10 Common Worries of Prospective Homeschoolers and Unschoolers

Judy11June2006 128

When considering homeschooling a child who has reached school age or when the decision is made for children to leave a school they attended last year, parents who are homeschooling their children for the first time have a lot of questions, worries and fears. These concerns are very common and as a home educator for the past 17 years, I would like to address them.

1. Can I balance home and school? I am worried that my mother duties would suffer when I would be spending a lot of my time teaching.

More and more you will blend parenting and teaching so that there is not much distinction between the two. You have been a teacher since your child was born and that loving style won’t change. Let your passions loose and share them with your child. Let your children share their passions with you. Many parents find the roles of teacher and student reverse because the parents learn too. Think of teaching your child not as a person with a brain that you have to fill with facts, but as a journey in which you and your child will travel and learn together.

2. I’m worried that his education will not be recognized later down the road in order to be accepted into a good post secondary institution, so he can have all the same opportunities as traditionally schooled kids.

First, there are many studies that show that home-schooled children meet grade level achievement and often exceed it. Secondly, in Alberta, all children write the grade 12 diploma exams in the core subjects if they want to go on to post-secondary education. By high school age, many kids actively seek out courses to pass the exams and move forward with their goals. Many kids don’t even start formal coursework until grade 10 and do just fine on the exams – so don’t worry – you can’t possibly mess them up.

3. My kids didn’t listen to me when I nagged them about homework last year.  How will it be when their whole education is in my hands?
Homeschooling takes much less time than school. In many cases, it is even less time than children spend on homework! In elementary studies, home schooling might take less than 30 minutes a day not including reading and field trips. In junior high, it might be two hours a day and high school would be 2-3 hours per day. That’s it. And no homework to fight over. Children will have a lot of time to pursue their passions.

Kids are born to learn and will continue to seek out knowledge. It’s natural that humans, from infants to seniors, want to know about their world and how it works. However, they just might at times have a different learning agenda than you. If you have a bad day (and you will) just give up on teaching, go with the flow and go have some fun- build your relationship and try your agenda again in a few days or weeks.

4. I’m worried that I will burn out trying to entertain my kids all day.

Don’t even try to occupy your kids all day. I’m not sure where the notion came that parents must be constant entertainers, but it’s a habit you don’t want to start. Leave things out like a board game today, craft supplies tomorrow and a costume trunk the next day – they will learn to occupy themselves. You will be amazed at their creativity if you are not directing everything. If you don’t get into the habit of occupying them, they will not get into the habit of looking to you to fill their day and you will have free time to yourself. Many homeschoolers use this time to run a home-business, write, or work part-time. The bonus is that children will develop their creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Be sure to insist that they clean up messes though.

5. I’m only homeschooling one sibling. How will the children get along?

Kids readily accept that their siblings have different education situations. That’s okay. They may want to homeschool too or they might not. If you give each child the choice each year, it takes the power struggles out of the inevitable complaints resulting from their choice.

You might want to consider drawing up a contract with two of your non-negotiable stipulations of what you want done this year and get their input of their non-negotiables as well. Each of you sign your name and post it on the wall. That helps when the whining starts. You can point to what the children signed and agreed to.

You will have bad days when the kids are fighting non-stop and you wonder if they won’t be better off in school. But, they would have those days even if they were in school. Most homeschoolers report that their older kids have much better relations because of learning to get along with each other in the early years. For example, my university kids love to still play board games with their 12 year-old brother.

6. How can I teach them things that I don’t know very much about, such as fractions?

Your kids are going to learn fractions whether you teach them or not. You can’t force a child to learn and you can’t stop them from learning. Math concepts are learned from life – baking, money, shopping etc. Language is learned from avid reading. When they get to later grades, they have to start learning fractions on paper rather than in their heads. As kids get into junior and senior high school, there are online teachers that can teach your kids what you don’t know or want to. And developmentally, they are mature enough to listen more to an outside teacher than you!

