Thursday, April 26, 2007

Parenting Beliefs

So it has been written here previously about our parenting beliefs and how they are definitely different to your traditional time-out, praise-based parenting styles. I have been reading the blog of a wonderful mother over in the US who has started writing a great series of blog entries that deal with precisely what we believe in. If you are interested, please take the time to read her eloquent discussion about it here . If you wanted to ask any questions of me about this (again) then please feel free to do so in the comments section. This is a topic I hold dear to my heart, especially since it consumes about 90% of my waking life at the moment! So of course I am more than happy to talk about it. I will not take offence at any genuine questions so even if you have been lurking and want to ask what on earth it's all about then I encourage you to ask away. I hope that for those of you who know Harriet in real life you can find that her personality and behaviour speak volumes for how we act with her - she is the best 'advertisement' for our actions so to speak.


Anonymous said...

How do you guys deal with tantrums?

Jimbo said...

At the moment, she doesn't have them. This may change in the future.

It may be that the parenting style that we have adopted prevents tantrums, or Harry could just be someone who doesn't like getting herself worked up. To be honest, there are plenty of times that I think she might, but we (and by "we" I really mean Cass) take the time to discuss what it is with her, and it usually works! At the moment, distraction also works on some occasions, for example: if we go for a walk to the park, she always wants to push her trike all the way back home. We generally can get around this by saying "let's go and see Doll [imaginative name, I know] - we need to go on the trike so we can see her". Apparently Harry sees the logic in this and hops back on her trike.

But the biggest two things that help are:
a) acknowledging her feelings and b) talking to her about why she is upset

This seems to work remarkably well. We will say something like "are you upset because you can't do X" and she'll nod her head. We then talk to her about why she can't do X ("you can't put the knife in your mouth because a knife is for cutting - you don't want to cut your mouth", Cass used this one this morning) and she generally understands. It takes a LOT of patience to do this; I personally struggle with it (particularly if time constrained) but Cass has an amazing amount of patience for it. So far, we really haven't had her throw a tantrum at all.

casso said...

Thanks for a great first question by the way.

As James said, we are quite fortunate in the fact Harry has few tantrums. But in saying that I think the way we have chosen to parent does limit what there is to tantrum about. We only restrict her in environments where there is a need to for safety reasons or out of respect for others.

But if you think about it, most tantrums I see when out are due to the child's options being taken away from them and a situation being enforcing without discussion. Example - today a boy was leaving playgroup and starting throwing a tantrum. The mother just said "We are leaving!" and dragged the boy out by the arm as he got more and more upset. Harriet was also really attached to a doll there (this is nothing new - she is doll obssessed). She did not want to leave and did not want to leave the doll behind! So whilst she was sitting on the floor crying with the doll, I popped down next to her, explained that the doll had to stay behind for a sleep and got her to come with me as we handed it over to its 'Mama' (one of the Playgroup coordinators). Acknowledging that she must be upset and giving her some agency in the leaving really helps those situations. She gave the doll a goodbye kiss and we walked out without a problem.

I also just wanted to mention that I am personally scaling back my distraction techniques now. For one, I think it's disrespectful to her because for two, she is now old enough to understand reasoning and can be relied upon to discuss issues with. They may not really make sense to her in the deeper sense, but she seems to understand the general gist of what I'm saying and follows with it.

Does this make sense?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read.
What do you do, for example, in a shopping centre. Say you are in line at kmart, Harriett wants to explore.. what do you do to make her stay standing next to you?

Also how have you found other people have found it? Do your family/friends support you and when they look after Harriett do they follow your style?

Anonymous said...

do your friends/family support your parenting style?
Do you follow your style when they watch Harriett?

casso said...

This is just a quick reply in case you are coming back to see if we have read your comment. On the shopping question, my first response would be - is it unreasonable to go over to where she wants to explore? If I've been walking around for a while it can be so boring for Harry, so if she wants to have a look at something I will usually oblige in the same way she 'obliges' by going around with me.

