As we were reminded by Grandpa Wanat last week “they don’t come with instructions”.
That being said there is a wealth of wisdom and an ocean of advice to be waded through if one is so inclined. Jenn and I are. We are both reading parenting books. Jenn’s covering potty training and I’m reading about non-violent parenting. It was a concept I didn’t have a name for until I spoke to the Godfather, Mike Morrell.
One of the more interesting pieces of paperwork you sign when adopting is an agreement that you will not use corporal punishment on your child. Beyond the adoption documentation we didn’t want to resort to whippings and leg slaps to achieve our goals. Ditto on verbal lashings. I spoke to Jasmin, Mike’s wife and mother to a fellow genius child. She provided a great list of resources. I started with the first on the list, “Beyond Time Out” by Beth A. Grosshans, Ph.D.
Before I continue I should let dear reader know I am very much of the mindset to take the gold and leave the dross. You should do the same.
Dr. Grosshans begins by identifying the dilemma many families find themselves in as IFP, or Imbalance of Family Power. If you don’t remember it now you will if you read the book. She repeats this phrase many times over. She points out that parents have the power and children want it. Parents need to exercise their power responsibly for the health of the family. The author presents her theory on why so many parents are reluctant to be…
well…how can I say it?
Next she proposes that children will naturally attempt to usurp power from their parents. Everyone, even those without kids, know what she’s talking about. Kids saying “no”, pushing the boundaries, trying to find out just what they can get away with. By naturally Dr. Grosshans means it’s written into their DNA. There is no need to blame the child or claim they “have the devil in them”. It’s just the way things are.
She continues with her analysis of parental types. Her classification system is simple; Pleasers, Pushovers, Forcers, and Outliers. She spends a chapter sketching out the characteristics of each type, providing real world examples of how these parental types address little Suzy’s melt downs or Bobby Joe’s refusal to clean his room.
The first three are easy to pick out. We wondered what she meant by Outliers. She’s referring to the bright parents. You know, the parents whose kids are chess masters at age 4, speaking a foreign language at 6, and already have their careers picked at 10? Just think Rick Moranis’ character in “Parenthood”. The movie, not the TV show! These are the parents who are emotionally distant from their children yet thoroughly involved in their education.
The meat of the book focuses on her system called “The Ladder”. It’s a short ladder. More of a large step stool. The rungs on the ladder are:
Step 1: A bid for cooperation
Step 2: “I mean business” reminder
Step 3: To the bedroom
Step 4: Shut the door
Step 5: The parent hold
I’ll elaborate on the steps, however for those seeking to put these steps into practice read the book. Or at least thoroughly skim it. Please don’t read this and think “oh, I can do that based on a blog post!”.
Throughout the process the parent remains calm and in control. This is key to each step.
In step one the child (we’ll call her Penelope) is trying to bang on the keyboard while someone is typing. “Penelope, daddy is trying to type. Stop touching the keyboard”. Note the word “please” is not used. This is a command, not a plead for cooperation. The parent is not raising their voice or getting emotional.
Penelope’s hand quickly finds its way back to the keyboard. We take a step up the ladder. The parent moves closer to the child and remains calm. “I’m only going to say it one more time and you know daddy (or mommy, or other daddy or other mommy) only says things twice. Tak yiur jand offff the keybord nd o not rouchit egain”.
3 minutes later ….
Where was I? Oh yes, take the child to their room saying “OK Penelope, that’s it. Off to your room”. This is where the waterworks are turned on. Powering through the protest, the child is placed in her room, sitting in the designated corner. Dutiful parent waits outside the room listening to the cries. Yes, waiting there is required. This part is the hardest unless you have mental problems and like hearing children cry.
The next part is easy. Close the door. She recommends you leave them in there for 2 minutes x their age. That’s worked out about right for us. The only part that amazes me is she stays in the chair. (One day you may read this Penelope, and you will think the same thing). She cries and wails and then stops. She sits quietly. At the 3 – 4 minute mark I open the door and as though nothing has happened say “OK, lets do what we were doing”. Dr. Grosshans points out there should be no “now next time do what daddy said” or “do you know why you were placed in time out?”. Just leave it. The child knows why they were placed there.No rubbing their noses in it.
The few times I have used the above approach it’s as though a different child exits the room. I’ve even gotten hugs. Amazement doesn’t even scratch the surface.
