May 30, 2007

Children "Disrespecting" Parents

Letter from a Concerned Father

Hi Mac,

I thinking of buying you DVD “Parenting with Dignity”, but I have an issue right now and I would like to get you advice if I may.

I have a 12 yrs old son that has a great talent with music especially with all kinds of drums, also, he is learning the guitar.

My son has been very disrespectful with mom and dad and we tolled him that if he continues disrespecting us we will take the guitar a way and the drums will come next.

Well he disrespect mom and we took the guitar away. Now I do not know if this is a good thing we as parents are doing. What do you think we should do and how should we resolve or approach it. We are going to talk this weekend and I would appreciate if I can get some advice so I can have a better solution to implement.

Concerned Father

An Answer from Mac

Dear Father,

You are doing a wonderful thing in seeking advice and help with raising your son! Few parents have all of the answers when their children are born! The only way to get better at anything is to seek and ask for the help you need. Your son is lucky to have you for a dad. As long as you keep asking you will find the help you so desire.

Specific Help

Now for some specific help with your problem with your son:

Define Terms

You say he is “disrespecting his mother and father”. I have no idea what that means and imagine that your son does not either. The term “disrespect” is so overused in our society today that nobody really knows what it means… but people fight over that word daily. That term can mean anything from swearing to making faces or gestures. From your letter I have no idea what you mean. I doubt that your son knows what you mean either. If you wish to communicate with your son, you must be precise. Define the terms you are using for him.

Telling a Child What They Did Wrong is NO HELP!

And now we get to the real core issue, even if your definition is precise… that definition still is of no help to your son! It does not teach him one thing about the behavior that you want him to use!

Can you tell me what you want him TO DO? You tell me what he is doing wrong in very general terms like “being disrespectful”. But you say nothing to me about what it is that you want him to do. If you cannot tell me what you want him TO DO, I doubt that your son knows what you want him TO DO! The first thing that you and your wife must do is to sit down and define precisely what you want your son to do when he speaks to either of you. If you want him to speak differently to his mother that he speaks to you then you must explain those differences. Most important, you must explain to your son WHY he should choose to do as you are instructing.

Rule number #1 in our Parenting with Dignity curriculum states that “Parents must end any criticism with a positive statement of the expected behavior.” Put in very simple terms, “you must tell your child exactly what it is that you want him TO DO, in behavioral terms that he understands!” Tell him what you want! You have not told me what it is that you want your son to do so I will have a hard time structuring your actions.

Next, can you tell me what taking the guitar or drums away from your son will teach him about respect? What do guitars and drums have to do with respect? How do you propose that taking away something that he is good at will make him good at something else? I know that is a technique that many parents employ but just look at how well it is working for them.

Taking the drums away from your son does not help him to know what behaviors you want him to use. Only you can teach him that. About all that taking the drums away form him will do is make him mad and give him reason to not respect you. As long as he has you to blame he does not have to deal with his own behavior!

Let me put it this way… you contacted me for advice about how to deal with your son’s behavior. How well would it have worked if I just wrote back to you that I was going to take away your TV until you raised him correctly? …and that was all that I said to you.

How well would that work? Not very well, right? You are looking for instruction about what TO DO to elicit the proper behavior from your son. Telling you that what you are doing is wrong and then removing privileges does not teach you what to do. Are you getting the picture? You need specific instructions about the positive actions to take… and so does your son!

What your son needs is instruction in how you wish him to speak to his mother. That instruction must include very complete and detailed descriptions of the desired tone of voice and the desired word selection. Your son needs you to explain what body language and facial expressions he should use when speaking to his parents. About the only way that you can teach facial expression is to demonstrate to him exactly what you want him to look like when he speaks to the two you parents.

You should also explain how he should make his decisions about how he treats other people in general. Your son needs instruction about how to act. He needs to know that people who act and speak respectfully are treated in a much better manner by others than people who are surly and nasty. He does not need to have you withholding things from him that he does well. Just about all that will do for you is to build resentment in your son!

Once you have explained to him how it is that you expect him to act and speak when he talks to you then you must let your actions do your teaching! Once he has demonstrated to you that he understands how you expect him to act and speak to you, you must never, ever respond to any words he uses that are not expressed in precisely the expected manner. I hate to tell you this but you have taught him to talk in the manner that he does right now! If he speaks in a rude manner to his mother and it gets your attention and gets you to react ot him, that disrespectful manner of speaking has just worked for him. He has learned precisely how to control you! He can make you jump and shout by just talking in a rude manner to his mother! E will never know what he is trying to do by his current “disrespectful” behavior but we do not need to.

