The mothertalk people want us to talk about discipline: I am as putty in their hands. In fact, I have been meaning to write about this for a while. You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I said to the internet, “my daughter is stroppy, what will I do with her?”
I got some kind advice from people inside the computer but the best advice I got was from my mother and mother-in-law both of whom have the advantage of knowing her better than most. My mother said simply “you don’t praise her enough, praise her more”. I protested indignantly that I praised her plenty and am I supposed to praise her when she whacks her brother on the head? But I thought about it and now when she is bold, rather than criticising her, I try to think about some good thing she has done recently and talk about that instead. I am amazed how effective it is. I never thought that she would fall for such a transparent ploy.
My mother-in-law who is a psychologist (or mind reader as she puts it, humourously, yet somehow unnervingly) sent me a page of advice and I have found it so hugely helpful that I am going to share it with the internet. Here it is:
“I have read your plea for ideas .. I have no solutions re a young lady with such an iron will- but
have you thought of keeping a kind of diary to see if there is a pattern – certain times of the day when she gets stroppy or circumstances. It might create some “distance” for you.
“They” say try to give attention when she is being good and try to ignore (as much as you can stand) when she is being less good! Sometimes children twig the best way to get ANY KIND OF ATTENTION even being given out to – shouting etc which they seem to feel is better than nothing. I don’t think this applies to yourselves but it might be worth looking at.
In general rewards are seen in “psychology land” as being better than punishment. One reason being that parents run out of punishments and have to think up bigger and better ones! The TV might work – if used as a reward rather than its loss being a punishment – can she “earn” a treat she can choose – perhaps from among choices – see the star chart idea below.
The naughty step is not seen as the best by some child psychologists – it’s seen as isolating and cold. I think it may help the child to understand the behaviours that the parent doesn’t want but that learning should be reasonably quick.
Another thought – many children do not really know what the parents want – i.e. what is bad/good behaviour – sometimes because parents are inconsistent ( because they are particularly tired, irritable etc) It would be worthwhile perhaps checking over one of your girly post school café visits – what does she think is bad behaviour?
Personally I think you are doing a fantastic job – keeping everything afloat in a busy life – and there is wonderful warmth and fun in your interactions with the children and this can only be good.
Princess is perhaps a special case – I have witnessed her “iron will” as you put it so well – eg her insistence of bringing those wretched stones to the airport- we ignored the sounds in the back of the car as she transferred them to her bag – and left the problem for yourself and you know what happened then!
So – think of keeping a diary – both of you – it will give you a sense of control eg are there patterns that you could manage differently e.g when she is tired or you are tired?
Explore what she understands to be “bad “behaviour – are things clear in her mind.
You could use star charts (daily) for example sad/happy faces where she fills in the happy/sad details ie the mouth – turned up or down – perhaps a few tears!
Try to reward good behaviour and ignore bad – if you can manage this – ie don’t unwittingly “reward” stroppy behaviour by giving her your undivided attention when she is being trying. A diary might give you some idea of if you are falling into that trap!
I think I’ll have a cup of tea now! Looking forward so much to meeting up with you in July- the house is roomy and if the weather behaves there will be lots of distraction for the children – I am determined that you get lots of time for yourselves while we bond/rebond with the three.”
You see how nice she is about our parenting techniques, I thought I would leave that in so that you can see how wonderful we are. Also, see the bit about babysitting, I thought that I’d leave that in because I want to hold her to it.
A lot of this advice seems like common sense but, yet, it hadn’t occurred to us. I suspect the fact that it was tailored for us by someone who knows us all, made us more willing to follow it as well.
What my mother-in-law said about running out of punishments really rang true for us. The coin colere had completely lost its menace and the Princess would often say “I like the coin colere” which drove us mad with frustration. I always felt that I didn’t want to bribe her to do things but now I think I was absolutely insane. Bribery and rewards are the way of the future. They work for me. We started the happy face on the calendar on May 25 and her behaviour has improved immensely. I didn’t think that she would go for something so obvious: a smily face and after five smily faces a treat. But she did. The other morning she even said to me “the faces on the calendar is a good game, isn’t it Mummy?” And it’s not even like the treats are particularly spectacular, just things we would have given her anyway – a biscuit, some television, a little book. I’m astounded. Mind you, our calendar looks like this: