Friday, August 29, 2008

Q & A: Getting Out of Bed in the Morning

The following question came to me in an email:

“In the morning (6:30 AM) our child does not want to get up! He whines and complains and is very grouchy, even though he went to bed on time the night before (8:00 PM). After being called 5 or 6 times he finally gets out of bed and then starts picking fights with the other kids!”

About a week after I got this email, we had the same exact situation in our house with an 8 year old foster daughter. I had to wake her up several times each morning. One morning I woke her up and when I checked 10 minutes later, her bed was empty, so I assumed she was in the bathroom getting ready. When it was about 5 minutes before time to leave for school, I found her, still in her pajamas, sleeping on the floor by her closet!

Logical consequences should be applied for the child who doesn’t want to get up in the morning and remember, the tension is between the child and the consequences. You are on her side, you are her ally, you are just the messenger of the logical consequences so don’t get sucked into a battle, it is not your battle to fight!

Over dinner, or sometime during the evening, sit the child down and explain to him that “we are going to be taking some steps” to insure that he gets the proper amount of sleep at night. Each morning he will be woken up and told that it is time to get up. (Be sure he is really awake, some children – not to mention adults! – can look like they are awake, but still be mostly asleep. Pull back the covers, rub his back, kiss him, pick him up, tickle him, whatever you do, but it should be POSITIVE, not a rude awakening.) After that, if he doesn’t get up and get ready with a good attitude, then he obviously didn’t get enough sleep the night before, so bed time the next night will be 10 minutes earlier. Be true to your word. On the first day, if he doesn’t get up when told, bed time is 10 minutes earlier. If you give “chances,” then you are showing the child that you are NOT a person of your word! The second time, 10 more minutes earlier. No lectures, no yelling, no arguments, no emotion. The consequences speak for themselves, and the child is in complete control of his future bed times. The third time, 10 more minutes earlier. You do this every time, even if it means he is going to bed at 6 PM, or earlier! If he goes a week without problem, bed time can be pushed back 10 minutes until it reaches the original time.

We did this with the 8 year old girl mentioned above and she did great! She didn’t want to lose any playtime in the evening, so she got right up in the morning!

The beauty of this example is that it sets a pattern in the life of the child to learn how to have self-discipline (getting myself out of bed) rather than following the “path of least resistance” (sleeping in). This skill will pay off in huge ways in the future in so many areas!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Time Obedience Part II

Last time we talked about the importance of “First Time Obedience,” and we began a list of tips for parents to help develop the habit of first time obedience. Here is a quick review of the first four tips and a description of four more …

1. Use a positive tone of voice. A positive tone of voice lets children know you respect them.

2. Give lead time, if possible. Give some advance notice that you are going to want something to happen soon.

3. If at all possible, give a choice. By saying to the child, “You can choose to do either this or that,” you empower the child and give him or her a sense of control.

4. If you cannot give a choice, sometimes you can describe the facts of the situation. For example: “It’s time to go home.” or “The table is not for sitting on.”

5. Be reasonable in the type and number of choices or commands you give. You will have to be the judge of how many commands per day are reasonable, but remember, the fewer commands you give the more likely the child will take notice when you do give a command. As the child grows toward puberty, you should need to give fewer and fewer commands. The older the child, the more areas of life should be in his or her own area of control. We do not own children. Any command that orders children around just because the adult wants to wield power over them is not reasonable. Any command that tries to force a bodily function on the child is also unreasonable, “Eat that food” or “Stop wetting your bed” are unreasonable commands.

6. The fewer words the better. Be as brief as possible. Give only one, or at most two commands at a time. Giving too many commands at once is confusing. “Gary, go upstairs and bring me a diaper for the baby, and on your way, turn off those bathroom lights, and when you’re done with that, you can either take the letters on the hallway table out to the mailbox before we watch Sesame Street or before lunch.” This kind of command is too hard to remember even for a very intelligent child. Keep it short, clear and simple. A one word command is sometimes the best. Rather that telling a five year old who knows better to pick up her coat and put in on the rack, simply point at the coat and say “coat,” in an authoritative yet not angry voice. A single word is hard to argue with.

7. Be sure you can follow through with the correction, otherwise do not give the command or choice. If you are in a public place, like the grocery store or at a school play, and you know you will be too embarrassed to carry out the correction, do not give the command. You must be consistent in carrying out the correction the first time the child does not mind. It is better to not give the command than to sabotage yourself by commanding and then not seeing it through.

8. Do not respond to self–indulgent behavior. Concentrate on dealing with the not-minding behavior. Do not let the child’s accusation, complaints, whining, name calling, or scolding deflect you from carrying out the correction for not-minding. You will sabotage yourself if you get hooked into responding in any way to the self-indulgent behavior.

When these tips become habits, they promote first time obedience in children. They are a starting point and form the general foundation for expectations of behavior. In the next post, we will get more specific about how to administer discipline when first time obedience does not happen. We will be looking at the four categories of disobedience and how to specifically address each one with the appropriate discipline.