A huge Ah-hah! moment for me

Monday, July 20, 2009


Summer Daze

Luckily, our children are all pretty well behaved for other people.  However, one of our children is especially adored by everyone he meets. Teachers, coaches, parents, babysitters, camp counselors...you name it, they adore him.  He is very charismatic. He wins every award there is for being a good student/classmate/teammate/camper/Christian/citizen.  If there is an award, he is the winner.  However, Mr. Award winner would often display less than winning behavior at home.  He would talk back very disrespectfully to me and my husband.  He would rage and throw fits sometimes.  It really tried my patience and it went on and off  for a couple of years.  Whenever I tried to confide in someone about his behavior, they stared at me in utter disbelief and responded by saying, "Not Mr. polite, hard working, award winner?! That is so unlike him." I definitely I had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation going on.

We tried everything.  I tried the Smart Discipline charts.  I took away consequences.  I yelled. I even took said child to a therapist last year.  No one else saw his outbursts. No one else even believed that he had outbursts. In fact, I think the therapist thought Dave and I were making it all up. Like everyone else, she fell in love with the child. I fired her.

Just a few weeks ago, I was at my wits end again.  The talking back had gotten completely out of hand. In desperation, I pulled out my favorite books on discipline.  Something led me to an old standby (8 weeks to a well behaved child).  While re-reading some of the chapters I had an epiphany.  I realized that when my son talks back disrespectfully to me, I drop everything that I am doing and give him my full attention.  It is negative attention for sure but it is attention nonetheless.   I do not tolerate disrespect so I go to great lengths to address his behavior.  In sum, he was getting A LOT of one on one attention for being disrespectful at home.

I went on to realize that "Mr. Awards" is so well behaved elsewhere because he is lavishly rewarded for being good (at school, camp, church etc).  I expect my children to behave at home and while I do praise them sometimes, I don't lay it on too thick.  This particular child responds to attention and praise (he even told me it is his love language) but I was giving attention to the wrong behavior. 

So I had to do something that felt so instinctually wrong to me.  I had to completely and utterly ignore his talking back and disrespect.  I did not blink.  I did not punish or take away privileges. I totally ignored his outbursts. Sometimes, he would repeat his attitude filled responses but I prevailed.  I ignored.  Then, I would start throwing around lavish praise for anything I saw him doing well.  "I love the way you put your dishes in the dishwasher after breakfast, young man." "Thank you for brushing your teeth the  first time I asked." Guess what? It has only been a little over a week, but the talking back has almost disappeared.  He is so much easier and his little face glows whenever I praise him for doing what I was expecting from him all along.  I never in a million years would have thought that ignoring disrespectful behavior would yield more respectful behavior but for this particular child, it was the answer.

I hope this helps someone else out there.  

46 comments:

  1. Kim,
    My oldest is now 15. There are still moments when I wonder what monster has inhabited my beautiful, sweet-hearted girl. I was brought to my knees last December when I found out she had snuck (?) out of our house after we went to sleep. I will tell you honestly that I just broke down.

    I told her, with tears streaming down my face, how she had betrayed all that her Dad and I had taught her, how she betrayed our trust, and then very carefully explained to her the danger she had placed herself in... I WAS GUTTED.

    I think once she saw how her actions could negatively impact the whole family - she had an 'a-ha' moment herself. We have always been close, but I think having her see how her actions just destroyed me, made her think twice about the 'typical' teenaged rebellion thing.

    I didn't use my emotions as a guilt mechanism, or manipulation - I just, for nearly the first time, showed her I am a human being.

    Stick with it - it will get harder, but it is sooooo worth it. Thoughful, caring children grow into fabulous adults but they don't do it on their own. Good for you on taking the steps to correct the situation and move forward...

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is amazing. How awesome that you figured it out!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh Kim, I admire your stamina greatly!! I have to discipline each of my children differently due to their different personalities (and love languages!) I'm going to check out the book. I have one who seeks attention...good or bad. We recognize that and have tried to be more positive but I haven't gone all out like you did. Maybe that's what we need to do. Thanks for posting about it.

    ~Lynn

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kim, this is awesome advice, it just makes so much sense! I don't have this behavior in my house, but my neighbor who is a good friend, has discussed this with me about her daughter (my daughters bff), and I'll have to mention this to her.

    I LOVE this photo by the way - it had me at hello, as trite as that sounds. I just love the action in it, with Will's stillness peaking through. Excellent shot!

    ReplyDelete
  5. So interesting...and I know from the classroom teacher perspective...it's so true. Some kids will do anything for ANY kind of attention. Likewise...I have had parents tell me how disrespectful their children are at home and I look at them in shock.
    I am telling my friend about this book. She is already at her wits end with her EXTREMELY disrespectful, foul and sarcastic mouth, five year old. Thanks for sharing - and I love, love, love the picture!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I know your frustration! My 3.5 year old was starting to act out. This was new to us because our 6.5 year old is overall pretty lovely. I beat myself up over it. I bought "How To Behave So Your Preschooler Will Too" and read it flying to and from a Florida trip.

