Welcome to Day 2 of our “book club”! We’re going chapter by chapter through Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman. Today’s chapter is called, “Disarming the Dude (or Dudette) with the ‘Tude”. And that’s really it, isn’t it? If my kids would just have a good attitude, I wouldn’t really care what they do!
Dr. Leman says the most important ABCs are: Attitude, Behavior and Character. The goal of parenting is to make sure our kids get these ABCs right. Today we’ll begin with Attitude. The hard part of attitude is that “attitudes are caught, not taught.” Dr. Leman suggests that if we want our kids’ attitudes to change, we have to change ours first.
You’ve seen it before. When kids are yelling and screaming…then their parents walk up and do the same. Its obvious where the kids are getting it from.
It’s not just our attitude WHILE they are disobeying. It’s our general attitude ABOUT our kids’ behavior. Dr. Leman gives the example of a mom taking the kids to the grocery store and right before they enter mom says, “Remember, no fighting. Keep your hands to yourself. And if you don’t, there won’t be any treats for you…” This mom is effectively saying, “I expect you to misbehave and you better not.” Isn’t that sad? I do this all the time! I tell Lydia how I do NOT want her to act and I’m teaching her to make trouble! It’s reinforcing what we talked about yesterday–that my kids get attention from me when they misbehave.
To help with our attitude, Dr. Leman suggests asking these questions about your child’s behavior:
1. What is the purposive nature of the behavior?
2. How do you feel in this situation?
3. Is this a mountain or a molehill?
When you realize why a child is acting the way they are and when you can see clearly your emotions it will help you realize how “big” the situation really is. Then you’ll be able to attack it in a better way. It’s true that sometimes I am so aggravated over a situation that I turn it into a mountain instead of treating it like a molehill. This gets consequent discipline out of whack, too because you have to build on what you’ve previously done!
All of this leads us to Character. Character is who are kids are on the inside. Are our children caring about others before themselves? Are they respectful, do they have manners, tell the truth, self-motivated, punctual, bothered by sin, selfish, kind, a champion for the weak, obedient, use bad words and a hard worker?
How do we do this? Dr. Leman gives 3 simple steps (one more time, Oso!) if you want your children to have a “respectful, kind Attitude, to have Behavior that you’ll want to write your grandma about, and to have Character that reveals itself as true-blue even when you aren’t watching.”
1. Let reality be the teacher.
Dr. Leman coined the term “reality discipline” which means letting nature take its course. It means we don’t rescue our kids from “the consequences of failed responsibility.” Instead of thinking up new and big punishments, let natural consequences help you.
Example: Your son doesn’t do his science project. Don’t rescue him and stay up the night before to do it. Let him fail.
2. Learn to respond rather than to react.
I have heard this a million times in teachings on parenting and marriage. But what does that mean? Dr. Leman gives the best definition, “If your doctor says, ‘You responded to your medication,’ that’s good. If the doctor says, ‘You reacted to your medication,’ that’s bad.” Wow. I have definitely REACTED to my kids rather than RESPONDED.
Example: Your daughter says she wants a pony. Instead of rolling your eyes and saying, “How in the world could we afford a pony? And in this house?! That’s stupid.” Just talk about it–let her logically go down the road and see how a pony would be in her world. She’ll figure it out. Dr. Leman says use the phrase “Tell me more about that” to help you respond rather than react.
3. B doesn’t happen until A is completed.
Dr. Leman says this strategy works with every age and with every situation. If you’ve asked your child to do something, do not go on to the next thing until they have completed the first.
Example: You asked your son to mow the lawn. He doesn’t do it. Two hours later he asks to go to the pet store to buy some fish. You tell him no. AND you walk away.
I’ve been doing this with Lydia. If she responds to me with a bad attitude or shows disrespect I’ll correct her and then when the next thing that she likes rolls around (making a craft, bed-time story, etc.) I’ll say, “We’re not doing that.” She usually asks why and I say, “I don’t like the way you disrespected Mommy when you did so-and-so.” It also works when she hasn’t cleaned her room or done other chores. It’s hard but I’ve been putting off going to the library or store if she’s not done with what she’s been assigned to do. It’s been a much bigger lesson than doing an immediate punishment.
According to Dr. Leman the most important thing is our consistent ACTION. Not necessarily our WORDS. He says, “There is no harassing, no threatening, no warning…no reminding, no coaxing…no put-downs.” because these are the things that break down a relationship. I love this because it helps me step out of that big miry pit of arguing with a 4 year old. Which produces nothing but aggravation and hurt feelings. I’m hoping through all this I’m focusing on my ABC’s—Attitude, Behavior and Character so I can see those ABC’s in my children’s lives.
What do you think? Does this sound doable?
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BIG NEWS! I’m going to be a guest on Focus on the Family’s weekly webcast TOMORROW! The title is Concoctions that Connect Kids to Faith…isn’t that perfect? I’ll be interviewed about the Shoes2Share challenge & all the shoes Lydia and I collected. It’s at 2pm ET (but I’ll actually be on about 2:40), I would LOVE for you to listen!