Tag Archives: children

Expected & Rewardable Behavior: When to reward a child’s good behavior and when not to.

Natural Rewards & Consequences

Children, at their core, are simple creatures. They’re not so different from us. Behavior that has benefits to them is repeated. Behavior that has negative consequences are not. Two simple categories right? Yes… but they both apply in two ways. Let me break it down like this:

  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring benefits will be repeated.
  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring (seemingly) negative consequences will not be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring benefit will be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring negative consequences will not be repeated.

Basically I’m trying to point out that some good behaviors are their own reward… other good behaviors are not. Some, like cleaning a room, have built-in benefits. Others, like telling the truth, can seem to have consequences rather than rewards for our kids. Our goal as proper disciplinarians is to exaggerate the benefits of good behavior and the consequences of the bad. This becomes especially important when life seems to reward the bad and punish the good. Parents are wise when they provide incentives for children to choose the right over the wrong in spite of naturally occurring consequences.

Rewardable Behavior & Expected Behavior

If you’ve read any of my other articles on Proper Discipline then you know that I believe in setting Minimum Standards for your Child. Minimum standards help you to be consistent when discouraging unwanted behavior. On the other end of the spectrum is what I would call Expectations. Expectations is a fair and achievable set of goals we set for our children’s behavior.

Have a look at the diagram below:

ExpectedRewardableBehavior

Anything between your Minimum Requirements and your Expectations is Expected or Good Behavior. Note that even the color of the background has a purpose. Expected behavior is not Perfect Behavior. Children are still allowed to have moods, bad hair days and etc… as long as they don’t drop below our Minimum Requirements. Anything above our Expectations is Rewardable Behavior… and anything that drops blow our Minimum Requirements is punishable. I keep this diagram as a mental image in my mind when dealing with my children. Placing a mental pin on based on their current behavior helps me know what my reaction should be.

Practical Application Time

Enough theory… let’s put this into practice. There was a time that my daughter got a Skittle every time she went potty. Back in the day going potty was an action that rose above her expected behavior at the time since she was still wearing diapers. Once that behavior became standard and expected, the reward was removed. I’m not going to be giving her Skittles for the rest of her life! That girl goes so much she’d be bigger than me by now!

I also don’t reward her for keeping her room clean. It’s expected behavior and it has it’s own reward. She loves her room once it’s clean. She’s learning to put things away faster so she can enjoy it once she’s done. Currently there are rewards for eating or at least trying certain foods. My girl is a very picky eater… and though we don’t make her eat things she outright doesn’t like… we insist that she tries one bite each time we have it. Our Minimum Requirement is that she eat at least one bite. Our Expectation (or Goal) is that she will develop a taste eventually and eat it all. She is praised verbally when she tries the food, and she has gotten better at it, but we save dessert for when she eats a fair bit or all. Recently she finally decided she liked mashed potatoes (told you she was picky) and she was rewarded.

Conclusion

  • Some behaviors have their own rewards and consequences.
  • Parents need to make sure good behaviors are rewarding and bad behaviors have consequences especially when life rewards bad behavior or punishes good.
  • Expected behavior is appreciated but not rewarded.
  • Rewardable behavior is that which exceeds your expectations at the time.
  • Today’s Rewardable Behavior is tomorrow’s Expected Behavior.

If this made any sense at all… or if you have questions… please post them in the comments. If there are ever any more specific questions I can answer concerning discipline, please email me at geeklovesnerd@gmail.com

What Is Proper Discipline?

Discipline

Discipline used to be a dirty word to me. It still has a sting to it. I had a hardcore ex-military step-father who loved to throw it around while he rampaged around the house demanding perfect order. His demands on us changed moment by moment based on his moods. A good mood meant we could be ourselves, even careless and carefree with our behavior. A bad mood meant we wished we didn’t even exist enough to leave a footprint in the carpet. This wasn’t proper discipline.

When it was time to have my own children, I was outright scared. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to bring up my children properly. Don’t we learn from the example? Don’t the statistics say we tend to repeat the bad traits of our own parents? I didn’t want to… but was I doomed to put my children through the same tortures I endured? That was when learning proper discipline became very important to me.

