Monday, September 26, 2011

Podcast #21: When Temperaments Clash!

Check out the line up for our latest thrilling episode!

Situation of the Week (Jenn): Mutual Problem-Solving with a Babysitter

Topic: When Temperaments Clash! (begins 13:33)

Q & A: Is it effective for parents to play good cop/bad cop with their kids? If so, why? And if not, what do you think the root of parents playing these roles is? (begins 37:49)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Podcast #20: Talking about Parenting Ideas with Your Kids

We are happy to bring you yet another exciting episode of Cultivating the Virtues! This episode is a whole lot funnier than the others somehow. . . we laugh a lot. Yay!

Situation of the Week (Kelly): "Storming off in a museum because of a pottery disagreement" If you want that to make sense, you have to listen!

Topic: Talking about your parenting ideas and principles with your kids (begins 7:05)

Link: Parenting Principles at Rational Jenn

Q & A: When (if ever) should you intervene with other people's kids in public situations? (begins 24:24)

As always, send us feedback and comments, we'd love to hear them! And send us questions, too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Podcast #19: Let's Talk about Sex

Okay, so we skipped putting out a podcast last week, so we're making up for it by posting a REALLY INTERESTING podcast this time. :D

Situation of the Week (Jenn): Teaching kids what to do instead of just fussing at them for making mistakes. Amazing how helpful that is.

Links: On Minilectures at Rational Jenn

Topic: Talking to your kids about sex. Yes, there is some explicit discussion here, so be aware of your surroundings when listening! (begins 6:02)

Links: It's Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends (The Family Library) and It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families (The Family Library) (that's the book we couldn't remember the name of)

Q & A: What is the best way to deal with rude behavior that is not physically aggressive such as name-calling or sticking your tongue out, particularly in very young children? (begins 31:17)

Please send us comments and feedback and give us more questions to answer in future podcasts! And thanks for listening!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Positive Discipline Toolbox: Applying Decide What You Will Do to Parenting

(posted originally at Reepicheep's Coracle)

Yesterday, I wrote about how I applied the Decide What You Will Do tool to communication with other adults. Today, I would like to give some examples for how this tool is also useful with children.

As a quick review for those who didn't read the other post (though I can't imagine why they aren't following my blog as their most beloved task), Decide What You Will Do means realizing that you can't control the behavior of others and accepting the responsibility for your own behavior. It means sticking to the things you know are right, even when they don't cause others to immediate fall into line with all your plans. It is intimately connected with selfishness because deciding what you will do means looking at your own values and morals, deciding for yourself what will lead to your happiness, and doing that thing no matter what.

So how can this tool be used in parenting? The most important part, I think, is to recognize that you can't make children do a lot of things. You can't make them sleep, you can't make them eat, you can't make them learn, you can't make them stop crying, you can't make them pee or poop on cue. You can encourage them to do these things. You can make them so afraid of you that they will do these things just to avoid the consequences. But, if their little brains are completely set against the thing, you can't push a remote control button and make it happen.

Once a parent acknowledges that he doesn't have control over his children, he can focus on his own behavior and on creating an environment where children will learn to focus on theirs. Here are some ways I can imagine a parent using the Decide What You Will Do tool:

  • An infant is waking up in the night really often. Mom has tried everything; Dad has tried everything; Baby will not sleep more than 2 hours. Mom is feeling excessively angry about baby's demands. Mom can decide that she will get up with baby, but if she gets too angry, she will wake Dad to take over instead of yelling. (I wish I had done this one.)
  • 8 month old baby refuses to take a bottle and will only take a few sips of breastmilk from a cup from Dad. Mom wants to go to chorus practice alone for 2 hours. Mom decides that she will go and sing, and the baby will have to take what's in the cup or wait 2 hours. (This is one I had to do. Note: I would have made a different decision if the baby was very young. Deciding what you will do must be used with the context of parent and child in mind.)
  • A toddler has a tantrum in the grocery store. Dad cannot make the kid stop screaming, but he can decide that every time this happens they will leave the store immediately. (Who hasn't done this one?)
  • A toddler with a new sibling has a potty regression. Mom might decide to clean the mess up without saying a word and giving the child extra time alone with Mom at others times during the day.
  • A five year old interrupts conversations and knows that if he needs attention, he can tap Dad's shoulder and wait for him to finish his thought. Dad might decide that he will ignore all inappropriate ways of getting his attention and only respond when tapped. He might decide to give reminders about the shoulder tap at other times before the child has interrupted.
  • While problem solving about going to the pool with an eight year old, the child storms away, and she refuses to talk about the problem. The parent might decide that he has expressed himself in the best way he can, that he can't make the child communicate, and that they will just not go back to the pool and encounter the problem again until it has been solved. (Very similar to the situation in my post yesterday about conflict with an adult.)
  • A teenager gets a couple of speeding tickets, and his parents decide that they are not comfortable with loaning him the car.
None of these examples is a rule. Parents will decide different things based on their values and the situations they are in. The commonality is that the parents recognize that they cannot control their child's behavior directly and can only control their own. They make decisions about what they are going to do, and they stick to it.

Sometimes the sticking to it can be kind of hard. When Livy was a volatile toddler (dude, you have no idea!), she had tantrums in public places pretty often. I decided that I wouldn't let her disrupt everyone, so every time she cried or screamed loudly, we went home. It was hard to leave a store I really wanted to go to or to leave a restaurant. But I did it.

The follow-through is important for two reasons. Children (and adults) learn whether or not to believe what you say about yourself by watching to see if you actually do it. And even more important, if you decide to do something and know it is right, not to follow through shows a lack of integrity. Doing what we know is right is not only good for our kids, but it is good for us, as all virtuous behavior is.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Podcast #18: Living an "Adult-Centered" vs a "Child-Centered" Life

Look at that! Three weeks, three podcasts, woohoo!

Situation of the Week (Jenn): "If I scream, he wins." (It'll make sense when you listen!)

Topic: Living an "Adult-Centered" vs a "Child-Centered" Life (begins 8:48)

Link: "Child Friendly without being Child Centered" at Reepicheep's Coracle (Kelly's blog)

Q & A: How do you handle a parenting mistake when you realize you were unfair, but your child communicated his displeasure in an unacceptable manner (such as hitting or yelling)? (begins 27:38)

Link: "Parenting Toolbox: 3 Rs of Recovery" at Reepicheep's Coracle

Enjoy! And please send us questions or email us your comments and feedback.

When Effective Communication Fails

(originally posted at Reepicheep's Coracle)

When Jenn and I teach our Effective Communication class for adults, we teach participants a script for sharing their feelings honestly and kindly, for listening to the feelings of their partner, friend, or co-worker, and for finding solutions that will work for both people. After the attendees practice this joint problem solving, we often get the question: What do you do when the person that you are communicating with doesn't know how to communicate effectively or won't? I had a recent experience that made the answer that we usually give more clear to me.

A friend and I had an argument. It started with a misunderstanding, which I escalated by making a snotty reply. I apologized for my nasty reply and started the communication process. After a few emails were exchanged, in which I explained my feelings, tried to get a grasp on his, and started groping around for a solution to heal our friendship and move on better than ever, he refused to talk about it anymore. He decided he isn't good at or comfortable with this kind of honest and personal communication and that he wasn't going to do it anymore.

This leaves our friendship at basically an acquaintanceship, since he's made it clear that we can't really talk about things that are important or difficult. This makes me super sad because he was a person I was really looking forward to knowing better over the years. I still feel angry (at least a little bit) and hurt because our situation never got resolved and never will be. Basically, as far as helping our relationship, this effort at communication was a big fail.

But I did what Jenn and I advise our class to do, when they want to know how to handle a person who doesn't want to communicate: I used a positive discipline tool card called Decide What You Will Do. The basic idea is that you cannot control other people; you cannot make them behave in the way you want, believe what you want, care about what you want. The only person whose behavior is really within my control is me. So, in a situation where the person I am communicating with is not responding the way I would like, all I can do is decide what I will do.

In my situation, I decided that I will continue to communicate my feelings honestly and openly, though I wasn't getting back exactly what I would like. I decided that I would tell this person what I really needed, though I was unlikely to get it. I decided that I would work toward reconciliation and understanding as long as the other person was willing to talk. And when he was no longer willing to communicate, I decided how much contact I was willing to have with him and on what level our relationship can exist.

