my question is… how do you keep calm in the middle of Lucy’s outbursts?  I am really struggling with my 8yr old daughter…
screaming crying, kicking.. you get the picture.  I am having such a
hard time keeping my patience as time goes on, mainly for the fact that
it’s rubbing off on my other children, who think they can talk like that
too (aged 6, and 4).  How do you nip it in the bud
with Lucy?  

The very best advice I can give (and it’s HARD to
do) is not let emotions get in the way.  My sister says her husband
once told her she just needs to be a “durable object” during tantrums
and I love that.  In my mind I just try to stay as calm as I can,
internalizing the fact that it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to
freak out.  The Love & Logic stuff is the VERY BEST, if you haven’t
read that book, you should. It’s all about keeping the emotions out of discipline.  So I very calmly tell Lucy she is very welcome to cry and whine as much as
she wants, but she has to do it in her room because it isn’t fair to
the rest of the family if she is hurting all our ears.  Then I FOLLOW
THROUGH.  That is key.  If she won’t go to her room, I ask if she wants
me to take her or if she wants to go by herself.  I am very firm, but
not mad (most of the time…I am definitely not perfect at this by any
).  It takes a bunch of practice, but I swear, consistency and low
emotion is the key.  If we as mothers feed into it and get mad, it feeds
their desire for any kind of response and I think it triggers more of
that behavior in the future.  Same with teenagers.  Praise the good, try to minimize attention to the bad.

Also, giving Lucy choices is key.  For example, if she says she doesn’t want to take a bath, I tell her she can choose to take one in one minute or five minutes.  It works like a charm (and she always chooses the five minute option:)

We have chores and punishments for not
doing them (like not hanging out with friends, or going somewhere etc),
but my children seem not to care until they want to go out, then they are
screaming, crying, the whole works.  I can give my six-year-old daughter a job
to clean her room, and I am not kidding when I say she can be up
there hours, and nothing?  It’s so frustrating, I have helped her on
numerous occasions, but for the most part, they think it’s ok not to do
it.  I have stopped them from going places before, but I feel that I am
always grounding them, and they never get to do fun things, because they
can’t do as I ask.

It’s kind of the same with the last question.  You need to be a “durable object” and not get upset when they have to miss out on stuff.  You almost need to kind of
WANT something to happen where you’ll have to follow through…some
really fun thing with her friends or whatever….something she wants to
do that she can’t because she didn’t do the stuff when she should have
(maybe even create a fun event that she’ll have to miss…does that sound mean or what??).  And when she doesn’t clean in time,
just very calmly tell her you’re so sorry she’ll miss out on the fun. 
If she is like my kids, it will only take her one to two times to
realize you mean business and she may as well just get it done. 

**post edit note: I just re-read this answer…which doesn’t really answer your question at all.  Whoops, sorry!  I think I was distracted with trek (see next paragraph).  I love what another reader wrote in the comments here, try breaking the task into more do-able portions.  Maybe have them work on one section of a job at a time so they’re not so overwhelmed.  Also, we can never underestimate how important it is to teach and train, step by step, exactly what you want done.  Sometimes it’s so easy for a parent to say “clean your room” which seems like a very simple task, right?  But maybe they need a checklist of exactly what needs to be done: Clear off shelves.  Check under your bed.  Line up toys in such-and-such a way.  This is how you hang up clothes, etc.  Sometimes we need to back up and make sure kids are really fully trained.  I LOVE the book “The Parenting Breakthrough” which I talked about a bunch over HERE.  It talks about how to train kids to do jobs in a pretty great way.

Hope that helps a little more than my first answer!

More later on all this…right now as this posts I am on a pioneer trek with my teenagers…probably starving and tired, but hopefully learning and growing along with them (and the 500 other youth going!)

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  1. I certainly need help with keeping emotion out of discipline especially with one of my children. Which love and logic book is the best to buy? Just looked on Amazon and there are several.

