instead taught her how to ask for a turn. This simple video shows the sign language for "your turn" and "my turn."
My daughter wasn't having it! She kept screaming each time we took the cup. In my head I'm thinking "consistency...we need to show her an alternative that will get her the cup without having to scream and cry, and stick with it!" She's young and it was her first time learning this skill so we were very patient. In order for her to get the cup back she had to sign "my turn." We of course helped her sign the words and she would get the cup even though we used a hand-over-hand prompting technique to get a response. After only a few back-and-forths she was asking for "my turn" without prompting.
We made crying and reaching an inefficient and ineffective way of getting what she wanted. She would have to work really hard to get her item., rather we gave her an alternative that was extremely efficient, effective, and easy. She could use this skill all day long...when she wanted a toy, when she wanted to hold her book, when she wanted to feed herself with a spoon. She now had a communication tool! The next time we went for Boba tea there was no screaming or whining. She would both ask for a turn and gave up a turn when someone else requested...two valuable skills for young children! If we hadn't been consistent, she'd have gone on for many more months with whining and crying for items.
Here are a list of other skills that are great for teaching young children ages 1-3, They can be taught just like the "My Turn" example. With consistency these, words in sign language are so powerful for children!
What to do...part 2
Previously, I wrote about things to do when you're kid is doing something appropriate. There's one more I'd like to include. This one may give you pause, you might squint your eyes to make sure you're reading it correctly. Here it is...
Behavior Analyst wanting to change how parents...parent!