Two Words That Bring Music to a Moms Ears

By: Lori Radun

It was a typical evening in our home.  Arguments from my teenager, opposition from my preschooler – family dynamics that were driving me crazy.  I don’t remember quite what sent me over the edge.  I do remember reaching my limit.  We’ve all been there.  However, this time, for me, was different.  Usually, I am a flexible and patient parent.  Mrs. Incredible I was not this night.  I was unwilling to stretch any further.  In other words, I developed an immediate no-nonsense attitude and set to work on putting in place a new plan for my children.

I decided my children need to understand what “honor and respect your parents" means.  Sitting in front of my computer, I defined “respect" and “disrespect" in terms my children would understand.  Respect meant saying yes instead of no, listening fast instead of slow, saying okay and doing what I ask them to do, and dealing with their anger appropriately.  Disrespectful behaviors, on the other hand, were talking back, arguing, and ignoring me, yelling or making demeaning remarks. 

Being well educated in behavior management techniques, I set out to create a chart that would be used to reward and discipline respectful and disrespectful behaviors.  At the top of the chart was the big title, “Honor and Respect Your Parents".  Underneath the title were the definitions of respect and disrespect.  A behavior management chart is not complete without the rewards and penalties.  The penalty for disrespect was an automatic check mark and a loss of 4 hours of video/computer/TV time.  The penalty can be whatever one wants.  The important thing is that it is immediate and painful for the child.  I am not advocating physical pain – just taking away something that is important to the child.  On my chart, the reward for respectful behavior was a sticker.  Five stickers was equivalent to one hour of special privilege time.  The chart was divided into 4 sections because I have two children.  The top half was reserved for my teenager and the bottom half was for my preschooler.  Each of them had two sections – one for respect and one for disrespect.  After explaining to my children what was expected of them and how things were going to work, we put the new program into place.

Now, it is very easy to recognize disrespectful behavior because it is annoying and challenging.  However, it is more important to notice the respectful behavior if you are going to make changes in your children.  This is what I did.  Every single time my children responded to me with respectful behavior, I would say, “Wow, you just earned a sticker".  I would put a sticker on the chart immediately.  Another important aspect of this type of system is that all family members are on the same page.  Your expectations are the same for each child.  If you are trying to discourage hitting, for instance, no one is exempt.  One might be tempted to be harder on an older child, and let a toddler slip by.  This will discourage your children if they are not treated fairly.  At the same time, your husband or any other adult responsible for disciplining the children, must also understand and adhere to the new plan.  Make sure you are not in disagreement with other adults in the home or the children will be confused, and behavior changes will not happen.

Now, I knew my four year old would love stickers, but I wasn’t so sure about the ability of stickers to motivate my fourteen year old.  Something unexpected set into motion.  Because I have two boys, the game soon became a competition to get tons of stickers.  There was even a little healthy competition between the two of them to act respectfully.  Now, of course, they tested me to see if I was really serious about penalties for disrespect.  They learned the hard way that I was not going to tolerate disrespect.  A few check marks were issued, but the most exhilarating result was that I am finally hearing two beautiful words most of the time:  “OKAY MOM".  What a change has taken place in our home.  Our environment is more positive and peaceful.  The children are learning an extremely important life lesson.  We have since graduated from “Honor and respect your parents" to “Honor and respect everyone".  This cuts down on sibling disputes and teaches children that everyone is worthy of respect.

This type of behavior management system can be used with any type of child behavior you are trying to change.  Define for your children what the desired and undesirable behavior look like.  Institute a rewards and consequences program that fits your children.  Notice and reward the desired behavior every time you see it.  Immediately and consistently issue a consequence for the undesirable behavior.  Success depends on rewarding the good often, making the consequences for the bad painful, and CONSISTENCY!  Soon, you too, may hear music in your ears or see beauty from your eyes.

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