Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Do You Want To Know?

For those of you who don't know, the A to Z Challenge was kind of a launching point for Razzy's Corner. As a result, I don't really have any firm structure or schedule for this blog as May approaches. So I thought I would ask you guys what you would like to see. Do you have any particular parenting issues you would like to see covered? Do you have any ideas for weekly or monthly themes that you might find interesting? Let me know what you want and I will deliver to the best of my ability.


No matter how frustrating our children can be with their tantrums and their fits, it is important to remember that the feelings behind those tantrums are very much real. So while you still need to set limits and boundaries and stick to them, you should also validate how your child is feeling. Obviously you have to pick the best time to do so based on how you have chosen to handle problem behaviors. For instance, if you are ignoring tantrums, don't validate their feelings while they are throwing the tantrum. Instead wait until they have stopped tantruming and then approach them. Simply say "I know that makes you mad, but you can't throw tantrums".

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Using Time Out Effectively

Time out is probably one of the most discussed parenting/discipline techniques out there. The reviews are both positive and negative. Personally, I think Time Out can be a very effective tool; however, it has to be used appropriately.

The length of time out is one minute for each year of developmental age (i.e. 6 minutes for a 6 year old). This is the amount of time spent in the time out area, not the amount of time the child must remain quiet. This is a common misuse of timeout.

Time out should be done in a boring place where there is likely to be little entertainment. The whole idea of time out is to remove the child from any reinforcing stimuli. It is also supposed to be a punishment, so sending them to their room, which is filled with their toys, is not an effective way to use time out. Where ever you decide to have time out, make sure their are no dangerous objects around.

Use a kitchen timer of some sort to monitor the length of time out. This helps eliminate the child constantly asking "Can I come out yet?" "Is the time up?" This also helps parents to remember that their child is in time out. I have seen parents who get distracted and end up forgetting the child is in time out. Set the timer when the child sits in the time out chair or enters the time out area. Time begins when the child enters the time out are, not when they become quiet.

When sending a child to timeout, use a simple instruction with fewer than ten words, such as "No fighting. Go to time out". Do not lecture or scold. Keep your voice calm and even. Children will pick up on frustration or anger in your voice and this will escalate their behavior.

The child should be instructed to go to time out within 10 to 15 seconds of the behavior occurring. Time out is most effective when it occurs immediately. Children, especially young children, do not have the cognitive ability or attention span to make the connection between behavior and consequence if a large amount of time has elapsed.

For every 10 seconds of delay or arguing after being told to go to time out, add one additional minute up to a maximum of five additional minutes. For example if the child argues for 10 seconds say, "That's one more minute". If it continues for another 10 seconds say, "That's two more minutes". Do not go past an additional 5 minutes. Again, keep your voice calm and even.

Do not speak to or attend to the child during time out. Do not even make eye contact. Remember you are trying to deprive them of any reinforcers, including you.

If a child, under age 6, leaves time out before the time is up, simply place the child back in time out without speaking or making eye contact.

If an older (i.e. ages 6-12) child refuses to go to time out or leaves time out early, withhold a preferred activity or other reinforcer until the child completes the time out. For example, "You have no TV until you do your time out." If they continue to refuse, withdraw another preferred activity. Do not withdraw more than two activities. These activities must be withheld until the child does timeout or until the next day. Do not carry the consequence into the next day, as this is too far delayed to be effective.

When time out is over, you may say, "Time out is over." Do not counsel or discuss the behavior that results in time out. There is no evidence that discussing the infraction adds any positive effect to time out, and it may even reduce the effectiveness by providing attention at the end of the process.

If the child is still crying or shouting at the end of the time out period, set the timer for one more minute (or two additional minutes for a child over 6). Repeat this procedure, as needed, up to three times. Say only, "That's X more minutes for you to quiet down." and do not make eye contact. If the crying or shouting persists beyond this point, just ignore. (In no case should the child be allowed to leave time out without loss of a preferred activity unless they have been quiet for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Start by using time out for only one behavior and plan to use it consistently for at least four weeks. For children 4-12, describe the time out procedure with them before you try to implement it. Expect objections. Ignore them and do not negotiate. If you must speak say only. "We're going to do this." If objection persist, walk away. Do not engage in a debate.