If it's not convenient (I'm working on a worst case scenario here) then I will try to discuss with her why we're standing in line. She *loves* getting to the checkout with me because I let her hand over the card and after the transcation has been cleared I let her press the buttons for a bit while I wait for the reecipt. Engaging her with the activity I also want to do helps soooo much with her interest (and therefore with the ease with which I can perform said task).

So I would say to her "Harry, see how we're standing in line? We're doing that so that we can pay for the items we've got here. Then, once we've done that, we can open them /play with them / go somewhere else". She now is at an age where she understands that we have to take things to the checkout before she can play/eat them, so now when she has something she likes in a shop she heads straight for the checkout, lol!

I am being summoned for the bath atm, so will be back later.

Cheers, Cass

casso said...

Now in response to your other question about friends and family. Most of them read this blog, so I imagine they're the best people to answer! But Harry isn't looked after by anyone else except her Nana. And that is usually only for a maximum of about four hours so far in her life. As for 'acceptance', I haven't come across any resistance, usually people are more intrigued by it if anything. James may have something to say from his own experience but nothing that I've been aware of.

If anything Lisa who used to comment on here quite a bit gave me a good ear bashing one day about why this method of parenting is inadequate. Hi Lisa!! :o) But that's entirely her right to have that opinion - we just have to agree to disagree.

I just think that as long as people treat Harry with a bit of respect and discuss things with her, life ambles along pleasantly. If you ignore her or ask her to do something unreasonable or can't give her a sensible response to why you've made a certain request of her...well, it's the same as if you did that to anyone of any age. She doesn't like it!

Sif said...

Hey there Cass, as you know, I'm still learning about this stuff, having struggle in the past (with my older two) simply to overcome being an authoritarian, and at times physically abusive, parent (gosh, I'm thinking, did you know that, hmmm, well my journey is all on if you want to see...

Anyhoo, I find UP stuff easy with Bryn who, by the way, does throw tantrums - loud ones - though neither Erik nor Luey did (I'm putting this down to different personalities, Erik has never been a tantrum thrower, Luey started throwing tantrum around age 4)...

But Bryn is still very young. I find it much harder to be unconitional with the older boys.

My main question is, what if what you need to do is not meant as a punishment, but is percieved as such... Eg. two boys fight, fists flying, and you have physically pull them apart and seperate them till they cool down, you live in a house where the children share a room, so one goes to the bedroom to cool down, and one stays on the couch. Both view this as a punishment. How do you handle that?

Also, is keeping a toddler in a stroller when they'd rather be exploring but you can't physically chase three children around in contradiction to UP?

casso said...

Hey Sif - well lordy, I'm definitely no expert, so please take everything I say in the vein of how it's meant; just someone with an interest.

For the boys fighting issue, I guess because they are older the discussion aspect of it can come more to the fore rather than just being so concerned about your actions alone. By this what I mean is you can take the time to sit down with the boys when you have them separated (if that's what they need) and talk about what's going on. I imagine getting them apart is good to remove the immediate anatoginism of the other, but perhaps (and this is all off the top of my head!) talking to them before any fight starts about how you're going to deal with things in the future.

So, for example, you could get them all together and say that if there is a fight in the house between the boys and it results in physical violence, it's important for everyone to be kept safe. SO you're going to put each of them in a different place in the house. But you are also going to go to each of them and have a chat about what happened on their own, just one-on-one. Then you're going to get them together and discuss what happened. But you're going ot take a back seat. In UP AK quotes a child psychologist about conflict resolution between two children who says "Parental involvement does not guarantee fairness; it only brings into the conflict an even stronger participant whose word is final regardless of the facts".

Sorry this is turning out to be pretty long! But if you were to get the boys together (after they've cooled down) and ask them what they thought the solution should be - what might happen? Especially if you've already talkd to them before any fights and told them that's what what you'd be doing. But imrpotantly I think for you to listen to both sides of the argument in isolation may really help their sense of worth - often those fights break out because one child is feeling more powerless and needs to be seen or heard more than they are (ie: you don't hear me saying I want my toy back? How about I push you down and grab it back off you?). AK also suggests getting each child to retell the incident but from the perspective of the other child.