7. What if I  made the wrong choices this year?  Programs?  Curriculum? Classes?

It’s only a year! Nothing is written in stone. Your education plan (the worksheet you submit to your facilitator of your year’s plan) is a work-in-progress document and you can change anything you wish at any time. Dump curriculum if it doesn’t work for you, or change programs or the timing of topics. Most homeschoolers don’t finish their goals for the year (we are human and humans procrastinate, or life just gets in the way of our best intentions)and the kids move on to the next grade and do just fine! Enjoy the time you have with your children.

8. I worry about what my kids will miss out from not attending school; School portraits, holiday parties, riding the school bus, Christmas pageants, field trips, etc.

The homeschooling community will provide all those experiences too. In school, the logistics of organizing field trips for a large group only allow for one or two field trips per year. With a family, you can go anywhere, anytime! Join a support group or facebook group (search for “city name” and “homeschool” and lots of groups will pop up) that organizes a lot of outings and you could be on a field trip every day. The artists, writers, presenters and special guests that do programs in schools will also provide them to a group of homeschoolers. It just requires someone to organize it. In our earlier years, the homeschooling community provided school photos, year-end talent concerts (that anyone can perform in, regardless of talent) field trips every week, parent organized holiday parties, music lessons and group discounts on plays, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Some parents love to organize and if you are one of them, pick something your child wants to do, pick a date and advertise it and you will have a group to go with you in no time. It’s not homeschooling as much as community schooling!

The only thing missing is the school bus experience and perhaps children will get that in high school!

9. When I tell relatives what we are going to do, I am met with skepticism, silence and negative comments. How do I handle being judged? It is undermining my confidence.

Unfortunately, until homeschooling becomes more widely understood, you will be judged! Most people hold stereotypes of the “social” and “academic” aspect, and are misinformed by homeschooling portrayals in the media. Many homeschoolers just smile and say, “It’s the best choice for our family.” Grow a thick skin and let comments bounce off of you.

10. My child is so social. How will I provide friends for her?

Friends are everywhere, not just at school. Some kids love being with other kids. Some kids love being home without a lot of people around. You can provide both in homeschooling where you set the pace for social activities. There is enough going on in your city for homeschooling clubs, events, classes and outings that there is something organized for everyone – the outdoor enthusiasts, the sports crowd, writing groups and even the Friday afternoon Minecraft club at my house! Not to mention the usual community organizations such as Boy Scouts, church groups, community classes, and more.

Relax, seek out a mentor for the bad days, and most of all, enjoy your children and learning. It really is a great ride you and your children won’t regret!

Be sure to visit APCA’s website for homeschooling articles, a sample education plan and a sample parent-child contract.

More Information

Join our list for monthly notifications of free parenting webinars

Home Education Webinars

Advertisements

Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue? Part 1 Young Children

Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage
Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage

Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue?

Part 1 Young Children

Effective discipline of young children requires knowledge about the development of children. Normal toddler behaviour is often viewed as “misbehaviour” by parents who do not understand the physical, cognitive, social and emotional capabilities and limitations of toddlers. Research shows that children under age five comply (“listen”) to parent requests about 40% of the time.  This is normal child behaviour for that age, and does not require “teaching”, “discipline” or “punishment”.  This normal behavior will change as the child matures.

Children will develop self-control naturally with age. Until then, parents can child-proof the local environment to make it safer and enjoyable, and can redirect the child.  Children need adult help to calm down, as they have yet to learn self-soothing, which is a learned skill that comes with age and practice.

Toddlers have poor understanding of rules until they reach about age three. Even the word “no” is counterproductive, in that directing the child NOT to do something tends to inspire the child to actually do it!

Toddlers also have poor impulse control. This is a factor of executive function. Even though they understand the rule, they don’t have the self-control to hold back until about age five. They are going through a necessary developmental stage to explore their surroundings with all their senses, and want to taste, touch, and smell everything. Toddlers may seem to be ignoring or deliberately disobeying you, but in reality they are just doing their normal job of exploring, which stimulates development of their brains.

In summary, normal characteristics include:

Toddlers do not possess abstract thinking skills.

    • Rules are abstract, and a “don’t” rule is a double abstract which draws a toddler’s attention to the very action that you are attempting to forbid.
  • Toddlers are in the here-and-now.
    • Memories of rules known yesterday have been displaced.
  • Toddlers cannot multitask.
    • They can only hold a few thoughts in their heads at once.
  • Toddlers are driven to explore.
    • Everything in their being says “touch, taste, smell, look, hear!”
  • Toddlers have almost no impulse control.
    • Their immature brains do not allow them to restrain themselves.
  • Toddlers do not understand cause and effect.
    • They can’t relate their action to Mom’s anger. Reflection skills do not develop until age seven.

The best discipline tool for young children is understanding development and redirecting their behaviour. Child-proofing helps too because when a desired item is out of sight for a young child, it is also out of mind.

 TEMPER TANTRUMS

Temper tantrums occur when your child is overwhelmed and over-stimulated. The child feels frustrated and angry, and expresses those feelings through body language instead of words. Tantrums are part of normal behavior for a child between age 10 months to age 4 years, decreasing in frequency with age.

Prevent tantrums: Provide rest, sleep, food or stimulation as needed. Don’t go shopping with a tired, cranky, hungry child. Watch for and prevent triggers. Change the activity.  If your child is getting tired, hungry, or cranky, offer a juice-box (to raise blood sugar) and a protein snack. Try cuddling on your lap with a good book – a great way to calm down, gain literacy skills and enjoy some connecting quiet time together. Try to meet needs as soon as possible. Sometimes, boredom can’t be alleviated. Get creative and invent ways for children to pass the time.

Handle the tantrum:  It often helps to just ignore the tantrum, and carry on with your activity as if nothing is happening. If you have denied the child some item, this not the time to hand it over! Other methods are to just hold the child, and move to a safe, quiet place. Encourage feelings and expression of feelings. Say: “You’re angry. I’ll stay with you while you calm down. It’s okay to be angry. I know you are feeling frustrated.” Use a gentle but firm voice. Encourage deep breaths.

After the tantrum:  Label your child’s emotions and provide words to develop a vocabulary of feelings. Ask: “Were you angry when you couldn’t have that cookie? How can we express our anger?  Here is something to do.” The toddler usually understands the intent of the question and feels understood, and will later learn to use the words of feelings instead of the body language of a tantrum.

 In any situation that involves discipline of a child, remember three steps:

 Step 1.  Calm yourself – Take deep breaths, drop everything, dress your child, take the stroller and go for a walk, or put on a video, to distract you or your child;

Step 2. Calm the child – Redirect to another activity, or sit and breathe deeply together, or hold the child;

Step 3. Solve the problem: childproof, redirect, substitute, distract, comfort, talk, prevent, and model.

You will make much better parenting decisions when you and your children are calm.

Next week: Stay tuned for Part 2 – Problem Solving

Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage
Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage

For more information on Judy Arnall’s suggestions for effective discipline, click Webinars at http://www.professionalparenting.ca to register.

Worried about Summer Learning Loss? Isn’t Minecraft Educational?

by Judy Arnall

Your ten-year old daughter is wasting another beautiful summer day inside the house, playing Minecraft. You fear that her brain is becoming atrophied for lack of academic stimulation. You worry about education company warnings that children can lose a month of their school year learning during the summer. Will summer fun and a “break from formal learning” cause kids to fall behind academically in the Fall? Is there another way to keep up with academic learning other than by text books and lectures? Could video games support education? Hey, isn’t Minecraft educational? Yes, of course it is! Any type of toy or game is educational, in that it teaches children knowledge, life skills and the competencies outlined by Alberta Education in the new curriculum redesign.

Often, parents are critically conscious of the time spent on computer games, and assume that video games and toys are a frivolous waste of time. They think that if the game doesn’t directly teach math or language skills, time is wasted. However, indirect teaching of communication and math skills may be the best feature of gaming, along with enjoyment of plot, graphics, music and gameplay. A game can develop academic learning and competencies, even though not marketed as an “educational game”.

As a parent of five gamers (both genders), I learned early that my children hated the “educational games” that have primitive graphics, poor logic, clumsy interface, are non-multiplayer and just plain lame. “Educational games” seem to be marketed to parents that aim for functional use of time, rather than fun. When my kids immersed themselves in games like World of Warcraft, Nox, Spore, Gizmos and Gadgets, Age of Empires, Graal, Runescape and League of Legends, they learned not only reading, writing and math skills, but also knowledge of social studies, mythology, history and science. They learned valuable social skills such as cooperation and conflict resolution with other players in the same game, and with buddies outside the game playing with them in the same room. They learned personal skills, such as resilience during adversity, perseverance and commitment to continue and finish for the team despite discouragement. They learned how to deal with problems, team members and competitors under time pressure. They learned how to win gracefully, and how to face losing with dignity and without throwing a keyboard across the room.

Indirectly, games and toys teach some academic concepts in a way that is compelling to children, aided by the focus that is essential for game success. Parents who don’t play the game may not realise how their children have learned these competencies. Here is a brief overview of how toys and games teach children within the framework of the new curriculum redesign by Alberta Education.
Of course, children still need exercise, fresh air, and breaks from screens, which are also great life skills, but if your daughter chooses to spend her quiet time playing Minecraft, relax! She is counteracting summer learning loss in a fun, educational and engaging way.
Competancyvideogame
*Competencies retrieved from Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013), Alberta Education and adapted for this article. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx on April 29, 2014
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional certified parenting and teacher conference speaker, and trainer, mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, To University from Unschooling, to be published Fall 2014 http://www.professionalparenting.ca, jarnall@shaw.ca, 403-714-6766 Sign up for notifications of free monthly parenting webinars. Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety. Sections may be deleted for space constraints.

tufucoloredjudy2

Co-Sleeping with School-Aged Children

Family Bedrooms Still Popular Even with School-aged
Children

By Judy Arnall

“But Mom! You don’t have to sleep alone!” Kyle protests to his mom when she suggests that he
might want to sleep in his own room. Family bedrooms are increasingly becoming common in
North America thanks to the attachment parenting movement that recognizes that babies and
toddlers are not developmentally ready to sleep on their own for the first few years of life.

However, Kyle is seven years old, not two. The prevalence of family bedrooms among families
with school-aged children has not been studied, let alone talked about openly in our society yet,
but the trend is growing.

Many children, especially those that don’t have siblings to snuggle in with, continue to sleep in
the same family bedroom as their parents, well into the school-aged years. Because of high
profile cases such as the late Michael Jackson issue where he openly talked about sleeping with
older children in a non-sexual way, causing such public distaste, many families do not admit to
anyone outside their close family relatives that they sleep with their children, again, in a caring,
non-sexual way. The fear of being investigated by child welfare authorities is the biggest barrier
against discussing this practice. So the practice occurs quite often, but is not openly admitted. As
a society, we accept family bedrooms for motels rooms, visiting at relatives, camping and
vacations, but not for everyday use in a society that values independence at all cost. Still, parents
persist. “We co-sleep because it’s a cultural choice. My husband is Vietnamese and I am Canadian
and we have decided that it’s what works best for our family. Back in Vietnam my husband`s
sisters still sleep with their mother and my husbands’ brother and father also share a room. The
younger ones are all in their 20`s and it is not illegal or abnormal or culturally odd like it is here,”
says *Cheryl, mom of two children.

How does a family bedroom work? Two hundred years ago, before the invention of central
heating, most of the family slept in the same room if not the same beds. Fast forward to the
twenty first century, where bedrooms now have the square footage size of the average 1950’s
house, the family bedroom can easily accommodate two king-size mattresses on the floor or
several beds in the same room.

Not everyone agrees with the concept of a family sharing sleep in the same room. Barbara Evans,
a parent educator from Beaumont, Texas, worries about the parent’s need for privacy and
intimacy. “My concerns are that as parents, our job is to raise healthy, loving and lovable,
independent (heavy on the independent) children. Not to the exclusion of depriving them of
nurturing and cuddling, but this may be the first place to start learning about boundaries and selfcare.”

Why do families choose a family bedroom? No separation anxiety issues and no bedtime battles is
the biggest reason. For an increasingly separated family where both parents might work in paid
work all day and children are away at school, it is comforting and enjoyable to cuddle together at
the end of a busy day. “The best thing about having the kids there with us is the emotional bond
we have with them. We love the time upstairs to talk in bed, read, write or just watch T.V.
together. There’s no separation between us and we don’t send our kids away at night to be alone
unless they want to.” says *Ally, mom of three children, ages 9, 10, and 12. They have a big
master bed for the parents and two mattresses on the floor on either side of the master bed for the
children.

What age should family bedrooms stop? Children naturally develop the desire for more privacy
at puberty and tend to want their own room and sleeping space by the age of 12 or 13. This
occurs naturally whether they sleep alone, or share a bedroom with siblings or with parents.

Most experts agree that the rules are simple. Generally, all members of the family must wear
night clothes. Whoever doesn’t like the arrangement and says “no” should have their wishes
honoured whether they are the parent or the child. The parents might enjoy the closeness, but if
the 8-year-old wants his own room, that should be respected. And of course, couple sexual
intimacy must take place in another room.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said, “The government has no
business in the bedrooms of the nation.” And for many families, that rings truer than ever.

Family Bedroom Pointers

1. Parental sexual relations must take place in a private room away from the eyes and the
ears of the children.
2. Whoever says “no” rules. This must work for everyone
3. When children hit puberty, their natural desire for more privacy will take over and the
concept of the family bedrooms should be reviewed by the family.

*Names changed upon request.

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher
Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling
book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible
children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD,
Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and
love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice
http://www.professionalparenting.ca, jarnall@shaw.ca, 403-714-6766
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in
whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety————————————————————————————————-

What is Your Child Really Saying? Translating Attitude

Attitude is sarcastic anger. Sometimes, it’s a snarky I-statement or You-statement. If you look underneath, often, it’s a sign that your child is ready for more independence and feels thwarted in some way. Does she have reasonable choices? Can you give her more ability to make decisions? Or does she feel that she never has control over anything? Children want their needs and wants taken care of, just like adults do.

When looking at sass from your child, try to identify what they are really trying to communicate based on their need or feeling (NOF), stripped of the sarcasm, and then feed it back to them. “You are upset because I’m interrupting your game?” Share your feelings. “When I hear your tone, I feel disrespected. I would like to talk about this. Can we try this again? Here is how you can say what you are feeling. Instead of saying, ‘Whatevah!’ say ‘I’m feeling nagged. Please leave me alone.’ Then I will really hear you. Can you try that please?” Sometimes, you really have to give them the exact words to use, or they don’t know the respectful way to assert their needs. It’s a critical life skill to speak up respectfully so people can know what’s bothering you but still not feel attacked. Or you could gently say, “Do you want a moment to rephrase that?” You could use humor in your response. You could also just walk away and your body language will reveal you don’t want to be spoken to that way. Responding with anger or sarcasm doesn’t teach them anything other than its okay for them to continue that way.

Be sure to model assertive politeness instead of “attitude” yourself. It’s a hard trap to not fall into especially when family sarcasm is portrayed all over the media as cool and desirable. It’s a false representation. If you said, “whatever” to your boss when she asked you why your project was late, I would bet that she wouldn’t laugh. You are the perfect person to teach your children the assertiveness skills they need in life. Start at home!

Attitude Statements Your Child Might Use

You’re not my boss
I hate you
I’m not your slave
I’ll do what I want
You don’t love me
You don’t understand
It’s not fair
This is dumb
I can’t do it
I have rights!
Fine!
Whatever!
I don’t care

Persuasive Statements that Adults Listen To

I’d like a choice
I didn’t like what you said
That doesn’t seem fair
I need to try
I need attention
Please listen to my opinion
I feel capable and responsible
I feel scared, worried, about failing
I don’t know how
Please help me
Please let me have a choice
I’m feeling pushed
I’m scared

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice. She also teaches parenting at The University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services, and is an advice expert for Mothering.com, Today’s Parent magazine, Postmedia news, The Globe and Mail, Global TV and CTV. http://www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 jarnall@shaw.ca

Parent Time-Out

How to Take a Parent Time-Out with Small
Children Underfoot

One of the very best parenting tools is the Parent Time-Out. When parents are feeling
upset, angry, or frustrated over a parenting issue, or over their children’s behaviour, it
can help to diffuse the situation if the parent removes themselves to get calm and
centered, rather then force the isolation of their child into a Child Time-Out. After the
parent is calm, they are in a much better frame of mind to deal with the issue at hand
and they’ve avoided saying and doing things they might regret later. Sometimes, with
young children, this is easier said than done!

Many parents object to the parent time out because they complain that their toddlers and preschool children just follow them around the house, screaming, whining and crying.

How True!

Here are some tips to Mentally Time-Out when you can’t physically time yourself out:

Throw a CD on the stereo and dance hard!
Use an IPOD or MP3 player filled with your favorite songs to distract you.
Have earplugs everywhere. In the car, kitchen, purse, and bathroom. They take the edge off a child’s screaming that can damage your ears.
Lock yourself in the bathroom. Tell the children that you love them, and Mommy/Daddy is feeling angry, and needs to take a time-out for herself or himself. Turn on the fan or shower so you can’t hear the children, and breathe slowly. Visualize yourself in a calm place.
Do the Hokey-Pokey, and shake it out! Smile and make a funny noise and you will all be laughing.
Phone a friend to have a brief conversation. Tell her how you feel. Call from the closet or a bathroom if you have to.
Distract yourself with a magazine.
Drop everything, dress your children and yourself for the weather, and put them in the stroller. Go for a brief walk outside. Exercise, fresh air, peace and quiet! Children will be distracted by the sights and sounds and you can think out your anger in peace.
Put a children’s DVD or Mom’s movie on the player. It will either distract you or your child, and will give both of you time to calm down.
If you are in the car, pull over to a parking lot or some other safe place. Get out of the car, leave the children in there, and walk around the car 20 times. Cry, deep breathe, vent or stomp. Get back in the car when you have calmed down.
Imagine a soundproof, gentle, clear shell around yourself to protect you from screaming children.
Sit on the porch, find a closet, basement, or somewhere you can be alone. Make sure the children are in a safe place.
Tell your child that you both need a group hug. It can be very hard to hug someone that you feel angry with, but the touch is soothing and helps to heal the anger. It works well for some people.
Use “Self-Talk” Say over and over to yourself, “My child is not trying to bug me right now. She is only coping with her strong feelings in the only way she knows how. “But me first.”
Remember the phrase: “Get myself calm, Get my child calm, and then solve the problem.”

 
What skills do you use to calm down in situations other then parenting? Use some of those strategies if you can. Just as the oxygen masks in airplanes are meant to be used on adults first, so they can be in a position to help the children, you must take care of your needs first when you are angry. The bonus gift is that you are truly modeling for your child, how to take a calming time-out when situations become
overwhelming. Modeling by example, instead of forcing them in time-out, is the best way for children to learn self-calming tools.

FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S SAKE, TAKE A BREAK!

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and
Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without
Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out,
spanking, punishment or bribery” and a new DVD called “Plugged-In Parenting:
Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love.”
http://www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 jarnall@shaw.ca
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety.

Child Proofing Works for Older Children Too! It’s a handy discipline tool.

CHILDPROOFING –It’s not just for toddlers!

By Judy Arnall

Two-year-old Kelsey is reaching for the wine glass on the coffee table at a baby shower. Her mom is constantly on guard, trying to move the guests’ purses, glasses and food plates out of the way so Kelsey doesn’t grab them. Kelsey’s mom is using a <em>discipline technique called childproofing.</em>Although childproofing is the number one recommended discipline tools for parents of children ages crawling to four, it is also a very handy tool for parenting older children that are school-aged or teenagers. It’s the same technique, but called “Change the Environment” rather than childproofing. In fact, many arguments have been avoided by using the “changing the environment” tool for partners too! Here are some ways to change the environment to gain more co-operative behaviour from school-aged and teen children.

