Dear EP Readers, This is the last week that we'll be featuring winning entries from our recent EP Contest in our blog. We appreciate all the parents who wrote in with suggestions for Parenting Mistakes I've Made and How I'm Going to Fix Them!
To all of our winners, thank you once again for the encouragement and inspiration you offer you have truly empowered other parents out there with your words!
—Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor
How a Mom of 9 Stopped Backtalk and Yelling in Her Home
I'm the mother of 9 children. The parenting mistake I made in the past was allowing my children to backtalk and yell during a disagreement. The method I use now is to stop the show by telling my children I will walk away from this argument until you can talk in a respectful tone. I then follow through. My child/children will usually come back to me and apologize and ask that we talk about the problem again. This method is pretty effective. In fact, it worked immediately upon using it! Thank you for your help in many areas of my family's life.
Carla: Kids know how to push our buttons and drag us into arguments which makes Stopping the Show one of the hardest tools to implement! Nice work! Megan Devine, 1-on-1 Coach
Using a Rewards Chart for Our Boys (It Works for Our Son with ADD, Too!)
By Jeanette West
The biggest mistake we have made (and there have been plenty) is not having a clear game plan for success. Our kids were used to a lifestyle of constant rewards and few consequences.
We have recently implemented a level system with extra rewards for remaining on the highest level in 5-day increments. Because our two boys are far apart in age and extremely different in temperament and in the things they value, these levels have some minor differences. The rewards are also very different. Having the level system posted, and a blank calendar on which we write their current level each day, allows them to know what privileges they can enjoy for the day. Also posted are the rules they are expected to follow, along with how far they will drop on the levels if violated (such as 1 level for leaving trash all over the floor, to the lowest level if they break the law or physically hurt someone). Levels move up one day at a time as rules are followed.
When really needed, we will even help the boys accomplish what they need to do in order to reach the next level. One of them struggles with depression and has ADD. If things get too overwhelming, one of us will work alongside him to clean up or organize. This works best for him because he feels most loved when spending time individually with people. The other boy feels loved when getting hugs or chances to cuddle, so appropriate physical expressions of love as small rewards as he works to accomplish what he needs to do (i.e. walk the dogs) encourage and motivate him.
Our biggest challenge with this system is to remind the boys they are earning privileges and rewards with good behavior in order to move them up to higher levels. With time, I'm certain they will begin to see the value of good choices more than the negative consequences of poor choices. Life for all of us is a mix of both. Enjoying the fruits of our labor, and recognizing them as such, is the motivator we hope to instill in our kids.
Jeanette: Recognizing when kids with ADHD diagnoses are overwhelmed is an important skill. Breaking down the tasks and coaching him through it is a great technique! Sometimes parents get so frustrated at how long a task is taking that they step in and do it themselves glad to hear you are willing to stand back and act as your son's coach, rather than jump in and get it done. Megan Devine, 1-on-1 Coach
A Small Change That Made a Big Impact
By Cheryl Kaye
Being a full-time teacher, wife and mother of two is an exhausting responsibility. Add in three little dogs, four independent cats, one hamster, two birds and two horses and it becomes quite a challenge to make sure everyone is fed and cared for properly!
In our family, everyone has morning and afternoon chores. To make it easy for us all to remember, I post a piece of paper on the refrigerator listing the chores or tasks that need to be done. Previously, I would be the person that put a checkmark next to the chore that was done by each of my children. This gave me the power, or so I thought. It also created tension and stress for the kids, as well as myself. No one was happy.
To alleviate these unproductive feelings, I decided to do something that worked for me, with my students, in my classroom.
I told my two kids, "As of today, you will now be in charge of checking off your own tasks everyday, not me." This gave the power and responsibility back to my two children. They are now anxious to do their own chores so they can check off their lists themselves! I love it, and so do they.
This small change made a huge difference, and has changed the environment of our home.
Cheryl: This is a great example of how small changes can have a big impact. Giving kids more responsibility can really give them a sense of control over their own choices. Great job! Megan Devine, 1-on-1 Coach
How We Stopped Nagging Our 20-year-old Son
By Renee Dietz
My husband and I were tired of nagging our 20-year-old to pick up after himself. We knew the nagging was not productive, but it seemed whenever he was around we were always giving him a hard time about something. It did not help our relationship. We began a new system with sticky notepads. Each of us had a different colored small 2-by-1 inch sticky notepad. Whenever we see something that is left out that needs to be put away, (such as dirty dishes on the counter, a cupboard door left open, dirty clothes or coats left on the floor) we put one of our colored notes on the item. This is a signal to the other two members of the family that says "That's not my responsibility—I don't need to take care of it." Then if another family member sees the item and realizes it's not something they left out, they add their own colored note. When the person sees the item with the sticky notes on it, he/she immediately sees a visual reminder that they need to take care of it. We don't write anything on the paper—just seeing the colored note gets the message across.
This method has totally eliminated nagging in our house and we can focus on conversations that are positive. As a result, our relationship has greatly improved.
Renee: What an inventive way to avoid arguments and power struggles! Nice work please keep in touch and let us know how it's going. Megan Devine, 1-on-1 Coach
*Thanks again to all who submitted entries for our first contest of 2010, Parenting Mistakes I've Made and How I'm Going to Fix Them!
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.