Discipline is more than “getting onto” kids, correcting them, spankings and time-outs. Discipline done right is just another word for Discipling, literally making your child into a follower of your example… a disciple. Therefore…

Proper discipline is achieved when we provide a relationship of love and consistency where children are shown the consequences of sin and the benefits of obedience.

Proper discipline starts with love.

We all love our kids… but love isn’t all hugs and kisses. Love holds a child down while they get their shots… because it’s good for them. Love exposes a child to food they don’t originally like. Love forces a child to focus on things they don’t have much interest in like homework or cleaning their room. Love is also patient and kind. It is not rude, self-centered or easily angered. Proper discipline starts with proper love.

Proper discipline is consistent and predictable.

When children think about crossing the line… they need to know even before they do it what is coming. Your response shouldn’t be based on mood or circumstance. We achieve consistency by having a vision for who we want our child to be, being patient and selfless, and having a set of expectations and basic rules established ahead of time. When children experience the same discomfort when they make mistakes and the same encouragement when they make good choices… they will move away from one and toward the other. This is greatly enhanced when they see the principals you set for them lived out in your own life.

Proper Discipline has consequences for bad choices.

When a child steps over the line, it needs to be uncomfortable for them. The consequences of the transgression need to outweigh the benefits. A child may want to loose their temper because it feels good to get so angry… but if the consequences of the behavior are severe enough, they will choose good behavior because it’s not worth it. What are those consequences? That’s where knowing your own child comes into play. Some parents use time-outs, some spank, some use isolation or loss of benefits. It’s all about what works best with the smallest effort from you… and doing it consistently.

Proper Discipline has benefits and encouragement for good choices.

This is the part most old school disciplinarians don’t get. It’s not enough to discourage bad behavior, you’ve got to encourage good behavior. Focusing only on the bad only teaches a child to not get caught. Focusing only on the good creates a child who believes they are entitled and can do no wrong. It’s only in the balance of both do we see the results we want. I don’t believe you have to reward every bit of good behavior… but encouragement is free and should be given liberally. It’s easy to catch a child being bad… we almost look for badness by default. I try to catch my daughter being good too. If I see her share her snack with her brother… I’m going to brag on her to her mom so she can hear. They like hearing you talk about them a lot more anyway. 🙂

More on consequences and rewards in future posts.

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Why Parents Don’t Discipline

screaming-child

It only takes one trip to Walmart to realize something… folks don’t discipline their children very well anymore. You can hardly find a child you’d want to spend any amount of time around while strolling through the isles. Restaurants are even worse. Kids shouting out, squirming, crying or complaining. It’s not just the young ones either… often times the older the child is the more out of control they are.

I think the lack of discipline in the home is the leading contributor to the degrading quality of our neighborhoods, our schools, escalation of chemical imbalances and rising crime rates, drug use and gang activity. It’s a big deal.

So why aren’t we doing it? Why are kids getting away with so much? Why are we pacifying and distracting rather than directing and correcting?

1. Discipline is a dirty word to most of us.

So many adults today were abused or otherwise mistreated under the banner of “discipline”. Proper discipline is not abuse or an overbearing parent… it is a relationship that allows a parent to direct a child into becoming the man or woman God has for them to be.

2. Complicated family situations.

When a family splits up… things get complicated. When money is tight… the urgent will often push the important to the back burner. We love our children… but proper discipline is hard work and so quick fixes become the order of the day. If the child spends time between two households, the rules are different every other weekend. Parents tend to parent out of guilt or as a competition with the former spouse. Since there is almost no consistency parents switch into survival for the moment mode and situations are handled, but not the behavior.

3. Vices

If a parent has problems with smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, late nights, dating or any other self-destructive behavior it makes it almost impossible for them to be a good parent. If a parent is a liar how can they correct a lying child? If mom has a boyfriend over for the night and the child acts out in school the next day, the parent is defensive against the teachers because she is to blame. Meanwhile the child is left thinking he can do no wrong and will continue to take out his frustrations on every available adult outside of his home. 99% of parenting is leading by example. They will only do what we say for so long… then they’ll do what we do. We must become the people we want our children to be.

4. Simply don’t know how!

There are a ton of parents who would love to have a well behaved child… but they simply don’t know how to do it. They’re trying… but nothing seems to work. I know of several parents who have 3 or more kids… then the 4th one comes along and nothing that worked with the older ones work with him. They have to learn all over again how to get the behavior they need. If you have never seen a model of proper discipline, it’s difficult to know what to do. My hope is that the articles I’ll be writing over the next few days will be of service to you.