You must demonstrate to your son that people who speak in that manner are not listened to in your home. Do not tell him… show him! Let your actions speak. Disrespectful comments are simply ignored by you and his mother.

Then the inute that he speaks in the desired manner, give him your undivided and cheerful attention. Let your actions do the teaching.

If your son is at the dinner table and he starts to speak in a disrespectful (whatever you define that to be) manner, get up and leave the room. If he is in the living room and he does it again, turn off the TV and leave the room. If he asks you to do something in a disrespectful manner, just ignore him. Let your actions speak for you. As long as he insists in speaking in a manner other than the one that you have explained to him, let him see that all it gets for him is that others ignore everything that he says.

Keep your anger out of the equation. Do not get angry and do not lecture. Absolutely do not try to teach him during the time that he is acting in the undesired manner. If you feel that he is not understanding what you mean, wait until some time when he is calm and you are calm and explain to him again how you want him to act. Write it down and give it to him. Have him repeat back to you what you expect of him. Keep explaining it to him until he does as you have instructed.

May 25, 2007

Is it ADD/ADHD or Just Bad Behavior - Part 3

ADD – Attention Divided by Divorce?

It is interesting to note that ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, is being diagnosed at ever higher rates these days. Doctors and school professionals seem to find more ADD everywhere that they look. It seems that there is an epidemic of this "disease" that seems to hit young kids.

I would like to weigh in with another of my thoughts on the subject of ADD. I will offer today’s thoughts just so that you have another new idea to chew on. In this article I am not attempting to place blame on anyone. Rather I am offering today’s statements just to cause some folks to think a little bit about their situation just to see if it might be possible to improve the situation of a few children.

It is pretty interesting to me that the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder has risen concurrently with the rise in the national divorce rate! Now, I want you to know that I am NOT claiming any scientific study linking divorce with ADD. I am just saying that I have observed some interesting coincidences between the two while teaching! It seemed that an inordinate number of the kids with ADD were also children of divorce.

Then, I read a number of articles and essays that said that some cases of ADD could be linked to the child not being paid attention to by adults, parents, and teachers. It occurred to me that some of what I was seeing diagnosed as ADD/ADHD could be attributed to the child just seeking attention from adults! As a matter of fact, as we were running some of our early Parenting with Dignity Classes, we found that many parents told us that their children’s Hyperactive Behavior really decreased when they did the assignment for Lessons 5&6 in our curriculum!

When parents offered regular messages of unconditional love to their children, they found that many of those kids decreased their hyperactivity. To us that said that Attention Deficit Disorder for some kids was just a deficit of attention being paid to them by adults.

I know that was true in my classroom. Many kids who showed some of the characteristics of ADD like apparent lack of attention span and inability to concentrate changed markedly when I found time to give them some undivided attention of a positive nature!
Divorce and Lack of Attention

“So what does this have to do with divorce?” you ask. Well, stop and think for a second. Many children of divorce find that their parents’ attention becomes rather divided and random as the divorce is taking place and the parents are working out their differences that sometimes include contentious child custody issues.

As a matter of fact a few years ago, a father from the Boston area contacted me wanting me to support some Father’s Rights issues back there in Massachusetts and among other things he made the comment that many of the divorced fathers were noticing ADD issues with their children.
Be Careful to Give Positive Attention to Children

So what is the point? Just this… if your family is or has gone through a divorce, be extremely careful to give your children lots of positive attention and expressions of love! I am not proposing that all ADD could be traced to divorce or lack of positive parental attention. All I am saying is be on the lookout for opportunities to give your children added attention at times of stress. Just be aware of any Deficit of Attention that your child may be experiencing.

May 23, 2007

Is it ADD/ADHD or Just Bad Behavior - Part 2

Why am I including an article on learning disabilities in a Blog about parenting? Two reasons: first, because so many parents come to me wondering about kids and hyperactivity; second, because the success rate for teaching coping and adapting skills for learning disabilities goes up exponentially if the process is started early.

Fear Factor

I receive so many questions about Attention Deficit Disorder and I find that many parents are so frightened about it.

The BIG Mistake

The biggest mistake I see so many parents making when it comes to ADD/ADHD and other learning disabilities is thinking that diagnosis of a learning disability and labeling of a child with the name of a "disease" somehow helps in some way! To me that is as foolish as going to the doctor and having him tell you that your child has Strep Throat without doing anything to help the child get over the infection!

