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Mike Storms is a parenting expert, business growth specialist, and 7th degree black belt karate master who helps people StormProof™ their lives. His wisdom helps you:

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Say What You Want To See

Providing correction to children is one of the chief responsibilities of every parent. One important nuance in the area of brain development is crucial when facing this responsibility. The fact is that human beings of all ages don’t process negative commands well. Children especially, just don’t understand them. If your child is acting up and you tell them to stop being wild and obnoxious,” in their mind they hear “Be wild and obnoxious”. If you say, “Don’t hit your sister,” they hear “hit your sister”. Try it for yourself. If I tell you, “Don’t think about pink elephants,” what does your mind begin to think about? Yep…pink elephants. The reason this happens is because we think in pictures about what is being said. That is the way the human mind works.

 

With our children we must lean to say what we want to see. We must speak the instruction that will produce the positive behavior we are looking for. For example, instead of saying, “Stop being wild and obnoxious,” you can say “Straighten up and be calm.” Likewise, instead of saying, “Don’t hit your sister,” you can say “Keep your hands to yourself. Show me your best manners.” In this way, you are communicating the positive behavior you want to see in a way that their minds can understand it. This is what I call “seeding” the behavior that you want. Our words are like seeds, so by planting the right seeds, we will harvest the right behavior.

 

We also need to avoid saying negative, destructive statements to our children. Hurtful words spoken in anger are painful. They have lingering and limiting effects on the future of your children. Instead of saying, “You are so stubborn,” which is a negative, destructive statement, say something like, “You have a spirit of a leader, and you won’t be easily misled.” Or, rather than allowing a critical remark escape like “You are always making messes and getting into stuff you aren’t supposed to,” you could say, “I’m glad that you are creative and inquisitive. Let’s define what areas you can play in, and those that are off limits.” It is about putting a positive spin on the words of correction that we are giving.

 

And as parents, we must realize that whatever we are trying to teach our children to do, it is going to take them time and repetition to learn. They probably won’t “get it” or do it as well as you would like immediately, and that’s okay. Ask God for grace – divine strength and ability – to talk to your children in the most effective way possible. In this way you will be correcting them in the same way you yourself like to be addressed when you are in the process of learning something new. Aren’t we all glad that God is patient, kind; slow to anger, and forgiving when He corrects us (Psalm 145:8,9)? Let us imitate Him, since He’s the perfect parent.

Don’t Count to Three When Your Kids Drive You Crazy

After 25 years of working with thousands of families, I’ve found that many parents make the mistake of warning their children by saying, “I’m counting to three! One…two…” But, the warning rarely has the desired effect. Instead, it tends to exacerbate the situation even worse.

Doesn’t it feel sometimes like the popular “count to three” technique is more of an escalator of your own frustration than a motivator for your child? Children should be taught to stop appropriate behavior the first time they are asked. Counting to three actually trains them that it’s okay to keep doing what they should be doing until you get to three. “What a fun game to watch Mommy and Daddy get madder and madder as they count! As long as I stop before three, nothing happens to me!” Looking at it from a child’s point of view, you can see that it’s just not a productive form of discipline.

There are many strategies to discipline your children, including time-outs, removal of privileges, saying the behavior you want to see, or partnering correction with encouragement. But, at the foundation of any technique is the importance of correcting your kids with the right attitude – one of love and peace.

For example, when it’s time for my kids to clean their rooms, I usually incorporate a warning with positive instruction. I say something like, “Hey, I’m coming back to check your room in 15 minutes, and it needs to be clean. When it is, you can go outside to play.” I outline what I expect. I remind them of the privilege that is attached to the job, and I encourage them to get it done. If I come back and the room isn’t clean, then they lose their chance to go outside and they still have to clean their room.”

Don’t let your emotions take the lead in your discipline. The key to removing your frustration and anger from the equation is to plan your responses to disobedience in advance so that you can stay calm, cool, and collected. When yelling starts, teaching stops. Take your own time out if you need it. Or, “count to three” for yourself internally before your respond. Temper everything you do with wisdom and love – not emotions.

The Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19, 20 NIV).

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