Some parent will utilize a count to 3 method before placing a child in time out. This is acceptable as long as you consistently follow through when you get to three. If you push it past that, you have just lost all creditability with your child. One potential downside of counting to 3 is that children quickly pick up on the fact that they can continue to do something through 1 and 2 and will push this.

Another acceptable approach is to give them a choice to behave differently by saying "You have a choice. You can either finish your homework or you can go to time out". This brings me to another important point, which is that time out can sometimes be used by a child as an escape. For example, they don't want to pick up their toys, they throw a tantrum, you put them in time out, and all the sudden the toys are forgotten. For this reason make sure that they complete whatever task it was when they get out of time out.

Also, don't forget about extinction bursts.

Token Economy

A token economy is a specific system of behavior modification based on systematically using positive reinforcement. The initial reinforcer is a token, or some other item with no intrinsic value, which is later exchanged for other, more tangible, reinforcers.

The usefulness of a token economy system is that it allows for an immediate reward for a behavior while at the same time helping the child see that the reward can be even more significant in the future. It also gives the child more control because they can decide to cash in the tokens or save them up. One reason I really like this sort of system is that it allows for mistakes. No one is perfect and kids are going to have bad days. As a child is first working to change their behavior it can be frustrating when they have to get let's say stickers three out of five days, but their week starts out horribly and the mess up the first three days. They have no motivation to behave in the remaining days. A token economy allows for more flexibility and leaves room for bad days.

So here is how you do it:

  • Set goals for your token economy. A token economy is a tool which strives to modify inappropriate behavior and achieve specific goals. These goals can be behavioral
  • Take time to include the child in setting and defining goals
  • Begin by targeting only one to three goals so that the child is not overwhelmed
  • Set point or token values
  • Give a token value to each goal. You may choose to make each goal of equal value or to weight values. In the latter case, values should be assigned with respect to the difficulty of the goal
  • Determine time intervals for assessment. Intervals at which goal attainment will be judged and points will be awarded need to be determined before initiating the token economy. A good rule of thumb is, at the onset of the token economy, the interval should be half as long as the child is able to go without displaying the inappropriate behavior. Gradually, time intervals should be increased.
  • It is important that tokens are awarded contingent upon achieving the pre-specified goals.
  • Keep track of points or tokens earned. Keeping track of tokens earned can be done in many different ways. This allows the child to see and assess his or her progress.The child should always be able to find out how many tokens or points they have earned. Here are some suggestions:
    1) Tokens: Give the student(s) the tokens they have earned or put them in a spot where they can deposit them.

    2) Points: Using a point system is very valuable when targeting more than one
    behavior or goal. The child can see which goals they are reaching and in which areas they can still improve.
    4) A chart can be posted in the house
    in which the child's points are tracked. In this way, a child can see his or her progress over time. Keeping formal records is very important. This will help prevent misunderstandings and disagreements about the rules.
  • Decide on how the child can spend the tokens. A reward menu is typically the best way to do this. Assign each reward on the menu a point cost. Make sure you have a range of rewards.
Some people include a response cost into the token economy, which basically means that they take tokens away for misbehavior. While this can be done, I recommend avoiding doing so if at all possible. Remember that the overall goal here is to reward positive behaviors not to punish negative behaviors.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Switching Things Up

For today's post, I'm going to switch it up and ask my followers for some advice.

Zoey is a wonderful baby. She sleeps through the night no problem. She isn't really that fussy. Heck, she even cut two teeth without us even realizing it.

The problem comes at bath time. She absolutely hates it. We try to make it fun for her and sing and move her legs to splash, but she just screams bloody murder. It's become a matter of let's do this as fast as possible to end the misery. On the nights we give her baths, which is about twice a week due to the fact she hates them so much, we do it right before bed. We started off using an infant tub and then my mom bought her a bath seat to see if that helped, but it didn't really.

