April 16, 2024

Parenting: A Reference Summary

“All children behave as well as they are treated.” Anonymous

“I looked on childrearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully interesting and challenging as any honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.” Rose Kennedy

Parenting — It’s the most important work many of us will ever do.

Over the weeks, you’ve read ten blogs on guidelines to improved parenting. Following are key reference points to use in your quest to raise healthy, respectful and happy kids.

“Spanking does not teach inner conviction. It teaches fear, deviousness, lying and aggression.” Dorothy Corkhill Briggs

  • You can be a better role model and more effective parent yet never spank. It is typically not helpful and, at its worst, spanking teaches hitting will solve problems.

“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better  be changed in ourselves.” C.G. Jung

  • Kids model what they see! Being a good role model is the most important guide you can provide your kids.  You want a loving child, be a loving parent. You want a non smoker, don’t smoke. You want kids to use good language; you use good language. Continue lifelong learning to set an example of education for your child.

“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it.” Jesse Lair

  • It is what is most important to kids.
  • Kids work to get the attention of their parents.
  • They quickly learn bad behavior first gets attention and often is followed by getting their way.
  • Give consistent praise for good behavior. Without children will increase misbehavior.
  • Kids will learn appropriate behavior brings attention and privileges.

“We find what we expect to find, and we receive what we ask for.” Elbert Hubbard, editor, publicist and writer

  • Doing what they are told is often the primary concern of parents.
  • It could be helpful to count how often you child obeys.
  • Praise is THE key way of attending to positive behavior.
  • Tell children what to do when there is no option.
  • Ask them when they have the option to say no.
  • Give them time to start the activity.
  • If they do not start in 30 to 60 seconds tell them again but more firmly.
  • If they still do not cooperate use Time Out.
  • If they break a rule use Time Out.
  • When they cooperate…praise.

“We live in an emotion-dismissing culture,” says John Gottman, Ph.D., author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, “but if you build an awareness about your child’s emotions and your own, particularly an awareness of smaller emotions, then it may not be necessary for emotions to escalate.”

  • Explaining over and over is rarely helpful. It gives to much attention to the inappropriate behavior and the child typically zones out. Parents will simply increase their own frustration and waste their breath.

“There is a strong chance that siblings who turn out well were hassled by the same parents.” Robert Brault

  • It must not be dependent on pain, physical, mental or emotional; Punishment is only to help to decrease the unwanted behavior over time.

“The prime purpose of being four is to enjoy being four – of secondary importance is to prepare for being five.” Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, 1985

  • Used correctly a punishment stops attention for non-destructive undesired behavior, such as a tantrum.
  • When ignoring is used, the behavior may get worse before it improves.

“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” Benjamin Spock

  • Be aware of what workswith your child.
  • Be thankful for the good immediate results.
  • Be more focused on and aware of the long term results.

Parenting is hard work and conceivably the most satisfying hard work you will do.

Be present and enjoy this work.


PARENTING: Interpreting Kid Talk

“We live in an emotion-dismissing culture,” says John Gottman, Ph.D., author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, “but if you build an awareness about your child’s emotions and your own, particularly an awareness of smaller emotions, then it may not be necessary for emotions to escalate.”

Hearing and Listening: Are you hearing but not listening?

It is important that we translate what others say to us — particularly when our children talk to us. Often we hear the words, take the  meaning literally and get distracted from what the context and delivery offer in the broader more accurate interpretation.

We can never be absolutely sure of meaning for any given communication. Words are only a small part of meaning. Context, tone, volume and facial expressions also need to be considered. Only the sender can know for certain the meaning or intent; sometimes the sender gives a mixed message.

Children want to be understood; they want their parents to stop and listen. When a child is not allowed to do some activity, he may say, “I hate you” or “you are a bad mommy.” Parents often get rapidly upset with those words and give attention with a lecture, punishment or give in to a tantrum letting the child have his way.

It is more useful to translate the communication. Acknowledge the feeling yet minimize attention. A parent’s response might be “I know you are disappointed (or angry) that your friend can not come over.” Be done with it; go on to what’s next.