Proper discipline is one of the hardest jobs in parenting… but it’s the most rewarding. It’s an investment in your own future… and because of the fruits of your labor… it’s not only the best thing you can do for your kid, it’s the best thing you can do for your own sanity. Children not only need structure, they crave it. Like grass that grows better when it’s cut regularly, children flourish when they are given proper boundaries. They make better choices and avoid common mistakes. They’ll become a blessing to you rather than a drain on you. Check back for more.

Discipline Children With The Big Picture In Mind

I have noticed that a lot of folks have a different approach to discipline than I do… and I’d like to share mine. I constantly see stressed out or embarrassed parents trying to address misbehavior in a public place trying to get the kid to be good in the moment. When I find a behavior that needs to be corrected or redirected in my children my goal is to change the behavior forever, not just for the moment. I think this makes all the difference.

It’s the difference between dealing with the same issues over and over case by case verses changing the behavior so that the child can mature (and move on to the next major issue). Many parents find themselves correcting behavior for the moment because it’s quick and gets the job done… only to find that the same issue arises again and again.

A great example is how children act on a shopping trip. Let’s say a child sees a toy they want. We tell them they can’t have it… so the child pitches a fit. Our knee-jerk reaction is to correct the behavior. We want the child to stop embarrassing us and shut the heck up! But the crying is a symptom of a deeper issues. Shutting them up can be easy… but does it deal with any of the following issues that caused the scene?

A child who pitches fits may be dealing with any of the following issues:

  • Anger
  • Lack of control over impulses and emotions
  • Lack of gratefulness, thankfulness or contentment
  • Lack of respect for parents and others

Quickly pacifying or conversely threatening a child to shut them up does not correct the behavior in the big picture. We must slow down, move past the embarrassment, back up for a moment and look at the big picture when we properly discipline our children. Our goal isn’t to teach our children to be good… it’s to help them be good children. Good behavior is a natural outcome of having a good child.

Here is a list of steps I find myself using when dealing with behavior issues in my family.

What is behind the outburst or behavior? Why has it happened?

Not every outburst is due to bad behavior. Before I run in with guns blazing I like to look and ask questions. What’s wrong? Why are we crying, screaming, spray painting graffiti or whatever? If they’re hurt or being tormented by a sibling… I don’t want to go off half cocked and end up jumping on the wrong kid for no reason.

What is the expected behavior or response I want in future instances of this event?

It helps for you to have a vision of the kind of person you want your child to become. I find myself constantly comparing my children to that standard and working to encourage behavior that leads them to it, and discouraging behavior that would lead them away. If you know what you want from them… it’s easy to know what to correct the moment you see it.

What tools can I give to help my child to behave or respond that way next time?

Kids need to know what is expected. They need to know the reasons why things are bad. If they understand, they’ll take ownership of the standards. They’ll obey the rules because they believe in them… not just because they’re forced to. This makes the difference between a child who acts good and is good.

My daughter threw trash out of the car the other day. She didn’t realize she was being bad. I wanted to modify her behavior so that next time she wouldn’t do it. I explained to her that throwing trash out was wrong. If everyone did it the world would be super messy. That trash belongs in the garbage can or recycle bin. I told her she would be punished the next time she threw trash out the window. Now she knows. Just today she saw some trash outside and told us how someone was being bad and should have thrown it in the trash. A standard I set has now become one of her own standards.

Sometimes we’ve told them, but they have chosen not to listen. They willfully lie, have a temper outburst, or refuse to do something they’re told to do. Talking is still important… but it only works after a punishment that more than fits the crime… but I think consequences are a topic for a future post.

So it’s not enough to squash out bad behavior… you’ve got to deal with the source. It’s like seeing a roach in the kitchen… you can step on him… but you also need to deal with the infestation behind the walls unless you want him to come back. So next time, take a moment, get past the stress and trauma of the situation, keep that vision in mind and help that child move in the right direction.

About A Boy, My Boy

daddy

I love my son. I didn’t know if I could before I had one. I guess I had it in my mind that sons were somehow unlovable. When you have a father who doesn’t stick around… and then a step-father who pretty much hates on you the entire time he’s married to your mother… I guess feeling this way is a natural response.