Has anyone else had this problem? Any advice on how to help Zoey enjoy her baths more?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reverse Psychology

Power struggles are no fun, but as parents we all too often find ourselves in them with our children. A recent article in Parenting magazine addressed this issue and some reverse psycholgy tricks parents can use to avoid many of them. (Can you tell from my recent posts that I recently got caught up on my magazine reading? Lol!)

Power Struggle: Child makes a huge mess with all their toys and then leaves them in pursuit of another activity.

Reverse Psychology Trick:
  • For younger kids turn clean up time into a game of Beat the Clock.
  • Ask them to be your helper.
  • State things in the positive instead of the negative (i.e. " We can go to the park as soon as you clean up your toys" instead of "You won't get to go to the park today if you don't clean up this mess")

Power Struggle: Child knows that getting their pajamas on means bedtime, so they fight you every step of the way

Reverse Psychology Trick:
  • Play calming music in the background while kids are taking a bath or getting ready for bed. This will relax them without them even realizing it.
  • Ask them three questions in a row that makes them say "yes". This will break their resistant pattern, plus make them feel heard and understood.
  • Offer choices (i.e. Do you want to wear your pink pajamas or you yellow ones)
Power Struggle: Child is a picky eater

Reverse Psychology Trick:
  • Give them small portions of everything you want them to eat and then don't say a word about the food. Don't even give them the opportunity to fight with you.
  • Give them dessert no matter what, but make it small (i.e. a single Hersey's kiss). No more bargaining to get him to eat and since the dessert is small you won't feel like you are giving in and it won't fill them up. So even if they eat dessert first, they will still be hungry and go back to the main entree.
  • Have one, unchanging food alternative your child can make himself if he doesn't want what you are serving. Make it easy, nutritious, and something always on hand (i.e. PB&J). Most children will grow tired of making their own meal after a few times and will eat what you cook.
  • If they refuse to eat anything, say "No problem. You can have a big breakfast in the morning".
  • Stay calm and have no emotional reaction.
Power Struggle: Child wants to wear clothes that you think look silly or are inappropriate for the situation and/or weather

Reverse Psychology Trick:
  • Clean out the closet and put away clothes that are out of season. Rotate items in the closet to allow for fewer choices, and get rid of things you feel are inappropriate (i.e. stained clothes, skirt you don't want her wearing)
  • Pick out a few different outfits the night before and then let the child pick which one they want to wear.
  • Let them learn it the hard way. If they don't want to wear a coat, don't fight it and let them face the consequences (within reason of course). If that seems to harsh, have them put whatever it is (jacket, long pants) in their bag to take with them.

What do you do to avoid power struggles?

Quest for Happiness

As I was reading my Parenting magazine last night, I came across an article that got me thinking about my own quest for happiness. It was about the secrets of happy families. It basically broke down happiness into "Six Essential Tenets".

1) Happiness is basic. Just ask your kids

Basically this states that it is the simple things in life that make us the happiest. The simple things like sleeping enough, eating regular meals, and being active. If you don't do these things you will be fussy.

2) Happiness changes over time

This highlights the fact that the relationship with your kids change over time as the reach new stages of development, and while there is a loss there, you should also think about the new things that are coming.

3) Happiness is contagious

On days when you just aren't feeling too happy, fake it til you make it. Act silly for your kids. This will encourage them to act silly, which will likely put you in a good mood (for real).

4) Happiness can't be controlled

Basically this stresses that you can not try to control the relationships in your life, so the next time your child challenges you try to hear them out. This promotes independent thinking.

5) Happiness doesn't always make you happy

This is highlighted by the fact that parents drive them selves crazy driving kids back and forth to soccer games and dance lessons, but the end result (i.e. a well rounded, social kid) brings them happiness in the end

6) Happiness just happened ... and you missed it

This stresses the importance of memorializing what's happening and embracing what you have right now

So what do you think? Are you following these tenets? What makes you happy?

I realized this morning as I watched through the monitor while my husband kissed our daughter goodbye before leaving for work that those simple moments are what make me happy. It doesn't matter if we have the newest and best things because we have each other. I think I need to practice tenet 6 more and remember to cherish those moments as they happen.