Explanations are often particularly odd, saying a child is not allowed a certain feeling such as hate or a certain opinion. The oddness comes to play because nobody can control a child’s feeling or their opinion. Typically the feeling or stated opinion is not what is really going on.

Explanations generally serve to give more attention. For many children, the intensity and length of a lecture reinforces what they wanted — parental attention. If they get the attention, they may also eventually get their way.

Realize: “A tantrum is not a bad thing. It is actually an important developmental experience all kids need to have. Kids who don’t learn to express powerful feelings may have more trouble expressing them later. Your goal many not be to stop the tantrum, but instead to help your child work through it in a way that’s right for his development.” Gillian McNamee, Ph.D, Director of Teacher Education, Erickson Institute

If you can not ignore the words, Consider Time Out! It’s a much better solution for these situations.

Finally, in the midst of communication, give your children the most generous interpretation of what they say. It is not that they “hate” you or think you are “a bad parent.” It’s the here and now struggle with not getting their way.

Acknowledge that and move on.


Parenting: A Key Skill

The prime purpose of being four is to enjoy being four – of secondary importance is to prepare for being five.” Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, 1985

“The pressures of being a parent are equal to any pressure on earth. To be a conscious parent, and really look to that little being’s mental and physical health, is a responsibility which most of us, including me, avoid most of the time because it’s too hard.”  John Lennon

How well can you ignore people, situations or spouse? Do you ever tell your kids to just ignore that kid at school who is teasing them? Then, possibly within minutes, your child asks for ice cream, begs, and begs some more “to please give me ice cream.” You say “no” and “no again” but eventually give in to the pleas. Sometimes parents will  admit…”I know I shouldn’t do this.”

Ignoring is an effective punishment for non-destructive behavior — such as  tantrums, nagging, pouting — to get one’s way.

Don’t use ignoring when there may be risk of injury to anyone or when there is disobedience.  Use Time Out.
Example of Injury and Disobey:   A 4-year-old says “I will run away” —
ignore the words. If the child then goes to leave the house, stop  him and use Time out.

However, there is a catch that makes ignoring a particularly hard job for parents. Ignored behavior will get worse before it gets better. When those same actions previously worked to get one’s way, and now are not working, a child’s natural reaction is to try harder. So ignoring is a difficult skill for parents to master.

A woman I worked with reported that her 6-year-old cried, whined and complained at bed time every night. After ten to fifteen minutes, the mother would acquiesce, go in and lay down with the child until he fell asleep. The process took about forty minutes.

The second night was similarly distressing but she stuck with ignoring. After a week she returned and reported her son’s complaining was down to 30 minutes. She was encouraged and felt more in control. By the next appointment, he had stopped fussing and was going to bed when told. He tried, one more time a few days later and she just ignored him. Bed time was then better for both of them.

Ignoring may at times seem the hardest task in raising children. Kids can often last longer; they have more stamina, more determination and situation by situation, they wear parents down.

It’s so tempting to lecture, explain or give in. Doing this simply strengthens the undesired behavior; the child got our attention and/or got his way. In the short run this works for the parent because the tantrum stops. In the long run, the undesirable behavior gets stronger and may take longer to get stopped.

Ignoring also requires cooperation. If one parent ignores and the other gives in, the child learns to repeat the undesired behavior with the right parent.

In the Parents Class, we did role play with the child getting her way.  Parents were asked who was in charge. Class members clearly identified it was the child. Next role play was the child not getting her way, but the parent using ignoring. It was clear to everyone the parent was in charge; the difference was dramatic.


  1. 1. Look away. No eye contact.
  2. 2. No Words. Do not respond to what they say.
  3. 3. Move away.
  4. 4. Keep a blank face, even as you look away. When parents understand ignoring and relax, they often see the behavior as funny and start laughing. This is simply another type of attention. On the other hand, don’t be so angry that your face is unfriendly.
  5. 5. When the tantrum stops, look for the child’s next positive behavior and praise immediately.

