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Replacing Timeout with Playtime

If you’ve ever stood in a busy grocery store with a child in the midst of a full on meltdown, you know one universal truth: Children will act out, usually at the most embarrassing moment for you. When you can step back and understand that they are seeking your attention and validation, you can prevent and manage these moments with grace.

Think of all the hours in each day when you expect your children to cooperate and participate in your activities. From house chores and errands to remaining silent while you talk on the phone, and even dining out in restaurants. Are you matching each of these minutes with true connection with them in their world? Playtime is a child’s way of including you on their level and asking you to include them on yours. They don’t know how to negotiate this world as an adult, but they would like to show you what the world looks like to them.

Try the 30/30 rule. For every 30 minutes you need to accomplish something in the grown-up arena, spend 30 minutes on your child’s level playing, talking, reading and connecting. Keep it even and let your child lead the playtime. I promise you will have fewer meltdowns if you can stick with this one rule. (For toddlers, try 10/10. They may not have the attention span to entertain themselves for 30 minutes.)

O. Fred Donaldson, a world-famous specialist in the use of play as an alternative to aggression, violence and abuse, posted this morning on API Speaks on what we don’t understand about playtime with children. A five-year-old boy once told him, “Fred, you know play is when we don’t know that we are different from each other.” I invite you to read this short post Coming Out to Play, where Fred reveals the three patterns of play that he observed in children all over the world. (Here’s a hint: enrolling your child in soccer does not count as playtime.)

Grace and Peace.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in From Toddlers to Teens

 

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How to Train Your Dragon: Yell at it?

This week, I’m happy to bring to you my first guest post from Kelly Bartlett. Kelly is a mother of two children living in Portland, Oregon, the assistant editor of The Attached Family magazine, an API leader and a certified Positive Discipline Educator. You can follow her blog at Parenting from Scratch.

“Maybe,” [Old Wrinkly] said, “you can train a dragon better by talking to it than by yelling at it.”

“That’s sweet,” said Hiccup, “and a very touching thought.  However…from what I know about dragons…I should say that yelling was a pretty good method.”

“But it has its limitations, doesn’t it?” Old Wrinkly pointed out.

–From How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

It does. Yelling is effective at pretty much two things: intimidating someone into doing what you say, and making them feel bad. No one, children or adults, likes to be yelled at.

Yelling, while an instinctual stress-reliever, doesn’t do anything to actually educate a person about the point you’re trying to make.  I had a teacher once who yelled a lot, and what I remember most about her class is the crummy feeling I had when I was in her room.  I remember feeling uncomfortable and sad when she yelled at other students, and I became so afraid to ask questions or talk to her about anything, for fear of her then yelling at me.  One time, I thought my book report was late, and oh, the fear I felt then!  Just imagining what she would say to (yell at) me turned my stomach into knots.  Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember anything about that book report, not even the title of the book, nor any other academic lessons I learned in her class.  I actually can’t even remember this teacher’s name; it’s like a traumatic memory, suppressed. (By the way, my book report did not end up being late, so crisis averted.  I do remember the joy of that moment of realization.)

As a parent, it’s easy to have my buttons pushed by my kids, yet difficult to remember that yelling doesn’t actually do anything to help them meet their behavioral goals.

“We can’t teach kids to behave better by making them feel worse.” –Pam Leo, Connected Parenting

“Children do better when they feel better.” –Jane Nelsen, Positive Discipline

I am nowhere near perfect at this…the yelling thing.  It takes a lot of practice to recondition the way we respond to anger, and I am in the midst of working on this.  It’s a many-years-long journey. What I’m working on first and foremost is reconfiguring my “buttons”; trying to take the triggers that usually make me angry and change them so that they, well…don’t.  This is a matter of understanding and perspective.  The more I understand about my children’s behavior–how their brains develop and why they do the things they do–the less they trigger my anger reflex.  And the more perspective I have over “the big picture”–the foundational aspects of raising children that are truly important–the more I realize that in-the-moment yelling doesn’t work toward meeting the long-term goals I have for myself, my children, and our family as a whole.

Yelling at kids doesn’t help them learn a lesson.  Just like my book report experience, what kids remember most is the feeling brought on by the yelling; the fear. That’s the piece of information that our brains hold onto and shape our future interactions and behaviors.  Even the joy I felt when I realized my report was not late and I was not going ot be yelled at was a positive feeling, but still brought on by fear.  Was I then motivated to make extra sure that I was never late on an assignment in this teacher’s class again?  Of course.  I do think fear is a very effective motivator…no argument from me there.  But that’s not the motivation on which I want my parenting, thus my relationship with my children, to be based.

Our most prominent memories stem from feelings around events: succeeding, failing, solving a problem, making mistakes, having fun, going through a difficult time, being held, getting yelled at.  After many years, the details of events are likely to become foggy, but the feelings remain. What do I want my kids to remember when they think back on their childhoods?  Less yelling and feeling afraid, more understanding and feeling supported.  Teaching by yelling does have its limitations.  Teaching through connection is limitless.

 

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