Today is a day for observation and planning. Instead of trying to fix things, let’s just BE and OBSERVE. Pay attention to what is going on in the immediate environment when things are going well. What time of day is it? Who is there? Where are you? Is there a safety issue or can you walk out of the room. Again, note what is happening in the environment when chaos descends. Pay close attention to your own inner voice and how you are feeling physically and emotionally during the day. Record your findings in your spiral notebook, or jot them down on an index card and then copy the important information in your spiral notebook. To save time you can just tape the index cards into your notebook. To really get a good handle on things, you want your children to behave normally, which they will not do if they think you are studying them to count up all of the mistakes they are making. Try to do your best to observe unobtrusively. What is going on when you feel comfortable in your home? What is happening when you want to bolt?
If you have not already done so, declare your intention to create a more peaceful household on the declarations sheet of your spiral notebook. If you are still struggling with making that commitment, go back to your spiral notebook and work on your list of obstacles and possible solutions. Try to make a few entries in your gratitude journal. Five or six sentences are probably enough.
At some point during the day compile a list of all of your behaviors and your child’s behaviors that you would like to change. Review the list with your partner or spouse, or go over it by yourself. Identify two behaviors that you would like to begin with. Think carefully about what behaviors you want to tackle. How much energy you have? How difficult the challenge will be? I suggest starting small, and then adding new behaviors to the active list of behaviors to be changed as you go along. Depending on a variety of factors, I usually suggest to clients to start with the easiest item on the list, so that they can enjoy some success, or select the item that bothers you the most. You may wish to start with one easy item and one that irritates you to death.
Think about how you are going to make this change. What is the reward for good behavior? What is the consequence for poor behavior? For example, I have had enough of my children not putting their basketballs away in the garage. Instead they leave on the driveway where my husband has almost run them over at least six times. Since this is a behavior that annoys my husband and me and should be fairly easy to put an end to. We spoke together and decided that the reward for putting the basketball away in the right spot for six out of seven nights or putting away at our request without any back-talk, would be an extra fifteen minutes of shooting on Friday nights. A perfect score would
result in an extra fifteen minutes playing basketball on Friday and Saturday evening. Failure to put the basketball away that was simply the result of forgetfulness, would result in losing the privilege of playing basketball after homework was finished the next day. Failure to put the basketball away that was accompanied by back talk and rudeness would result in losing the privilege for the full week.
To implement this change, first we would turn to a blank page of the spiral notebook and write “Family Rules” across the top. Next we wrote the rule in the book using positive language “We Take Good Care Of Our Basketballs and Put Them Away When We Finish With Them.” When we put our basketballs away every day after we finish using them,, we will get an extra fifteen minutes of basketball on Friday and Saturday night! If we forget to put our basketballs away we will not be able to play basketball the next day. If we intentionally chose not to put the basketball away or if we refuse to put them away after Mommy or Daddy tells us to do so, we will not play basketball from Monday until Friday. If we can get back in control of our angry feelings, and can apologize to Mommy or Daddy for our rude behavior, either in a note or a conversation, we will only lose the basketball for the next day. On the bottom of the page we put each child’s name with a line above, and asked that everyone sign off above their name. Then we explained the rules to everyone and we all shook hands. When we observed the children bringing in their basketballs and putting them away we thanked and praised them specifically and sincerely. When they did not put their basketballs away we consistently enforced the rules we had noted in the spiral notebook.
In summary, we took the following steps:
1. We decided on a rule that we thought would be fairly easy to implement but that was also important to both of us.
2. We wrote down the rule on a page called “Family Rules” in our spiral notebook.
3. We decided upon the rewards for following the rules and the consequences for not following them
4. We sat our children down and explained exactly what to expect.
5. We had each child sign off to confirm their understanding of the new rule
6. We praised our children when the followed the rules and kept our promise to reward them with extra basketball time.
7. When necessary we did enforce the negative consequences, but wegave our child an opportunity to redeem himself, which he did with a positive attitude, so he got his basketball privileges back.
Now it is your turn. Select one to three targeted behaviors at a time. Decide what the rewards and consequences are going to be. Explain all the details to your children. Praise and thank them specifically. When they do not follow the rules impose an immediate consequence. If you have a babysitter or someone else who is taking care of your child for part of the day, ask them to help enforce this rule as well. At some point during the day or evening, sit down alone or with your partner or spouse, and select from one to three behaviors that you would like to change. Decide what the rewards and consequences are going to be. In my own opinion, I prefer rewards that involve extra time engaged in a positive activity, especially one with mom or dad. Consequences, on the other hand, work best when they are associated with the problem behavior.