Your Challenge: As a parent, you pick one whiny, pouty, tantrum behavior that your child does repeatedly. Try ignoring the behavior for several days. Remember it gets worse before it gets better; then you’ll see good improvement.


Parenting: Time Out — Discipline Parents Can Rely On

“I looked on childrearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully interesting and challenging as any  honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.” Rose Kennedy

“Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who tread on their toes.” Chinese Proverb

Question: what should happen when children break a rule or do not do what they are told?

Answer: Unfortunately for many parents this answer often starts with STOPPING! That is, STOP talking to them, STOP trying to convince them that they will be better off if they cooperate. STOP the ongoing and prolonged attempts to get then to understand. Pay attention — you will likely observe your child rapidly tuning you out.

Lectures are rarely helpful; the same lecture over and over even less so. One adult recently told me how, as a child, she grew the ability to tune dad out. Parents do not want this as an outcome.

Your children want your guidance; they want to know their limits.  At the most basic level, children know they don’t have mature  judgment to safely try a new behavior. Again, watch closely and you will see a child look towards their mother or father before trying something. They are checking out facial expression to see if they ought to be on alert.

Internationally known child rearing expert Ron Taffel says, “There should be a consequence every time they do not reasonably cooperate or they violate a rule.”

Remember punishment must not be physically, mentally or emotionally painful. Punishment is what you do that will reduce negative behavior.

WORDS: Don’t get caught up with the use of words. When words are involved, it opens the possibility of a debate. Parents may ironically note the debating child is learning how to be a good attorney. A debate contradicts the principle that a parent is in charge. Equally important, as a debate goes on, the child gets a great deal of attention (exactly what he/she wants) for the uncooperative behavior. The talking actually reinforces unwanted behavior.

Time Out: Kids 2-12 want your attention! Regardless of any secondary gain, such as ice cream or privilege, they want/need to get a parent’s awareness first.

Time Out: an abbreviation for time away from reinforcement. The idea is simple: find a boring place the child must go to and must stay for a specific time period.

Time Out Spot:

  • A place the child will not enjoy. Find a space that will be boring with minimum attention. It is often a corner of a less used room.
  • Do not use a child’s room. Some kids have an electronic paradise in their rooms. They won’t get your attention here, but there is plenty to distract from the connection of what they did wrong. Their room, at its best, is a space to enjoy not associate with
  • Do not use: any place that may be considered cruel, such as small dark closet or back porch on a cold winter day.

Time Out Time Frame:

  • 1 to 6 consecutive minutes, depending on age
  • Start by using one-half of child’s age for minutes
  • Example: Age 6 = 3 minutes. If there is difficulty implementing, generally speaking adjust the time frame downward. For instance sometimes 1 minute might just be too long for a 2 year old. There is no evidence that longer times are more effective.

Time Out Process:

  1. Child misbehaves:  Present matter-of-factly — what he did wrong and the consequence.  You did not obey me. Go to Time Out.
  2. Child remains quiet in time out. The catch — child must stay in Time Out and be reasonably quiet for the desired timeframe or time starts over. In early stages of learning Time Out, some children may have to be physically restrained.
  3. Ignore any words. This is necessary and it’s hard for parents to do. A child might say, I hate you or you’re mean. The brightest children seem to say I like this, which entices some parents to stop using Time Out very early. Why should you care even if your child truly likes Time Out? You want to ask instead: Did it help (over time) decrease negative behavior? Are you getting the desired outcome?
  4. Do not ignore if the child leaves Time Out. Restrain him/her with minimum words and minimum physical attention.
  5. Leaving Time Out:  After your child is quiet, for the required time period, simply say he can leave Time Out. If he still has a task to complete, restate the command.
  6. Immediately: Use Time Out as soon as negative behavior occurs.
  7. Repeat as needed.

Cooperation Sequence:

  1. To start a process, tell don’t ask.
  2. If they do not do it, reprimand.
  3. If Reprimand does not work, use Time Out.
  4. Always praise any good effort or success.