    My husband giggled when he noticed the book. He said that all she wanted was attention.

    We ignored her, and it was a stage, but I know we may unfortunately be faced with this behavior again as our three children grow.

    Although it is rough sometimes behind closed doors, doesn't it just melt your heart when you hear others say kind words towards your children?

    Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  7. We have a similar situation in our home. Not really back talk but other issues that are on the same level. I realized the other day that I was spending all my time being positive with my two year old to encourage her to behave but negative to my eleven year old. I have been making a bigger effort to praise him and to make time together having fun.

    Thanks for your post!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love this! Thanks for sharing! It's an encouraging post and something I will definitely keep in mind for the children I pray are in my future!

    ReplyDelete
  9. For the life of me, I can't understand how this would work but I'm not doubting that it does. I guess I just don't "get" how a kid who clearly loves to be praised could desire attention enough to not care how the attention was manifested. Kinda like having an itch and not caring whether you scratch it with a fingernail or with chain saw?

    I suspect we'll be dealing with this sort of thing soon as youngest daughter sounds a lot like your son. I'm going to give your method a try (and I'm also getting that book!).

    Donna
    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This makes perfect sense!! Move over Dr Phil you got some competition (and she is prettier)!

    PS Love the ACTION PHOTO...how do you DO THAT!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. As a teacher, I use that approach in my classroom often. What you described goes back to basic behaviorism. Look up the functions of behavior. Most behaviorists believe that you can classify all behavior in to one of the four functions and attention is one biggest ones. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Buddy might be one of those. I am going to sample it and see what happens! Thanks for sharing. I'll keep you posted.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am going to check that book out..
    I had to do a different way of parenting with my middle son.. he was just over the top... and would drive me crazy.. couldn't understand...
    Now havent' many years of finally figuring it out.. we have a good relationship..
    thanks for the post..
    Hugs..
    Have a great week..

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well I give you big kudos for ignoring it, because I gave this method a try a while back and it was probably me that screwed it up. I stink at the ignoring part....guess I'm going to give it another try & now that I know it works, it will give me more desire to push through. Thanks for sharing Kim.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Kim. I believe you wrote this post for me . I have one who has pulled the wool over everyones eyes as well. I am going to implement your plan asap. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Bravo to you, Kim, for sticking with this and being willing to think outside the box to come up with solutions. I can't for the life of me figure out which peanut you're describing, though, because they were all definitely angels at our house!

    You are a wonderful mom and a real blessing to Dave and to your children.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post! Hard to remember as kids get older that sometimes they use those negative attention ploys that we (the parents) thought they had grown out of. Good for you for figuring it out!

    Janet

    ReplyDelete
  18. The Tongginator is just like this... recently I began the Ignore or Remove plan. I either ignore her ; sometimes or I simply point to her room. Either way she loses the attention she craves. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Kim - this is such a good reminder. I KNOW this, but SO OFTEN fail to do it. There are so many things to criticize them about during the day...where do your shoes go...I told you to brush your teeth...stop teasing your sister...it's your turn to set the table and I told you 3 times already...but they do so many things right and those things are often overlooked...ugh! Thanks for the reminder. I have one that is suddenly struggling with anger. I don't tolerate anger well and then today he lied about something. I disciplined him in front of everyone...bad mistake...he already feels tormented by his sibs. I promise to point out and praise at least 5 wonderful things about him tomorrow!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for the tip! I am sure I will need it sooner, than later!

    ReplyDelete
  21. that is such great advice ... i have tucked it away because i am sure that someday i, too, will need to be reminded of this! hope kate is feeling better. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  22. What a great a-ha moment! Congratulations!

    I have another book for you as well, that has been life changing for us - 'How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk.' It is a very similar idea. My hub and I took a class given by our school counselor that was based on this book.

    His theory (and the book's theory) is that 95% of the time, or so, our kids are doing what they should be doing. And we don't comment. Kind of like you said, most of us forget to notice our child's actions, until we see a problem.

    Our counselor, however, had something called 'evidence of success.' You notice an appropriate behavior your child is doing, something you'd like to see them do more of, and you comment on it, first neutrally. "You cleaned your room with a positive attitude." Then you add a personality characteristic to you. "That makes you responsible." The idea is for the child to start to think of himself in this new way, and to feel 'built up.' Instead of focusing too much on praise, "I love the way you..." or "thank you for...", which is more about you, it is supposed to be all about them and their accomplishments.

    That being said - I like praise still, and don't think it hurts! Sounds like it is working great for you.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Kim,
    I was just struck as I read this post with appreciation for your candor. Thanks for your courage to share this--it's exactly why I read your blog. I always learn something from you, whether the topic is parenting, decorating, great clothing tips or a life lesson. Thanks so much for sharing this, and I'm beyond delighted that you're back!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Brilliant! I know that certain children (not naming any names :)) will do this and it pushes my buttons so that I get pulled right into it trying to fix it. It is so hard to just let it go (for me, anyway). I'm going to try your approach and see how it goes. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Once again, you have spread out your love for your children for the rest of us to learn. This is what I just love about you!! THANKS!!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Kim..thanks for this post! We are really struggling with our 3 1/2 year old right now-the other day I told her no and she actually spit! I was appalled...my sweet little Sophie all dressed up pretty in her Matilda Jane spit on the floor! The only problem I foresee with the ignoring is many times she takes out her anger at her sister...I'm not sure what message I would be sending her sister if I don't address it? I should just get the book...I'm sure they talk about this issue in there!

    Anyway...I am so happy this worked for your family...and thanks again for your honesty!

    ReplyDelete
  27. You just described my 8 year old son perfectly. He is visiting his grandparents (who never see the backtalk or outbursts - just like you described) this week. I am going to make an effort to really "catch him" being good and ignore the eye rolling for a change!

    Thanks so much for your helpful, honest post.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I may just try that too! And while I love the content of the blog, I love that photo even more. How in the world did you do that?

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  29. Kim, it's so good to have you back. I honestly missed reading your blog. I have to tell you that I have gone through the same thing with our 7 y.o. She is very different at home and my friends don't believe me. I hope it's a stage.

    I wanted to ask you, a while back you wrote about a water bottle you send the kids to school with. I don't remember the brand, and I wanted to know you opinion of it. Does it keep the water cool? Does it leak? Please let me know.

    I wrote you last year asking for you input on paint colors for our daughter's room...stop by and see what see what we did, she had to have PINK!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thank you so much for this post, it was a wonderful reminder that I needed this evening!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Kim,

    Thank you SO much posting this! I am having a nearly identical situation with my oldest daughter. With the same response, people just don't see what we do at home. I have also tried the Smart Discipline, doesn't work, she doesn't care if she loses things. I will give this a shot and see what we can do at home and hope that we too can have that ahh-ha moment! Thank you again for sharing it is greatly appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  32. You always give such wonderful advice. Thank you! And right when this mom with all 3 kids at home without much time at camp needed it! You're the best.

    ReplyDelete
  33. just trying again and checking to see if you receive this - so good being able to catch up today

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thanks for sharing. I, like you, do not tolerate disrespect and pounce when it occurs. One of my boys is a MAJOR canidate for this approach. Being a working mom, there are a lot of days where my time with the boys is shared with cooking, cleaning, etc. He wants my time and attention and has found that the misbehaving gets him what he wants even though it is in a negative way. I have been making sure he gets one on one time with me with NO DISTRACTIONS each day for the last few days and have PRAISED heavily his positive behavior. Just 2 days and it is already working. When he did have one outburst, I calmly sent him to his room until he was ready to talk respectfully about his problem. Thanks so much for sharing this approach. It does go agains every instinct I have...but it is working :)

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hmmmm.....it seems I have a few said children like this in my house.....perhaps I need to try this as well....makes total and complete sense....not the first logic that would come to mind when you are fighting the battle....thank you for this post.....enlightening!

    hugs,
    Steffie

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you, thank you for reopening your blog to the public! I have lurked and read your blog for a long time, and was so sad to see you were going private (although I did understand). I am happy to be back and will once again visit daily!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hey there!!! I'm so happy you're back!!! I missed your family updates and appreciate your pointers and wisdom so much!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I have a child that sounds very similar!!! I will try this!! Thank you for the advice!

    Debbie

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hmmm...sounds like Eli. Perhaps I should try your method.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Love, love, love yoru blog!! Thank you for reopening it! Love languages.... just makes sense!!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thanks for the book recommendation. It is hard to remember to ignore the behaviors I don't want because those behaviors are the ones that grate on my last nerve the most. I am not sure if this is still a private blog but I was able to access it and can't rememeber if I was invited. I have a poor memory as it is but I wanted to let you know that you might want to check the private status on this blog. Thank you if I am invited though.

    ReplyDelete
  42. It was great to catch up with your blog again. Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate being allowed to follow along with your lives. Your writing is so down to earth and you so often give good advice whether it's parenting or decorating, so thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Oh, I am so thankful that you discovered the source of this behavior. I am so sorry that you all have been going through that. I know this little charmer as he has stolen my heart.
    Thank you for sharing.....this is something that I realize happens yet it is so difficult to recognize. I believe we may have some of that going on as well.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I love this post. In.Every.Way. What a blessing to share with other families what you have learned. I completely dig your transparency and am overly grateful for your willingness to put this subject out there. I may need this for both my pretty princesses but I suspect is it the smaller of the two who will challenge us the most...she has shown us glimpses - ugh!

    Sounds like things are going so well! Enjoy!!!

    Love,
    Heather

    ReplyDelete
  45. Great advice. Thank you!
    Alyzabeth's Mommy for Ten Months!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I am SO going to try ignoring him. Thanks Kim...

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your kindness.