And that’s about it.
Step 5. This step is used when the child is out of control. For instance you or someone you love (or a stranger, pet, piece of furniture, etc) are being kicked or punched. If so, she gives detailed instructions on how to hold the child close. You are the self-control for the child at this point. If this concept intrigues you, buy the book. Or even better, do what I did; go to your library and get it for free. You should easily be able to knock this one out in 2 weeks.
I have used “the hold” once. Before reading the book. One night Penelope was having a fit and hit me in the mouth. I drew her close to me. So close she couldn’t move but not suffocating. Her arms were locked at my side and she could not move her legs. After a moment of crying and fighting she relaxed. Everything was great. She got up and we finished our nightly routine without incident.
Parents should be benevolent dictators
The second half of “Beyond Time Out” focuses more on older children so I glanced through it thinking “yeah, one day I’ll need to know this but I may as well skip it now since I’ll forget it by the time I need to know it”.
I can’t help but wonder if the book is a reaction to so much of the parental fluff the authors discuss.
Here are a few quotes.
Remember that a large part of helping your kids get along well in life is getting them adjusted to the reality that life is generally not on their terms.
The core script used when climbing the ladder:
You know I only say things two times, and this is the second reminder I am giving you. A third time means you’re going to your room.
On asking children “why did you do that”:
Young children are not self-reflective, and they have no idea why they do things.
This applies to some adults too.
Your child will never treat you with more respect than you give to him. (authors emphasis)
The author also makes an interesting point for not making your child say “I’m sorry”. What are you going to do, make them? She believes parents are setting themselves for a guaranteed power struggle. You, the parent, want to be the one holding the reigns. As He-Man would say “I HAVE THE POWER”.
As the law of the instrument states “When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail”. This came to mind repeatedly as I read/skimmed the contents.
So many scenarios are presented in the book yet the outcome is always the same. On the one hand I initially was thrilled the author included so many parental scenes. After a chapter or two I grew weary. The surprise was gone. “Step 1 – tell them to stop, Step 2 – tell them you mean it and you’re not going to say it again, Step 3 – take action, Step 4 – time out, Step 5 – parent hold. I realize this may sound like a complaint, but it’s not. It’s effective. I found myself reading and saying “yeah, here the dad is going to do step 1 – 4 but step 5 will not be necessary”.
If the author’s steps are taken without expressed and heartfelt love you can count on the child writing a book when they are older with a title such as
“Ladder of the Automaton” (sci-fi)
“How I Survived the Steps” or
“The Corner-Where Dreams Go To Die” (self-help)
“Broken Ladders” (fiction).
It’s easy to forget about affection when you’re so focused on discipline.
I think you get the point.
“So how about it Jeremy, how’s it going for you with that ladder?”
So far so good. I’ll give you two examples.
Penelope loves her feet. Not sure why, but she loves em’. Likes to grab them, put them close to her face, take her shoes off in the car so she can gaze at them. That’s fine. However when she’s at the dinner table she likes to put them on the table. Not cool. Enter the Ladder.
We were eating dinner and she put her foot up on the table. I took the first step and told her (not asked!) to take her foot off the table. She did it again. Immediately. Step 2 “You know I only say things twice…” Penelope begins shaking her head ‘no’ “…take your foot off the table.” and down it goes.
Flash forward about 5 minutes and her little piggies make another appearance. I get up, go behind her, take off her bib, and unstrap her from her high chair. “Ok, take my hand. You’re going to your room.” Crying ensues. As the chair is moved into the corner and she is placed in it the cries turn into wailing. After a moment or so I close the door to her room. A few minutes later she is quiet, calm, and when I tell her she can join us she come out and is cheerful.
Penelope loves chairs, which is great. As long as her bottom is the part touching the chair cushion. Penelope likes to kneel or even stand on chairs though. One day baby, one day you can do that. But today (nor the next few years) ain’t that day.
So you can probably guess what I did at this point. I told her to sit down. She didn’t. I told her I only say things twice and she needed to sit down, her bottom on the chair. I didn’t even need to take another step up the ladder. She sat and remained seated.
Does this mean I will NEVER have to use the ladder when she gets in a chair. H E Double Hockey Stick no! (We’ve taken to spelling everything around the house, why not here?) Jenn and I may have to do it for the same things several times a day.