As for the stroller - well, you can only do what you can physically do. :o) But have you thought about giving the responsibility for 'looking after' Bryn to the boys? So saying "Bryn wants to go and look at the toys over there. Erik could you please go with him? I think he'd like to show you as well". If you feel uncomfortable doing this too much at first, make sure it's in a situation where you have eye contact with them as well as where you're not indisposable (so you're just looking at some clothes whilst they're off looking at toys at the aisle across from you where you can see and hear them but don't go near them). It encourages time between the boys, shows you have confidence in their ability to be independent, and also shows a basic trust. Talk about it on the bus on the way in to the shop with them. Have a stiff drink before you do it (hee hee, I know you'll not want to do this one!). But perhaps try to get the boys into an environment where you feel comfortable and then let them know that you want them to be comfortable too and give them some space and trust to show you what they can do.

I guess the hardest thing about coming at UP with a history of a more authoritarian approach is that you are terrified that once you release the reins they're going to gallop away at lightning speed. Which they may do at first (which is why I suggest you do it slowly and when you're feeling ok to start with). But don't take early indiscretions as a sign of failure, but rather a sign that they are eager to take you up on your trust but just need to find where they can go with it. If they haven't had to find their own boundaries before because you've always been there to draw the line for them, they will take some time to know how and where to draw the line themselves.

I thikn I better stop here because it's becoming a bit of a saga! :o) Does this help in any way??

Love Cass

katef said...

I am a lurker.. brought here by Sif's blog and just wanted to say I am loving reading all this.

'Gentle Discipline' in it's basic form comes pretty easily to me but it sort of is only a surface thing and I am really enjoying getting in a bit deeper, so thanks.

Nana said...

In answer to Anonymous' query about how babysitters react to Harriet's her Nana I can tell you that although her upbringing is different from that of her father and his brother in many ways, in other ways it is quite similar. For instance, her Grandpa & I used to talk to & explain things to James from a very young age and when his baby brother joined our family, he understood why I had a little less time to spend with him and was a great help to me. Neither of our children threw tantrums and we put this down to them understanding how to act, or react,in certain situations....which is basically what Cass & James are doing with Harriet. She is a delightful child (I am biased, of course)and we love to spend time with her, especially as we can devote all our time to her, as we couldn't when our own children were young. (You'll hear this from most grandparents, I think!) So, Anon., as I said....although James & Cass have different parenting ideas from our own, we respect that Harriet is their child, not ours, and do not contradict their parenting style when looking after her, which I might add, is never a difficult 'task'.

sydneymonkey said...

Hi Cass,

This is Aurelia's mother, Rebecca from EB. I have been lurking in your blog for sometime, I am very interested in your parenting methods. I also read the link you posted to the US lady's blog. (can't remember her name sorry).

I see the way you parent Harriet very similar to how my husband and I parent Aurelia. We do a lot of acknowlegement of why she feels how she does, no punishment but explain why she has to stop certain behaviours (eg if you climb on top of the piano you will fall off and hurt yourself.

I think we explain things so often she pre-empts us and tells us what we are going to say (eg she said to me yesterday no run, slip, fall, cry) as she was entering the bathroom.

I will get to my point now, I am wondering what your view on praise is as I read on your site I think that you were looking at a Montessori school that does not praise or punish. I personally praise a lot and ignore behaviours that are inappropriate and use distractions to change Aurelia's attention to something else.

I guess I want to know how you use praise as I see it as really important.

Thanks :-)

casso said...

Hi Rebecca! :o)

First off - why is praise so important? And do you mean it is important for you or for Aurelia? If Aurelia ties her shoelaces properly and you say "Good Job!", how does that assist her with the job of doing her shoelaces? Surely the finished product of her shoelaces being tied is motivation and stimulus enough for her to enjoy her shoelace achievement?

I don't see that there is much of a difference between praise and punishment. Imagine this:

"If you don't put your shoes on before we leave, you're not getting an icypole."

"If you put your shoes on before we leave, I'm giving you an icypole!"

