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How to Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice

Dave Gordon - Monday, 25 August, 2008
From Jewish Independent
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Parenting is a tough job, and when kids' challenges make it tougher, some parents unwittingly choose the easy, but wrong, responses. Sarah Chana Radcliffe, author and psychologist, wants to change that.

How to Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice is the newest book from Radcliffe, a mother of six, and a parent-educator with three decades of experience in parenting, marriage and individual counselling in Toronto. Her articles appear in numerous publications, and she is a researcher in child and life-span development at the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto. The Jewish Independent spoke to Radcliffe about her parenting techniques.

DG: First, the Jewish question: How is this book different from all other parenting books?

SCR: This one is based on Jewish principles. It's got a little bit of a twist to it. It's got more information than other parenting books on the emotional side of parenting for the parent. Most of the other books deal with what the child needs, without dealing with the parent, a real person who is tired, stressed and going through all kinds of emotional things in their own lives.

DG: It's so hard to inspire children. When parents have this difficulty, they sometimes default by yelling or strong-arming. We want to inspire them to do the right thing, yet so much of parenting seems to be making demands, saying "no," and punishing. Even one criticism can undo 20 previous nice comments. How does a parent turn that around?

SCR: We have to understand the results of our communication.... I mention five main strategies in the book that undo criticizing, complaining and punishing. The philosophy is that the more negativity, the worse the child's behavior will be ... when we realize the worse results that strong-arm tactics get us, that can inspire us to stop using those things. Instead, use what I call the 80/20 rule, which is: use eight out of 10 good feeling communication techniques ... your children will be inspired to co-operate with you, because they know it's easy and they like you and they accept what you have to offer. That includes things like positive feedback, praise and unconditional love; that means treats, hugs and affection. That means just as much at eight o'clock in the morning, when you're trying to get that child to school, as at eight o'clock at night, when you're trying to get that child to bed.... Some kids are born with co-operative genes, and some kids are born difficult. So the job of a parent is more difficult with a difficult child. Positive techniques won't erase that difficulty, but it will minimize it.

DG: I'm interested in knowing how you approach poor behavior, whether the behavior is for attention's sake, or if they're making a simple mistake, or forgetting to do the right thing, or does intention matter?

SCR: No. If you see poor behavior, you want to think about what behavior you're looking for. Then devise an intervention that is more likely to get you that result. If the child is doing this for attention, that's just a note to you to stop giving them that attention ... if you're really nice to them, they'll have less to rebel about.

DG: What is the CLR method you talk about in the book?

SCR: It stands for comment, label and reward. It is a discipline technique but it feels good for the child. It's also an inspirational technique. You focus on what you want, rather than what you don't want. If a child is rough with their smaller sibling, you want the child to be calmer.... As for label, you never use a negative label such as rude, inconsiderate, sloppy, careless, noisy. They may be true labels, but it goes right into the self-concept. No one's words have more impact on a child than a child's parents. They have lasting and enduring impact, even if they hear it once. If the child is being rough with the baby, you take their hand and caress the baby nicely, and say, "See how softly you're touching the baby!" That would be the comment. Then label it: "Look how gentle!" Then you put a reward in for the first few times, like a hug and kiss, as long as the child likes it.

DG: When should the following be used: "Because I said so!"

SCR: That's the anti-arguing rule. Very often a child can learn that he can wear his parents down ... when a child doesn't like the answer he gets from his parents, he keeps asking.... Round 1 is when the child asks the first time. Then he goes to rounds 2 through 10. Eventually, the parent gives up. What the parent teaches that child is that if you're obnoxious or persistent, it pays off. You just keep harassing and you don't care about someone else's feelings, eventually you'll get what you want. Round 1 is the reason, but Round 2 is "Because I said so." You're not looking for the child to outwit you. You're looking for the child to learn to trust you. If "no" is once and a while, you want the child to accept that gracefully.

DG: Are you in favor of monetary rewards for good behavior or good grades?

SCR: In order to change behavior, you have to use rewards or consequences. The preferred is rewards. There is praise, hugs and kisses, a smile, or whether that's money, it's like a bonus that your boss gives you for doing a great job. It works with adults too.

DG: So what bribe mistakes do parents make?

SCR: When the child starts charging you for good behavior: "What would you give me if I eat my vegetables?"

We can use Grandma's Rule: "As soon as you do this, I'll take you to the park." That holds the power in the parent's hands ... it's a huge psychological difference. Another way is by surprise: "You went to bed on time, and I think that deserves such and such."

DG: Some parents believe they can treat their children in any way they want to, so long as they feel the message is important. We know that if your kids can't stand you, they're not going to accept your values. With entrenched behavior, is it still possible to turn things around?

SCR: You can start anytime. Children will accept parental love throughout their lifespan. They're just waiting for a parent to turn around and say, "I'm sorry, and I used all of those heavy-handed techniques because I thought it would help you. But I now know it was wrong. I've hurt you. I want to repair that from this day forward and try never to do that ever again."



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