Review Parenting Category Blogs

Next week: Ignoring, the punishment many parents do not understand.



“There is a strong chance that siblings who turn out well were hassled by the same parents.” Robert Brault

“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” Benjamin Spock

The word punishment seems severe; little ones participate in uncooperative behavior — not crimes. In the context of this blog punishment is defined as anything   after a child behaves in a certain way that decreases the frequency of that behavior.  Used carelessly parents sometimes punish desirable behavior.

Be quite clear that punishment is not dependant on pain either physical or psychological, only that it helps to decrease the behavior. The only concern is does it decrease frequency over time.

Parents often say: We tried everything and nothing works. In fact, they may have tried several things, but none for long enough to give it a fair try. So as you try to change your interactions carefully look at behavior change over time.  Parents come back after the short time of a week or two and declare behavior has not improved. They sometimes have quit the effort saying “It did not help.”

Consider that it might have helped but they did not have the ability to identify the small changes.

Example: Your baseline count of obey and disobey for the week was 10 obey and 60 disobey. You add clear commands and praise to working with your child. Week 2 the count goes to 12 and 58. Did the behavior improve or was it just a random variation?

Week 3 the count is 14 and 56; then 16 and 54. At this point, you might realize that behavior slowly improved. Maybe you wonder if change will continue through week 20? Looking at the same rate of change, it could increase to 50 obey and 20 disobey. That would certainly be noticeable and noticeable is the point.

Remember it’s often the small, incremental steps of improving behavior that parents must look at. If there’s no behavior tracking, in a meaningful way, incremental progress will often go unnoticed and parents will say “nothing works.”

Yes — parenting is tough. Sticking with it patiently, for longer lengths of time, is often the hardest piece. Do you want to give up after a week or two because you did not notice
those incremental improvements? Or maybe you thought incorrectly the change was random? If parents say they’ve “tried everything,” that typically indicates they’ve tried lots of similar efforts for brief periods of time, often less than a day or two.

As parents — be in it for the long haul. Keep in mind the “noticeable effects” and the small changes. In your mind celebrate every success, know your steadiness will help your child
continue better actions; realize it will be worth your patience and efforts.

Parenting can be thankless when it comes to punishment. Do kids ever say after punishment “thank you very much for the wisdom you gave to me and the reminder you
love me
?”  Frequently the response is glaring and stomping!  Bear in mind, providing each consequence is best done from your foundation of love and wanting the best for your children. You are not after a thank you.

Discipline and behavior change are the outcomes you want. Ultimately you want your kids to effectively monitor themselves. Kids 2-12 want your attention — don’t forget this. The
underlying idea of punishment is to minimize your attention.

The punishment highlighted today is Reprimand. Use it to:

  1. Start a behavior now.
  2. Stop a behavior now.
  3. When a rule is broken.
  4. After a Tell Don’t Ask has not worked.

It is Tell Don’t Ask, done more firmly. Kids want attention; the REPRIMAND is designed to be as brief, yet  as effective and meaningful, as possible.

Practice REPRIMAND using the following communication skills:

  1. Move close — within 3 feet.
  2. Look at your child in the eyes.
  3. Use disapproving facial  expression.
  4. Voice is firm — but low intensity, not mean spirited.
  5. Nonverbal gesture of  disapproval — crossed arms or pointing a finger.
  6. Do it now — as soon as  your child disobeys or something needs done.
  7. As with  — Tell Don’t Ask, be specific.
  8. Wait! See if  the child cooperates. It’s interesting that children may say something like “you cannot make me” and at the same time cooperate. Pay
    attention to the cooperative behavior, not the words.

The sequence:

  1. Tell Don’t Ask. Wait 30  to 90 seconds. You pick a consistent time frame.
  2. If they do not start, do REPRIMAND. Wait 30 to 90 seconds
  3. Whenever your child  cooperates, praise.
  4. If they don’t cooperate,  you will need Time Out.