Add to the Environment

Enrich – make things more stimulating. Add toys, games, movies, food, and activities to occupy bored children. Children who are engaged in a fun activity have their needs met and are less likely to fight or engage in risky behavior if they are busy. Examples of this are: having games available for a long car ride; having lots of physical recess breaks(five a day) for school children; and having movies for teens to watch while parents are visiting.

Enlarge – add space. Take the children out to the park, zoo, ball field, movie, or playground. Make an enclosed backyard. Add space to a teen’s bedroom by moving out furniture. Arrange a dedicated play space in the house or certain rooms.

Subtract from the Environment

Reduce – take away stimulation and enticing situations. Reduce light and turn off the stimulating TV, computer games or ipod if you want them to relax and sleep at bedtime. Put away art materials and markers if the child doesn’t clean up the mess. Only bring them out when you have time to supervise a cleanup. Have a video game shut down at least an hour away from bedtime to allow your child time to unwind from the action. Put away anything you don’t want to capture their attention if you want to get them out of the house. Don’t bring up tense topics or deliver your “No” verdict on a request as you and the child are running out the door. Avoid starting a long movie when there is only a half hour until bedtime or the time to leave the house.

Restrict – put limits on activities or areas. Avoid ball throwing, and chase games in the house, but direct to the yard or basement. Allow eating only at the kitchen table to reduce food encrusted plates shoved under the family room sofa or piling up next to the computer. Have designated places for water gun fights, craft materials, drum and band practice etc. Also putting pets away in back rooms before playmates or younger guests come over prevents damage to pets from young children’s rough handling. Avoid competitive games such as computer and board games that can cause fights. Pack them away for a few years until children can developmentally handle losing better. Avoid play places if they get frustrated and hit other children. Avoid shopping if you know your child can’t understand why he can’t have treats from the checkout. Avoid busy places,amusement parks, and indoor arcade places if your child can’t handle the restrictions and your limits on money, tokens etc. Keep in mind that you are not avoiding these places and activities forever. Your child’s development changes monthly and their ability to handle limits and frustration will improve.

Change things around

Simplify –  make it easier for the child to do things himself. Put buckets and totes at easy access for storage of toys. Hang coat hooks at child level. Have designated places for backpacks and charging ipods and cellphones, preferably by the door so that it’s easier for the child to remember them the next day. Put dishes and lunch fixings in easy to reach and access places. Remove most toys and pack away in buckets that you can pull out and rotate for renewed interest. Have step stools in the kitchen and bathroom handy for young school-aged children. Have a basket for mitts, hats, and socks for each child, again, preferably by the door to catch those pesky socks that children remove as soon as they come in the house. Clip hair or nails while they are playing in the bath or sleeping. Buy socks all one color. Color code children’s belongings. Have a central basket for only library books and insist that library books never get shelved or they get lost in the house books.

Rearrange – arrange things to encourage or discourage behavior. Have a system for daily tasks such as feeding pets, taking phone messages, emptying the dishwasher. Have a system for handling school paperwork and information flow such as school notices, and letters that go back and forth from school to home. Have designated water glasses for each child. Put door guards on doors to prevent slamming door gouges in the walls. Move gaming consoles or drum sets to the garage or far away rooms to cut down on noise. Provide head phones for blocking offensive computer game language that younger children may hear.

Other common problem areas that can addressed this way are:

Pet care, household chores, noise, toys/play areas, kitchen/food/playtimes, T.V/computer/video use, dirty clothes/laundry, homework, bathroom use, telephone,breaking/damaging, weekends, bedtime/getting up, privacy/property, sharing tools/equipment and many more areas of conflict.

A common question posed in classes is, “Why do I have to try so hard to change the environment when sometimes kids just have to listen to my authority?” Of course there are times that kids just have to do as you tell them. But it’s more likely to get a good cooperative response when parents are not constantly nagging about daily situations.

Anticipating problems and planning ahead to avoid them just makes good relationship
sense. Try and ponder how changing the environment could solve a behavior problem.
Remember that changing the environment is always easier than trying to change another
person.

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and
Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without
Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out,
spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital
Generation” www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 jarnall@shaw.ca
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part,if the above credit is included in its entirety. Length may be edited for space