By communicating my apology and my feelings and my desire to work through the problem, I actually gained a lot. I practiced my communication skills in a hard emotional situation. I clarified for myself exactly what I was upset about and what my needs were and ways I had contributed to the problem. I identified another instance of a mistake I make reasonably often (letting my temper flare when I feel upset without getting all the facts), and I am working hard to fix it. I got new information about a person that I needed to know (if someone doesn't want to deal with issues, we probably shouldn't be friends). And I get to be proud of my attempts to be virtuous, to handle problems rationally, to express myself honestly, and to work toward integrating my beliefs and my actions.

So really, this communication was not a failure. As long as I strive for good communication, deciding to do the things that I know are right and carrying them out, the process has worked for me, even if it doesn't always work for the relationship. I have been successful with the only part of the process that is in my control.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Positive Discipline Tool Card: Special Time

(originally published on Reepicheep's Coracle)

First of all, let me say that the name of this card, Special Time, kind of makes me want to barf. I don't know why; perhaps one of my X chromosomes is damaged in some way. But I wish it was called "Do something cool together" or "Spend time with the people you love" or even the dreaded "Quality time." But when I can get past the name, I really love this card.

(You can find these cards here, and there's even an IPhone app. The cards are reminders of how many great tools are in our kits that we sometimes forget to use.)

The card says, "Schedule special time that is different from regular time. 1. Take the phone off the hook. 2. Take turns choosing an activity you both enjoy from a list you have brainstormed together. 3. Age guidelines: 2-6 years old - 10 min/day, 7-12 years old - at least 30 min/week, 13 and older - once a month something your teen can't resist."

I love this card because Livy and I are very different. We like to do different things a lot of the time, and though we spend A LOT of time together (ask any homeschooler just how much), it's not always doing something together (not just next to each other) that both of us just love. When we do this, I notice that we talk more, we argue less, and much less discipline is required because it's so easy to be respectful of each other.

I feel like the times might be kind of small, but if I worked away from Livy and if I had lots of kids, maybe I would see that differently.

So what does this have to do with discipline, you may ask? I touched on this above; when we are all filled up with loving each other, we get along better. We have fewer arguments to problem solve about, and we are more willing to help each other with chores and problems.

Focused time for us to be together prevents either of us from feeling left out or overlooked. A lot of poor behavior can spring from the desire to get noticed, to get some attention; check out my post on the Mistaken Goal chart. And not just Livy's behavior either. When I feel left out of her life and like we are growing apart, I get snarky and bossy. This card helps me too! As all positive discipline tools do!

Finally, this card improves discipline because so much of positive discipline has to do with joint problem solving and effective communication. Much of what we do boils down to:
I feel ______ because ________, and I wish ______, followed by trying to find mutually agreeable solutions. Why on earth should either of us listen to the other or care about the other's feelings if we aren't feeling close? I don't stop and use effective communication on random loiterers in the street. If I want this kind of problem solving to work, we have to be highly invested in each other's happiness and moral development.

So what do we do for this special time? Livy loves to fall asleep in my bed at night, and that's a great special time for us. We get all cuddled up, and she just drifts off as we watch a movie or as Aaron and I chat. We go to Whitewater together and do waterslides. We play games, like Yahtzee or Skip-bo. We listen to audiobooks together. And I make sure to let Livy know that these times are really important to me; time spent with her is essential to my happiness, and I want her to know it.

A picture of Livy falling asleep on me, one of the activities both of us love that makes us feel super connected.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Podcast #17: Brainstorming a Parenting Problem

Yay! Another episode! Please forgive the buzzing in the background; we're trying to figure it out.

  • Situation of the Week: Handling problems among children when some of the children are ignoring another
  • Topic: Brainstorming Parenting Problems--Kelly and Jenn discuss a problem that Kelly is having and come up with some solutions together (begins 6:01)
  • Q & A: What should you do when other people try to force their kids to share or give stuff to your kids? (begins 21:11)

We hope you enjoy this episode!

You can listen here, or download from our podcast site.

Send feedback and comments to And send your questions for our Q & A section to our Google Moderator page.