That will be next week: next step — Time Out


“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” Charles M Schwab
“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it.”  Jesse Lair

How often do you, as an adult, feel good after receiving a small amount of praise, such as good job? How often do you use encouragement or praise with your child? My experience is many parents say they do this with high frequency but, in fact, do not.

This week you’ll learn about social reinforcement or more simply praise. Punishment will be reviewed next week.

In Parenting Sessions, the encouragement was paramount. It was a fun session and consistently influenced at least one family in a dramatic way by the next week.  At the end of class, I routinely predicted that by the next week someone would have dramatic change; it usually happened.

Social Learning Theory notes that behavior is influenced by the consequences of that behavior.  If something pleasant results from our behavior we are more likely to do it again. The positive behavior was reinforced. Thus reinforcers increase how often something happens.

For kids — there are all the encouragers we know, such as special food, staying up late, money, watching a particular TV show or time on the computer. The specifics differ for each child. Still in general, we know that parental attention is ultimately what’s most important for kids 2-12.

It is as if kids wake up with “I need to get my attention quota today;” if they do not get the attention for good behavior they will proceed to act out making sure that they get their quota. In fact, for some kids, the attempt to punish with attention (often in the form of long explanations, lectures) actually encourages inappropriate behavior; kids, after all, primarily want the attention.

Praise — how and when to use it! Praise is encouraging, supportive; these encouragers are a vital part of parenting.  Examples in using praise for kids:  going to bed on time, nice table manners, obeying, hanging  up clothes, brushing teeth, saying please, starting homework, continuing homework, picking up objects on the floor, talking or even disagreeing in a pleasant tone of voice, sharing, playing quietly, playing cooperatively — anything that is done in an agreeable manner.

Encouragers actively identify what to do and encouragement for doing it. It is in contrast to punishment which only addresses what to stop doing.

Praise has distinct advantages.

  1. Cost is free — no stars, nothing to buy
  2. Attention is handy — a parent always has attention with them.
  3. Positive Interaction — models desired behavior. Parents would come the next week and emotionally tell of now believing their children loved them. Or talk of their children praising them, Barbie or the dog.
  4. Self Confidence Improves — praise works wonders. Isn’t that how we all grow more confident when people we love appreciate something we do?
  5. Relationships Improve — who do we most often like? Generally it is people that say nice things to us. Then we look for their abilities, creating a positive cycle of interaction.

How often do you praise? As kids constantly get trophies for participation, you might wonder if it’s overdone.  It is hard to overdo.  Overdoing praise is rarely a part of ongoing problems. Let your child know about appreciation of honest effort and, of course, success. Do not over praise in the sense of saying you are the smartest or, the best. They generally know who is the smartest or the best; give more realistic and believable praise; it is more effective.

Small Steps: Don’t expect too much too soon. Know that for a first timer doing the dishes it is a many faceted job. Start with put the dirty dishes in the sink, follow with praise. Step two add soap and warm water; again follow by praise for good effort and successful completion. Add steps as needed. Success for your child, a step at a time is your goal.

As we did role plays, parents would try praise phrases like “thanks for finally doing what I told you to;” or “it is about time.” They might use a grumpy voice or shout from the other side of the room. At one level, praise seems simple; as with any new skill, practice is helpful to create ability.

So practice and follow these guidelines:

  1. Move close — within 3 feet
  2. Look your child in the eyes
  3. Smile
  4. Use a pleasant tone of voice
  5. Praise behavior, not the child. Good job putting your toys away not good boy.
  6. Touch — bump fists, hug, pat on the back. There is strong evidence that kids like pleasant touch.
  7. Do it now — praise immediately when positive behavior takes place. Don’t wait until the child begins something else.

Using these skills will make your communication more meaningful; help with exactly what you want when your kids are cooperating. The intimacy of this pleasant contact influenced the dramatic and rapid changes that occurred for some parents.

Remember: Start with Tell – Don’t Ask , then when cooperation happens, praise!

Do you wonder, “what about when the command and praise do not work?” Concentrate on the praise this week.

Next week: discussion of punishment