Priase is just another form of reward and, like other rewards, is necessarily preoccupied iwth behaviour. Let's take my most loathed example - parents who praise their children for sharing with other children. Now I'll put my personal issues with sharing to one side (perhaps something for another post) and pretend that I think sharing is a great idea. So great, that I want every child to share with every other child. Now if I see my child sharing with another child, do I say "Good sharing!" (as I hear almost constantly out in playgrounds everywhere).

Firstly, if you praise a child for sharing there has been a study to show (yes, yes, replete with all the caveats that it is a study and is not impervious to criticism itself) that praising them for doing so resulted in LESS sharing. Why? Well if you are praised for something, then that is your reward. NOT the act itself, the praise. So why share if no-one is there to see you and administer the reward? Wouldn't it just be better to hold on to your own toy? And apparently yes, that is what these children did.

The article I always end up directing people to (which is pretty much UP in 2mins) is an article by AK that can be found here:

Have a read of that and see what you think. I think praise, ultimately, is about parents. Parents want to connect. Parents want to enjoy their kids. But parents want to enjoy their child in ways that, as adults, they can also enjoy (usually not involving a child running around and screaming for a long time for example). So parents want to control behaviour. Because if you punish to stop behaviour (without care for motivation) then how can praise work any differently in the other direction? Why do you praise?

Cheers, Cass

Jen - Faithful Servant of the Adventurous Duo! said...

Hi Cass,

I am not an IRL friend but I love reading your blog and can see through your blog the benefits of the way you are raising Harry :) . She seems to be a beautiful, well balanced little girl :).

My parenting style is different, although step by step we are changing our views and the way we parent our children for the better.

I am even changing my teaching style with remarkably good results :) .

I have no questions, just wanted to say how much I admire that you are both parenting in this way and it is working and you are all loving it :)

sydneymonkey said...

Thanks for your reply Cass, great question back at me too - why do I praise?

Maybe it is in part for me, I am going to have to think about that one, however, I believe I praise to give Aurelia confidence and reassurance. I am sure I do this in many other ways, and she intrinsically would feel satisfaction, but is that enough?

I believe parental recognition is important too, I have no doubt you let Harriet know you love her (I've heard you tell her hehe), how do you let her know she is doing well at something, for example, without praising her.

It is no doubt a throwback from my own childhood that I praise a lot as I was only praised for "worthy" behaviours (ie if I was dux I would get praised, runner up I'd get punished), so I praise Aurelia for things I can see she is proud of , whatever it may be. I guess I remember always thinking as a child, X is proud of my achievements in xyz and is able to tell me so, why can't my own parents.

Maybe it is as you say a flip side with punishment, because I had was punished a lot I craved praise, I don't know. Hmmmm

As praise being for control, definitely not in my case. I say things like - it is great you are being creative and drawing on the wall (praise) but I would prefer you draw on the paper because I do not want to have to repaint (modification)

I will read the link and get back to you later with my thoughts on the article.

BTW - Love the latest Harriet pics.

Anonymous said...

Hmm good point. How do you let your child know that they are doing a good job, doing well at something?

I can see the benefits of this parenting style and I have been explaining more to my DD.

casso said...

How do I let Harry know she's doing well at something? Well usually there is no point. I mean, if she's doing it well, the task is completed and that would pretty much let anyone know that they've done something 'well'. ;o)

But if I was to try and interpret your question at a level I think you mean (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) - How do you communicate happiness or pride during events with Harriet?

Well there are a few ways of expressing things so that they don't come out as trite praise. When she is obviously quite happy at performing something independently (a good example is when she worked out how to do up the buckle on her doll stroller), she will turn to me and say "You" (meaning Harriet!), and I say "Yes, you Harriet", then she turns to the buckle and says "Buckle!". And I say "Yes, you did up the buckle". That's it. That's all she needs. Acknowledgment. And that would be the alternative I proffer to praise - just simple acknowledgment.