He didn’t take to me right off like his older sister did at his age. He was a momma’s boy for his first year. We didn’t really bond. This only confirmed my fears that I was going to be a great father to one child… and a terrible one to my youngest. But for some reason, after that first birthday, things started to turn around. He suddenly liked his Daddy. It really helped to know that it wasn’t me. I was just pretty much useless to him for the first year!

He’s just shy of a year and a half. As his personality develops, and I’m introduced to more and more of who he’s becoming… I gotta say… he’s a cool little dude. He loves to laugh, cut up, play jokes, chase and be chased. He is obedient and eager to please. He can switch between tears and a smile almost instantly and he’s already showing signs of being a good hard-working little helper.

I still worry if I’m going to cheat him somehow. I’m never going to be the Dad that plays basketball or football with him. Hunting and fishing aren’t my thing. I don’t play golf or watch sports. I draw. I play video games. I create podcasts and blogs. Not your typical Daddy type stuff. Maybe he’ll take after me… maybe not.

I just have to believe that whether or not I can relate to him… that I’ll always be there to support him. I will provide the constancy in his family, home, discipline and love that he needs to move in the direction God has planned for him. What does the Bible say after all… “train up a child in the way he should go”. I may not do it right… but I’ll at least be doing it in the right direction.

I believe that will work just fine. I turned out okay and I never had that. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of.

Why Kids Respond To Moms and Dads Differently

“My kids treat myself and my husband very differently. They seem to respect him more… he only has to say things once to get what he wants from them. They seem more needy and whiny around me. Any advice?”

Barb

That sounds a lot like what goes on in our own home. Our two have two different behavior patterns based on which parent they’re around. This seems pretty typical across the board. Kids even do this between parents and teachers for instance. I know of a few kids who are terrible at home, but are the best students a teacher could ask for. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come to some conclusions as to why kids are different around one parent verses the other.

1. Moms and Dads provide needs differently.

In our home Mom is the primary provider of food and care. Dad is the primary provider of fun and chores. The kids don’t typically come to me when they’re hungry. They don’t typically go to Jenn when they’re wanting to be thrown up in the air or tickled. That results in a different set of behaviors automatically. Approaching Mom when they’re hungry feels and looks a lot different than coming to Dad for some fun.

2. Moms and Dads discipline differently.

In my home I tend to be the primary disciplinarian. I tend to be a bit more demanding as I expect my children to respond the first time I request something. Jennifer is a bit softer and seems more willing to put up with excess whining or complaining. Kids know which parent they can ‘get away’ with such things and which they can’t.

I don’t believe you’re ever going to get kids to act exactly the same around each parent… nor would you want the to. Kids need both types of parents and the differences they provide. I find that Jennifer and I balance one another out quite a bit. Without her influence, I would tend to be to tough and demanding. Without my help, the kids might just run all over her. That being said, there are some things that should be consistent between parents.

1. Kids Should Equally Respect Both Parents

In our home it is my job to make sure my kids understand that my wife is to be respected and obeyed as much they do me. I literally had to sit down with our daughter and explain my relationship to her Mother and how much I love her… and that treating Mommy right is more important to me than the way my daughter treated me.

2. Kids Should Equally Obey Both Parents

Moms and Dads can get more consistent obedience from their kids by establishing constant expectations, limits and consequences. Kids act differently between parents because expectations and limits are different. Face it, if you spank… Dad’s spank harder… mom’s spank more. It’s different and garners a different behavior.

Sit down with your spouse and share what works and doesn’t work about discipline in your home. Share tips and tricks that you use to get what you want from your kids. Establish minimum requirements for behavior so that you both will know when to step in and correct behavior. Set up a series of escalating consequences for bad behavior that you both will follow. When discipline is consistent, behavior is consistent.

For more information on discipline check out an 8-part mini-series I did called Proper Discipline in Children’s Ministry. It’s written for children’s ministers… but the concepts apply at home even more than in the church setting.

The Power of Admitting Fault To Our Children

sorry+squirrel

I’ve never been able to idolize any human being who came across as perfect. I can’t believe in something that I know isn’t real. That’s why I like my heroes to be imperfect. If they can be human… and still be awesome… that is something I can hope to achieve.