It seems to me to be a universal dilemma to find someone who has been diagnosed with ADD who has been given NO tools for coping with the diagnosis!

I meet kids and adults all the time who tell me, "I (or my child) has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD."

I always ask, "What is your number one strategy for dealing effectively with your situation?" Most everyone answers with a blank stare. Someone has diagnosed a problem but done little or nothing to teach compensation or adaptation skills!

A Clear Definition - Hard to Find

When I ask for a definition of ADD/ADHD from these parents who are scared of it, everyone seems to give me a different definition. Not many people have a clear picture of what they are dealing with. As a matter of fact, I spent three entire days on the Internet, trying to find a clear definition of ADD/ADHD. I found myself in the same fix I was in as a teacher. I saw an extremely vague label being used to make decisions about teaching children. I went to 33 websites dealing in various ways with the syndrome, and only one had a definition of ADD/ADHD I could use to identify whether a child had it.

It's not too surprising that this man offering a clear definition was also the one authority who had solid procedures for helping a child adapt to this unique way of perceiving the world. That one wonderful article helped me understand why so many people have trouble working with kids who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

I have since met that author, Dr. Ned Hallowell, who wrote the article, and Ned and I share many beliefs about raising self-sufficient, self-reliant kids. Dr. Hallowell has not only studied ADD/ADHD, he has it!

A Real Authority

So, to me, he's a real authority. He helped me to understand I was not wrong to think of ADD/ADHD as a unique level of talent and exceptional intelligence. In fact, the "disease" has been one of the major contributors to his success!

With his permission, I have included a link to his website where you can go to read about his amazingly successful work with children with ADD/ADHD.

The main point in today’s article is that before taking any action after suspecting that a child has ADD (or any learning disorders for that matter) you must decide what definition you are going to use to define what you are talking about.

Next, and of most importance, you must commit to never labeling any difficulty that you may perceive your child to be having, without finding some tools for teaching that child to deal with whatever you perceive to be a problem.

The Only Important Question

As a parent, the only important thing to establish is “How am I going to help my child to adapt and learn to use the abilities and capabilities that they have to be an independent and self-reliant and capable person!”
(I must go on record as saying that using drugs as a first approach borders upon irresponsibility. Drugs can have a role in treating some learning disabilities, but they ought to be used as a last resort and they must be carefully monitored. Often the side effects can be worse than any natural difficulty your child might be experiencing.)

Check back for my next article in this Blog, as I will offer some very specific techniques for teaching a child to use their special capabilities! (If you would like to read more please get my books, Parenting with Dignity, and Parenting with Dignity; The Early Years.

May 21, 2007

"Is It ADD or Just Bad Behavior?"

Another Name for ADD; Call it Intelligence!

Whatever you do, do not try to make your active toddler behave like every other child. If your child is highly active, give your child more to do. Give the active little person ways to make constructive use of that extra energy. You will probably have to plan ahead because you will not be able to think as fast as your highly intelligent child does! You might have to stay up late one day, thinking of ways to challenge that child the next day.

Learning Disabilities Are Real -

But Everything Does NOT Need a Label

Please, please, please, do not jump to conclusions here and stop reading. I am not dismissing learning disabilities as nonexistent. They are real and may come in varying degrees. What I am saying is that with a child under the age of six, it is really foolish to jump to such far-reaching conclusions and make sweeping diagnoses based on those kinds of differences. I believe that in many cases, highly active children are just very intelligent! It takes more to entertain a highly intelligent human being. Unfortunately, most strategies for dealing with thise kids actually involve "dumbing them down" to act like the rest of us slow thinkers! Sometimes we even drug kids to make them act like the rest of us who can only do one thing at a time!

Drugs like Ritilin (Methylphenidate; also spelled Ritalin) may have their place; but certainly they ought not to be the first avenue of action!

Still, with so much talk about Attention Deficit Disorder these days, anyone with a normally active toddler is probably wondering if his or her child is really "normal." It's easy for a worn-out parent with too much on his/her plate to think there must be something "wrong" with this small person who will not wind down. "Who put the Energizer battery in this kid?"

Let's use Attention Deficit Disorder /Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADD/ADHD) as the most common example and discuss it in a bit of detail in a few articles; though you will see over the next few articles, that I detest slapping labels on children. Stay tuned for the next few days as I will suggest tools for dealing with supposed learning disabilities.