Priase is placing a conditional acceptance on the acknowledgment that a child needs. "Yes, you did the buckle, well done!" Well, you know what? DUR it's well done - the buckle is done up! :o) But if you acknowledge it only - "Yes, the buckle is done up", then I believe the acknowledgment is a lot more sincere and 'deeper' in a way. You are recognising the task. You recognise the involvement of your child in the task. It also negates issues like effort over completion. So if Harry failed to do the buckle up (which happened a number of times before she did it up properly), she would turn to me and perform the same dialogue as before. Except this time I would say "Oh, you can't get the buckle done up?" to which she would agree and I would ask if she needed me to show her how to perform the task. I didn't just offer her a "Good effort!", we were both working at helping her arrive at a place where she could do the buckle up. Is this making sense?

And Rebecca, if you don't use praise for control, then what if Aurelia never repeated what you praised her for? How would you feel? I'd have to suggest that in fact praise is the definite behavioural control method of choice for parents. In your example, it has been shown in many studies that the more you praise creativity, the more the child will end up repeating previous actions and in fact become *less* creative in an attempt to receive repeats of the praise. How about instead you just said "I can see you have painted on the wall. I'd prefer you to use the paper instead so that we don't have to repaint." Why does the process require praise at all?

This issue of praise really is the sticking point for nearly everyone I meet and discuss this topic with. :o) It's no surprise really, because it seems so foreign a concept - praise is bad? Praise discourages people? What the hell are you talking about?

Did you read the article?

Cheers, Cass

sydneymonkey said...

Haven't read it yet, poor Aurelia ended up in hospital with severe gastro, so will get to it soon.

She is home now, no vomits for 2 hours now, woohoo!

lolly said...

This is great, Cass. Wow, you generated a lot more discussion about my posts than I did on all four of them put together! heehee, I think you were better at expressing yourself than I was. I'm afraid I came off kind of in-your-face, this is the right way to parent, why aren't you doing it too, which was not my intent, but I wonder if that's why not many people responded with questions like they did here.

On the praise thing,
I actually posted a link to that Good Job article on my blog a couple months ago and got a little bit of response here.

Yes, it was confusing for me too at first. I had always heard how important it is to praise for their self-esteem. Now I see how it is SO conditional and probably more damaging in the self-esteem category, because kids can come to view themselves as only worthy when they do a "good job."

That said, it's definitely important to be encouraging. I think it's Barbara Coloroso's book, "Kids are Worth it: Giving Children the Gift of Inner Discipline" that has a chart outlining the differences between praise and encouragement, and examples of each. UP has a similar chart with the praise and some "instead of praise, try . . ." examples.

Children need our love and support, our appreciation, acknowledgment, and encouragement. But they need these things ALL the time, not just when they've pleased us.

Ensuring that kids know we are behind them, loving and supporting them, all the time makes it easier for them to feel confident in themselves. Mistakes are easier to be seen as simply mistakes, something that can be fixed and corrected next time. Rather than the way I tend to view my own mistakes: utter failure and proof that I am a pathetic excuse for a person.

I guess I can't blame my warped ways of thinking all on the fact that I was praised, but the fact of conditionality--being accepted, cheered, (and to a small child, these things equal loved), only when you do something right, and made to feel bad about yourself when you've done something bad--I just can't see how that would be good for a person's self-esteem.

There's also the condescending issue. "Good job" is usually only said to someone who is "beneath" the other person. Can you imagine telling your boss "Good job on that report, sir."? Probably not. For the same reason, it was a little amusing for me to hear my 3 year old tell me, "You're such a good helper" when I picked up a toy that she asked me to. (I don't say that to her, but she hears it all the time from other people.)

It's not such a horrible thing, I know, but it's something to think about. Parents are already SO much bigger, stronger, wiser, and more powerful as it is. Praising might just add to a child's feeling of being sub-something... sub-adult, I guess. And they are, it's true. They do need adult guidance. But I suppose we can avoid rubbing their "inferiority" in their face as much as possible.

Anyway, sorry Cass, to write a novel on your space! I appreciate your post.

Crazy Mumma said...

Hi Cass! :-)

This has been a really interesting discussion and Lolly, if you are reading this, I didn't find your posts "in your face" at all! Just a well-expressed explanation of how you chose to parent.