I have to believe that our children need the same type of example from us. So many times though, we parents feel that if we’re not right 100% of the time, then we lose somehow. We’re not sure what we’ll lose… but it’ll be gone and we’ll miss it and that is that!

The problem is, thinking back to my own childhood, I knew when my parents made mistakes. I made decisions, pacts, and judgments based on what I understood at the time. If they tried to gloss it over, or pretend it never happened, or even worse, make like it was right… it had the opposite effect they were hoping for. I lost respect for them and swore, once more, never to be like them.

The solution to this issue is difficult but simple. When we screw up as a parent or spouse… we need to admit it and apologize. Our kids see us when we’re acting stupid… and they need to see what happens as a result. They need to see us humble ourselves. They need an example of how to fail. We’re afraid to show weakness… but it takes guts to let it show. It takes strength to be weak.

The other day I got mad with my wife. I was loud and annoyed. Like a flash in the pan it was over… but there were my kids at the breakfast table looking at me. My daughter asked what was wrong. I told her that I got angry with Mom… but I was wrong and shouldn’t have been loud. She learned that this wasn’t acceptable or typical behavior. It wasn’t the norm… and wouldn’t be the norm. Dad was wrong and would correct the behavior. Emotional scarring averted.

It’s not the only time I have had to apologize to her. Once I was mistaken in a discipline situation. Mom had told her one thing, I didn’t know about it and told her another. Tears and confusion followed. I went to her room and told her what had happened… that she wasn’t in trouble… and that I was wrong and very sorry. You could see the hurt melt away from her eyes. Again, emotional scarring averted.

Apologizing is powerful. It sets an example. Creates accountability within the family. Helps kids see a direct link between the standards you have for them and the benefits as an adult. Mostly though, it makes you real. It turns around a negative and makes it a positive. It bonds your kids to you rather than pushing them away.

The goal with apologizing is to do it as much as necessary, but as little as possible.

A Selfless Marriage Trains Your Children

They're Watching Us... Learning

One of the greatest benefits of selflessness in a marriage is the example it gives to others. When those others are living in the house with you, share your last name, and look like the both of you (aka your children) the impression is far greater than we can imagine.

Here’s a fact. Children will grow up, and if they marry, they will choose someone exactly like their father (boys) or mother (girls). I have seen this trend almost without exception. Even in the case where the father was absent. I blame traits passed on from mother to daughter in that case. If mom picked badly, daughter will learn that from mom.

If we want our kids to have a great marriage, we’ve got to model it for them. Dads… want your daughter to choose a great guy? Be a great man! What your son to learn how to treat his wife? Model that behavior by treating his mother with respect (and demanding he do the same).

Seems like a lot of work. Not really. If we can focus on being selfless, sacrificial spouses, as the Bible says, “All these things will be added unto you.” Being a great natural example is a side-effect of a great marriage.

Men, when we love our wives properly, we’re teaching our sons how to do it and our daughters what to demand. Wives, when you love your husband properly you’re teaching your sons that inner goodness is rewarded, not an outward image and your daughters that a lasting love is the only thing worth giving herself to.

Comments? Feedback? Is anyone even reading this crizzle? Leave a comment for the love!

Parenting Is Setting The Example, And Scary

example

A wise man once said, “At first a kid will do what you say… but then they’ll do what you do.” A scary thought huh. It means that properly raising your child is more than modifying bad habits and behaviors in your child… it’s also becoming the person you want you child to become yourself.

I think this is why so many parents aren’t properly disciplining their children these days. They feel hypocritical correcting behavior in their children that they aren’t controlling in themselves.

It’s also the reason so many teens become super rebellious. They see an inconsistency between what they’ve always been told and how their parents have lived their lives. They lose respect for their authority figures and use it as an excuse to do their own thing their way.

Another wise man once presented me with a concept that change my life. He asked me about the condition of my life. My habits, my thought life and the condition of my spirit. I told him I was fine with all three. Then he asked me if I would wish any of the three on another person that I cared about. In that exact moment I realized that no part of my life was worth duplicating. I committed to improving myself physically, mentally and spiritually and it’s a good thing… because within a few years I was having my own children. Little lives that I was responsible for. Little personalities that were being shaped by my attitudes, outlooks and habits.

Ask yourself that question: “Is my life worth duplicating in my children?” And respond accordingly.