Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Happy Child Guide

Children do not listen, they model!

One of the many interesting insights in Happy Child Guide by Dr. Blaise Ryan and Ashley Olivia Ryan. (Thanks Iris for sharing this!)

The book lists seven simple ways to transform misbehaviour to great behaviour! What made it interesting for Parth and me was how the strategies in the book were very different (sometimes even opposite) from what we had seen being used by parents around us. But the authors have been practicing this with their child and seen results. They admit that all the crying and tantrums did not completely stop, but they have reduced substantially.

The key message according to the authors is for parents to understand how to respond to the child's behaviour and instill the principles of connection, trust and respect so that the child listens and cooperates naturally. They see two ways of influencing a child: one is to develop skills that help us respond to her needs and behaviours (internal) and second is to develop lifestyle habits that affect her in positive ways (external).

As in SWOT, we now refer to weaknesses as challenges, the authors refer misbehaviour as challenging behaviour. As in different styles of leadership, there are different types of parenting: authoritarian or violent parenting; authoritarian non violent parenting (rewards and punishments), parenting (giving in to child's needs all the time, here parents usually switch extremes) and the last one....can you guess....yes, democratic parenting! The first three often leave the child confused, angry, disrespectful and alienated. The last one focusses on involving children in the process and setting limits which are gently enforced without anger or punishment or reward.

The skills to respond to needs and behaviour = INTERNAL
  1. Understand the reasons for the child's behaviour: a genuine need (food, sleep, etc), unresolved stress or missing information.
  2. Non reaction: respond to needs not behaviour (speaking and gently is the only way one can reach out to the child, "thinking state")
  3. Natural giggles: instead of inducing laughter by tickling (which the child actually does not like but just can't make us stop), better to make them laugh naturally through other means like games (hide and seek; acting dumb etc)
  4. Listening time: carve out a time when you only listen and be with the child, no phones, no TV, no other distraction...
  5. Connective communication: Using words and phrases, like..."darling, sweetheart", "Not right now" (as opposed to "no"), "we" or "us" (instead of "you"), "that is is a great idea, and I think" (instead of "but"), "I am right here with you" or "I see you".
  6. Limit setting: support the child to help express true feelings. A different approach here is to just let the child cry it out. Suppose you set the limit together for let us say playing in the playground and now the child does not want to go. You explain your need to go gently and ask them to come along. In case they do not and they start to cry, take them to the car and just let them cry it out. Do not abandon them or alienate them when they cry. Let them cry but be with them so they know that you love them and will not leave them, instead of giving in to their demand or offering a chocolate to appease them. Tantrums are part of the healing process and usually there are underlying reasons for the tantrums which as a parent you may need to help your child experience and express.
  7. Avoiding control patterns: the favourite blanket or soother or TV...holding on these makes the child repress their true feelings and just hides them till they explode again next time...
  8. Adult to adult listening time: getting the support for ourselves without being advised or judged
The lifestyle habits = EXTERNAL
  1. Cutdown sugar, use natural sugars
  2. Enough water
  3. Whole food diet
  4. Supplement rest
  5. Play till you sweat
  6. Go to bed early
  7. Turn off the TV!!
They quote numerous studies to support their suggestions.

Alternatives to punishment
  1. Prevention (do not keep those sugar cream cookies in the house!)
  2. Evaluation (how did this happen? could this have been prevented? what is the real reason for the behaviour"
  3. Ask a question (what are you doing? they may have very imaginative reasons for drawing on the wall...)
  4. Offer an alternative
  5. Express how to feel, make a request
  6. Freedom to choose: as parents, we often mirror what how our parents raised us or what we see around us. But there are choices we can make as well about how we would like to do it!
Let us see how this works:)

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