I have been following the no praise thing for a while, but have recently started having issues with my 5 year old. Even though Harry isn't that old yet, I am always looking for more tools for my parenting toolbox, so I'd by interested in your input. The problem started at a recent class event, attended by parents, after which there were the usual round of loud "well dones!" and "good jobs!" from the other parents. Zoe wanted to know afterwards why I hadn't responded in the same way, and I offered that I love her and am always proud of her in everything she does... but this issue has come up almost everyday since, so it's obviously something that is weighing on her mind, something that sets her apart from the other kids when she clearly wants to fit in in this new environment called school. I need another way to reassure her, as I'm obviously not explaining it well enough for her young mind to understand - any suggestions?

Cheers, Julie.

casso said...

Julie - this is a suggestion from the old UP forums (that have since been closed down unfortunately). But one of the parents in there had a similar problem but with her 4yr old son. So what she did was discuss with him why she didn't praise. But then went silly with praise to show him how silly it was to use it all the time. So she would say "Look, you put on your coat. Well done!" and "Look, you're brushing your teeth. Well done!".

The boy found it funny at first and then annoying ;o) . And then he and his mum would have a good laugh about how silly it is to praise someone you love, when everything they do makes you proud, no matter what it is, good or bad.

I don't know how successful this strategy would be with your daughter, but I hope someone else can offer an alternative as well for you. BTW - James just laughed out loud when he read your post and said to me "I can't imagine Julie in a school setting with all the other parents saying "Good Job!". They were probably throwing their plastic on the floor as well". :o) Anyway it made me laugh! Ok, dinner's up and we're off to watch Life on Mars. Back again soon.

Crazy Mumma said...

Thanks Cass, I think "overpraising" is worth a go as I'm almost sure she'll have the same reaction as the little boy. I'm trying hard to (subtly) convince her that sometimes being different from the masses is a good thing ;-) Oh and I LOL at James' comment because the other mums *were* all standing around drinking coffee in disposable cups from McDonalds! *Shudder* ROFL. Cheers, Julie.

Lisa said...

Hi Guys, yes I have been off line for some time, I'm at work and should be "working" but hey I've been made aware that my absence has been noticed. Yes my views on parenting differ to my favourite and most interesting "parental" friends. I've worked with families for a long time and love how every one is so open to responding to this blog thingo. I've seen lots of different styles of parenting, all effective but also influencing their children in many ways. I think that the individual child and their personality is paramount in how they are affected by the environment around them. I hate to think that parents feel their child is not as "good" or advanced as another or coping or not coping in respect to another families ideas. Fear that you are ruining them as beings, runs rife in our society. I beleive that Harriet will grow to be who Harriet is. I support all parents right to raise their child as they feel fit (within safe bounds)and at least try to leave aside the judgmental crap about each other (although it seems I've given Cas some stick over her beliefs maybe ? Sorry xxx )I also feel that people should know that Harry is extremely advanced and to not panic that your child isn't the same. I like the questions on the older children, because I feel that once you get to the stage of explaining your beliefs to your child, you really do start to assess things differently, especially if you see your beliefs about parenting have ostrisized them in "their" community of peers. I and my son Sam, now 11, aren't the "norms" in our community either, but I probably feel to overanylise my style with him would be detrimental to my confidence in raising him. Cas & James are very confident, and intelligent and worldly but as I have said to them, our kids will all end up asking us "just what the hell were you thinking when you did that ?" at some point in our lives. Hopefully we will be able to talk our way out of it, confidently and lovingly....
Happy Casso ? I'm feeling a bit frazzled but felt I should comment. I love reading all this stuff from people so passionate about the safety & well being of there children. I hope you guys feel confident enough to leave Harry in my hands for a short time knowing I wont ruin all your fabulous work with her !!! ;-) xx Lis

Jen said...

I'm just a random reader..
My question is regarding praise and encouragement.. I think that praise can be over done - sometimes a kid needs to learn that they won't always win and won't always be the best, but how does the UP stuff talk about encouragement?