Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Setting Limits Part II: Our Little Scientists

In his book, Setting Limits, Dr. MacKenzie compares children to mini scientists. Little do most of us know that our little scientists are constantly doing research and taking data on how we teach and enforce our rules.

For example, picture a 3 year old sitting in a movie theater kicking the chair in front of him. You say, "Honey please stop." He stops for a minute and keeps doing it. You say again, "I told you to stop that." He keeps doing it. You say, "Stop that right now or we're leaving!" He stops for awhile and starts again after 10 minutes pass. The people in front of you end up moving after giving you a dirty look. You go on watching the movie. Problem solved. So what data has your little scientist collected from this series of events? You guessed it--your words are meaningless. He doesn't have to listen to you because you never do anything but repeat yourself, raise your voice and threaten. No big deal for him!

Gary Ezzo's book, Toddlerwise gives "obedience percentages" by age. An obedience percentage is the amount of times your child **should** comply with your instructions:

2 years old: 60%
3 years old: 70%
4-5 years old: 85%-90%

As educated, common sense parents, of course we want those percentages to be as close to 100% as possible! And quite honestly, it's not too much to expect that your child obey 85%-90% of the time, no matter what his age. The majority of young children WANT to please. Brooke definitely falls into the 85%-90% range. Most of the time, she does what I ask. However, she does have a very strong-willed side to her. When this side comes out, she will explain and try to negotiate her way out of compliance. She challenges the hell out of her dad and me on some things. I can only imagine how it will be when she's a teenager! When she pulls this on us, I definitely have to use my Setting Limits knowledge and parent her differently than I would when she's being compliant.

Likewise, you might have one child who is very compliant and another who is strong-willed. You will have to parent these two children differently. Going back to the scientist metaphor, compliant children don't need much "data" to make their decisions: you tell them to do something and your words are enough to make them comply. On the other hand, the strong-willed child is dubbed the "aggressive researcher" by MacKenzie. He will constantly "test" you to see if your words have any value. He needs more than your words to make him compliant. He needs to know your actions will speak along with your words. Go back to the strong-willed child at the movie theater. He is thinking: Will she actually take me out of the theater for kicking the chair? Let me try and see. He kicks the chair again and you don't do as you threatened. Research project over.

These aggressive researchers are not "bad" kids. They simply have different personalities that require you to "parent" a little harder. Since we learned at a very young age that Brooke did have this strong-willed side to her, we started Setting Limits with her at about age 2. It's always better to start early when the problem has not escalated into a full scale family war. Remember, good habits are easier to create than bad ones are to break. We used limits and logical consequences with Brooke as early as 18 months, which included time out. When we first started, we had to do timeouts fairly frequently. But as we got problems nipped in the bud, it has become a lot less frequent. I've sent her to timeout maybe once in the past year.

I will discuss in a lot more detail setting limits, logical consequences and the timeout procedure in the next post.

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