Friday, August 16, 2013


"But one habit drives out another." Charlotte Mason
This is the third part of the series "When the Kids are Out of Control".
Part 1 was posted June 25 2013, and Part 2, "The Emotional Tank", was posted July 2 2013.
The third piece or part of a solution that brought change to my children who were out of control, was a concept that Charlotte Mason wrote about - ESTABLISHING A RIGHT ACTION IS BETTER THAN PUNISHING OR WORKING TO CHANGE A WRONG ACTION. 
In her writings she explained why my 'telling' a child to stop doing a wrong action, wasn't working ~
  *  I wasn't showing them how to stop the wrong action.
  *  after I had requested they stop, I wasn't following up to ensure they did stop.
  *  so my kids began to ignore me asking them to stop bad behaviour.
  *  soon they were hardly aware that I had asked them to stop misbehaving - they had zoned out to my talking.
Charlotte explained a method to change a bad habit into a new good habit. (I am going to use as an example the habit of the inability to stop talking and interrupting.)
1.) The bad habit has made a record on their brain. 
2.) The only way to remove it is to work towards completely stopping the habit for a period of time - at least a month, during which new brain cells are developing as a new habit is formed. This step is successfully used by drug and alcohol rehabilitation groups.
3.) To have any hope of doing this, you need complete agreement from your child that they want to change this bad habit. To do this you need to make them aware of ~
   * what they will become if they don't stop the bad habit
   * how it will hurt them personally as a teenager and an adult
   * the damage it will bring to relationships in the future.
They must want to change, so you need to think how to present this successfully to your child. I have found it is best to find a happy moment between you and your child to talk through the 3 points above. (some HINTS - for children 11years and up - talk while you drive in the car or walk together, this way they don't feel you are dictating to them but rather you are having a chat. With younger children you need to get their attention so it is best to be able to have regular eye contact with them through the conversation.)
The conversation must be age relevant and appropriate to them personally. Here is an example of such a conversation :
"Vanessa, do you realise that you are always interrupting me and talking over me when I talk with Dad? It happened yesterday too, when I was talking with some of the women at coffee group. I don't like you interrupting me like this. If you keep non-stop talking, when you are 13 and go to high school, like Simon next door, you will be sent out of class by teachers, have caution letters sent home as you're disturbing the class with your talking. Your teenage friends will get sick of you with all that  talking and no listening.
Once you are an adult with a job, your boss will not be happy if you're talking all the time and your work doesn't get done.
Life for you could be pretty unhappy. Is this what you want?
Would you like to learn how to stop talking and interrupting people? I can help you, if you want."
Remember you know your child and how blunt or sensitive you need to be. Whatever you say and however you say it, you must convince them they need to change. So use your imagination and skills in communication.
4.) As the parent, you know exactly when the bad habit regularly pops up. Think about what triggers it. Can you change something to help remove the bad habit? With the habit of non-stop talking and interrupting, it possibly pops up every time you start to talk with your partner, because this is when you give your attention to someone else. It is common for children to want continual free access to their mum or dad - 'parent on tap'. For this reason it would help to spend more time on Ross Campbell's three Emotional Tank fillers - Eye Contact, Physical Contact and Focused Attention (click on "The Emotional Tank" post July 2 2013, link at the top)
5.) Next, think out a plan to establish a new habit. Often the best new plan is the exact opposite of the old bad habit. It must be simple and workable because it must work every time. Go about it quietly and cheerfully, (don't make a big deal about it) just make sure they follow the new plan. 
You may need to arrange a signal with your child to remind them they need to remember what you have talked about, which will bring them back on track rather than going back to the old habit. A signal between you is more powerful than you verbally reminding them what they must do. A signal keeps the choice or responsibility to adopt the new plan, firmly with the child, which is where it needs to be.
Respond regularly with a "well done", a kiss... after they successfully follow through with the new plan. Once again you should increase your Eye Contact, Physical Contact and Focused Attention during the month while the new habit is established.
A plan to stop the habit, non-stop talking and interrupting in a child, is to adopt the habit of listening to other people as they speak. A signal to help a child to remember to not talk and instead to listen, could be, to pass your hand across your mouth and then gently pull out both ears. The hint is simply communicated, and then the child remembers.
Another support for your child while they learn to listen and not talk, is to cuddle them or sit them on your knee as you chat with your partner. If they begin to talk give your arranged signal and increase loving them. Do this as often as possible - make it a priority.
Follow the same plan as much as possible when out. The more practice the quicker and firmer the new habit is established.
6.) It is always best to do a simple, brief reminder on the way as you drive to Grandma's, the coffee group, supermarket.... talk with them about where they are going, what will happen there and what is expected from them there - prepare them. Don't discuss old past failures, keep it positive so they believe they can successfully work with the new plan while they are out. Encourage them, and be available while out for them to come for a cuddle or support if things get hard for them.
7.) The more practice at home you do the quicker the new habit will be in place, simultaneously this is putting an end to the old bad habit. The younger you start this sort of training, the easier it is. 
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ choose one of your children and one of their bad habits and think of its opposite. Decide how to have that conversation to get them onboard and see that they must change. Make your plan and you are off and away - out with the old habit and a new one will soon be established in their life. Enjoy it all and keep positive with the irresistible habit of patience as an example to help them to persevere.

1 comment:

  1. Found this advice very helpful. Have started using it with my children and we are having results :-) Thanks Cathy!!!