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THE MAGIC LIST
You always knew there must be some secret list that all those perfect parents had access to, the list that would remove any difficulties you have with your children forever--right?
Actually, there is such a list, published in a wonderful little book, titled Parents, Please Don't Sit on Your Kids, by Clare Cherry. (Unfortunately, the book is out of print now, but see if your public library has a copy.)
In it, Cherry offers the magic list as reminders of alternatives to typical punitive discipline responses that many parents resort to out of frustration.
Here, with a couple of explanatory words, is the magic list. You can copy just the main ideas to make your own list to post inside a kitchen cabinet for those challenging moments.
1. Anticipate trouble. Consider the ages and personalities of your children to guess their likely responses to situations and people. You can control the physical environment to minimize stress.
2. Give gentle reminders. Demeaning children or nagging them into oblivion doesn't work. Instead, reminders may be just one word, such as "helping" or "waiting", or even a nonverbal nod of the head ("yes, that's okay"), or shake of the head ("no, not now).
3. Distract the child's attention from what she's doing to a positive model. Compliment one child on a positive behavior, and see how quickly a sibling will want that positive attention as well. (Use this one sparingly and carefully, to avoid creating sibling issues.)
4. Inject humor. A note of humor (not sarcasm) can interrupt a deteriorating situation. Remember, this is laughing with children, not at them.
5. Offer choices. When possible, offer children choices that are acceptable to you. Freedom to make choices makes it more likely that children will cooperate, as well as learn to make good decisions.
6. Give praise or compliments. Sincere praise, not over-used, reinforces those behaviors that you enjoy in your child.
7. Offer encouragement. Related to praise, this is another way of giving your children respect for what they are attempting to accomplish at their own level, not in comparison with others, and helping them learn to overcome obstacles.
8. Clarify messages. Leave no room for misunderstanding, and make sure you have children's attention before using language that they can understand.
9. Overlook small annoyances. Otherwise known as, don't sweat the small stuff. If you find yourself getting annoyed frequently, ask yourself whether this situation is indeed worthy of a battle.
10. Deliberately ignore provocations. This method can gradually eliminate an undesirable pattern of behavior. By giving no kind of reinforcement to annoying behavior, eventually those behaviors will disappear, particularly when you are careful to give children specific attention during times of acceptable behavior.
11. Reconsider the situation. Nothing is set in concrete. Reconsidering decisions can foster sensible handling of potentially difficult situations or conflicts.
12. Point out natural or logical consequences. Help young children see the connections between their actions and the results of their behavior. When these behaviors and results are presented as a means of explanation, not as a moral judgment or punishment, consequences help children see the sense in acting in a certain way.
13. Provide renewal time. Notice that this is not the punitive isolation of "time out," but an opportunity to calm down, renew themselves, and regain composure.
14. Give hugs and caring. Frequent demonstrations of caring provide an atmosphere in which children just want to behave well.
15. Arrange discussion among the children. This is a big topic we'll need to go back to soon, but for now understand the idea that children need help in communicating with other children to solve their problems.
16. Provide discussion with an adult. In avoiding power struggles, clear communication is important.
That is the magic list. It's mostly good, common sense with nothing really magic about it. There is an emphasis on finding ways to keep feelings from flaring out of control, and ways to live together humanely.
© Growing Child 2009 Please feel free to forward this article to a friend.