Monday, March 7, 2011

Culture - Parenting 101

Warning: While reading this post, you may want to immediately take my children away from me. But all examples are purely illustrative. I have not actually used any of them…yet.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a parenting talk with some close friends. After a tough week with the mini-mega-beast, I decided this would kill two birds with one stone – I would get out of the house and maybe get some tips on demon-wrangling.  Today I want to share some of the tips and advice I gathered from “Brain Driven Behavior: Make Sense Out of Your Child’s Behavior,” a great lecture by Dr. Ann Corwin.

A little disclaimer: I did my best to take notes and record accurate information. Unfortunately, they served food at this event. So, for most of the time, I was having an internal struggle with my chubby devil-on-the-shoulder. I really wanted those taquitos. But I had already eaten dinner. I wanted them bad. But they were not diet-friendly. I had to have them. But I will look like a fatty in front of my friends and all the beautiful OC women here who can afford to stuff their faces because they are already skinny! It was very hard to concentrate. So if I botch up this lesson, I apologize to your family (who will be screwed up as a result) and to Dr. Ann Corwin.

Let’s begin.

What drives kids? My first instinct was to blurt out “high fructose corn syrup!” Turns out, it is their emotions and feelings. Those feelings control every action they take. The part of his or her brain that controls impulses and actions does not develop, even partially, until around four years old. And it doesn’t fully develop until they are about 25 years old. (Or ever, if you are Charlie Sheen.)

So, according to Dr. Ann, asking Lincoln NOT to turn the television off and on for the one millionth time is like asking a person to write with their right hand – when they don’t have a right hand. He FEELS like it is great fun to turn the TV off and on, therefore he cannot really help himself. Therefore, I should probably get a giant roll of duct tape and bind his chubby little digits together, thus inhibiting his use of those wily phalanges, thus allowing me to watch Top Chef in peace.

The second thing that drives the little tots is their desire for connections and relationships. It has been proven that, without these relationships, a baby will not thrive. They need human interation to live. That is often why children repeat bad behaviors over and over again. They are simply looking for attention. And we give it to them. We yell, we get in their face, we throw their little asses on time out.

But all those things only serve to reinforce the behavior. They live for that shit. They want the communication, the eye contact and the touch – even if it is all negative.

New plan. When Lincoln throws his food and his cup and his placemat on the floor, I am going to try turning off the light, exiting to room and leaving that little tyrant strapped to his booster seat for a good 20 minutes while I check my email…in peace. Parent of the year, bitches!

Dr. Ann recommends teaching your children how to “smooth out” which describes the moment when a child reaches calmness after a large ruckus. A good way to do this is to play “Red Light, Green Light” or “Freeze Dance” with them every day. But I have never,  in his little life, ever seen Lincoln “smooth out.” Ever. Maybe when he was sick one time and had a fever of 102. So I tried the games this morning. I swear he gave me the finger. Where’s that damn duct tape?

Ok, so maybe I’m not doing so well in conveying the practical application of her teachings. Again, I blame the taquitos.

But here are some other points that may be of actual help to you, the more responsible of us two:
  • Create a plan for discipline. Sit down with your significant other and spell out your rules and how you intend to enforce them. You plan for everything else. Make this a priority.
  • Surprise your children at every opportunity for following the rules. Reward with them with occasions that affirm relationships, such as going to the park after school.
  • Always have this important rule on your list: “If you harm anyone with your words or with your body, you do not get to be around anybody.”
  • Music and movement are great mood changers. If your little one is losing control, help them regain it by singing or playing music in the car.

If you have any questions or problems or, like me, just want to affirm what an awesome job you were already doing in the first place, I would highly recommend hearing Dr. Corwin speak. I’m just kidding. About the awesome job. No, I mean I am awesome but I’m not perfect. And I have yet to meet a perfect parent or a perfect child. I think we always have room for improvement ...and taquitos.