  2. Hi Talie, I'm not sure how to get a message to you other than to leave a comment here.

    You have won the painting on my blog and I just posted an article on you, Lucy and the give away.

    Your story has touched me today, and I think I'm actually the winner. 😉

  3. One thing my mom taught me growing up that I've tried to pass on to my children is the idea of choice- I try to help them understand that when they misbehave or fail to do what I've asked them to do, I'm not taking something away from them- they're choosing to lose it. Even for my toddler, when she has a tantrum I'll say, "I'm giving you a choice. You may choose to calm down and use words to talk to me or you may choose to go sit in time-out. What would you like to do?" If she's still freaking out, I say, "I'm sorry that you're choosing to have a time-out because you're not calming down. Let's go." I do the same with my emotional 6-year-old. I tell her that she can choose to clean her room and then go watch a show or she can choose to miss the show because her room isn't clean.

    It doesn't always work- they don't always make the best choices! But it does show them that they determine their fate, not me. As long as I make them aware of the consequences of their actions and allow them the freedom to choose, I don't have to feel like the bad guy and they learn that they can control what happens to them, which helps them gain confidence and maturity.

    I LOVE your Q&As, by the way! So helpful!!

  4. To the mom who asked about the chores and punishment: I have totally been in your place with feeling like I am constantly nagging and punishing my children! I had to really step back and look at what was going on and if I was being fair in my expectations. Our job as parents is to teach, train, and guide our children…and if they are receiving more punishment than praise…I can almost guarantee that it will keep getting worse.

    With my 10 and 8 year old's room, they were unable to keep it clean. If I sent them in there to clean on their own, not much would get done because it was so overwhelming for them! I wonder if that is happening with your 6 year old? Our success is that I spent 4 hours one Saturday deep cleaning their bedroom WITH them. Now they are required every night to do a 5 minute speed clean…and they use a timer. They then put a sticker on their calendar…and if they fill up a month with 90% completion…we will take them to a movie. (HUGE motivation for them). Their room has been spotless for almost a month!

    For other chores, we have it clearly identified what they are expected to do each day, and we actually follow the system in "The Entitlement Trap" and it has worked beautifully for us.

    I would just caution you to be careful in your punishments. If we are constantly punishing our kids, then we need to recognize we are somehow setting our kids up to fail…and then change things around so that we are setting them up to succeed. And when you set them up to succeed, and clearly identify your expectations and the rewards/punishments BEFOREHAND, then you can follow through without emotion.

    I hope this makes sense…it is so hard to share an idea in such a small space!

    Good luck!!!!

  5. I love that you are going on Trek. I am a "Ma" on one next week and I am so nervous about it. I can't wait to read how it was.

  6. I love reading all your parenting advice!
    One thing I do when the kids won't help clean up their rooms or the family room, is tell them to each pick up 10 things. By the time they all do it, the room is clean! Another idea is to assign each child a different color. So, one child picks up everything that is red, another picks up all the blue, etc.

  7. To that poster of the second question: Some kids don't have that built-in executive function. They are more distractable, and what seems like a small task to us (picking up a room) might seem insurmountable in their minds. Sometimes it helps to break it down into smaller steps. Have your daughter check-in after each smaller step is completed. Also, kids are motivated by different things, and some aren't motivated by a long-term reward (hanging out with their friends LATER) as much as they are by a short-term reward (getting to play a computer game right AFTER the room is cleaned). Different personalities need different incentives!

  8. Something that has totally helped my boys in their room cleaning is setting a timer. I give them a specific amount of time that we both agree on. Then I let them know that if the room is not clean to my standard after the timer goes off, that an additional chore will be added when they are done. It has worked like a champ! And the benefit is, that if additional chores are added, I end up with a clean bathroom or vacummed floor;)Sometimes they choose to do extra chores but most often the room is clean by the end of their allotted time!

  9. I too would love to know which Love and Logic book you are referring to.
    I loved your suggestion about keeping emotions out of the disciplining. That is something I really need to learn how to do.
    Any further learning would be super helpful.

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