Thursday, July 12, 2012

Talkative Thursday: 93% Stress-Free Parenting

Doesn’t the title itself simply inspire?

I attended this seminar in church last weekend, and it was taught by Dr. Robi Sonderegger, who is a clinical psychologist. As a parent of two, this title immediately spoke to me. Of course, the first (obvious) question would be … WHY 93% stress free? Haha… But I guess to bill it as a 100% stress free parenting seminar is a little idealistic and let’s face it, unrealistic. Any parent who’s been a parent for all of 5 minutes will experience STRESS! I remember when Jay was first born and we took him home. And then realised he has down with a pretty bad bout of jaundice and we had to bring him back to the hospital and leave him there.

And I guess that was probably our big kick into parenting consciousness.

Oh, but what an opportunity we have to raise our children up in the way they should go, and for them to reach the full potential. And while there may be a whole lot of enrichment classes to send them to to teach them new skills, really the best life skill to impact is character and integrity. And I liked how Dr. Robi states that character and integrity doesn’t come from the lack of BAD stuff. It comes from the input of GOOD stuff!

So how to input the good? The governing principle, according to Dr. Robi, is respect. The respect your kids have for us as parents. And once they respect us, we can pretty much be guaranteed of a stress-LESS life!

Dr. Robi gave the illustration that parenting & discipline is like being a referee in a football match.

  1. There are always at least two or more referees. One intimately involved in game play, and the rest standing by the sidelines watching from afar.
  2. The referees will back and support each other’s call. All the time.
  3. The referees exhibit great emotional control.
  4. All calls are consistently followed through. Consistency is the word!
  5. Boundaries (and rules) are pre-established. They are not made up on the spot.
  6. Referees are actively involved and knows what is going on in the game.
  7. The referee’s role is the administer the rules, not to lecture.

And how does this apply to us parents?

  1. Parenting & discipline is a two-parent affair. (Of course, there are some single parents out there, but we are talking about the “ideal” here. However, I do believe God gives grace to us all to do what we need to do!)
  2. When one parent “calls” a “foul” played by a kid, the other parent backs him/her up. No arguments (at least never in front of the kids!) lest the kids lose respect for us.
  3. Don’t lose your emotional cool or control. And boy oh boy, this can be TOUGH when the kids are driving us up the wall! But… keep your cool and don’t raise your voice.
  4. Be consistent about the disciplines doled out. Don’t back down (for fear of other people’s opinions) because all kids will learn to push their boundaries, and will try and try again till their way is gotten!
  5. There should be some house rules. Pre-established, together with the consequences for keeping and breaking them!
  6. Know what is going on in your kid’s life. Put that iPad or phone down and spend time with your kid!
  7. Administer the consequence in a calm way. The whistle literally means you can just keep quiet… and let the child reflect on his/her own behaviour.

Wow. I was blown away… and the one takeaway we did, was to implement this in our household the very next day. Currently, we use the cane on errant behaviour, but the “rules” were never firmly written, and the strokes doled out really dependent upon Jay’s attitude (and probably our own irritability-level as well).

We wanted to establish some house rules, but also wanted Jay’s participation in setting them (to give him a sense of ownership as well). Jay now has a habit of wanting to play “teacher” with us, also wanting to give us a set of instructions to follow and obey. Daddy started by asking him…

Daddy: “Do you want our family to play and have fun together, Jay?”
Jay: (Very excitedly) “Yes!!!”
Daddy: “Ok, we should have some rules so that we can all have fun together. Do you know what rules are?”
Mummy then took the opportunity to remind Jay of the games we have played, and how rules make the game more fun and interesting, and immediately the concept of “rules” was understood
Daddy: “The first house rule should be we should have fun together.”

And the key word here is: TOGETHER. Cos Jay has the habit of “forcing” his younger brother to play certain toys and do certain things where the only person laughing and having fun is often… only Jay. Haha! And over the next hour, we were talking, and came up with four house rules (so far). Daddy even wrote them down, and pasted them on the living room wall.


And the consequence for breaking a house rule… spending four minutes on what we’ve christened the “Thinking Chair” (child to spend a minute for every year of age), and the point of this “punishment” is for them to reflect and think about which house rule was broken, and what they should do to rectify it.

The first time we used it (the same day we set the rules, believe it or not) was when Jay was rough-playing with Xav, and my poor baby’s head knocked against the door post. We even gave Jay a choice: Mr. Cane or the chair? And of course he chose the chair (anything’s better than the cane, apparently). And we told him to sit and think for four minutes. After 30 seconds, he wanted out, but we refused and got him to SIT on his hands and think. Every time he fidgeted or started playing the fool, we would restart the timing.

So in the end, he probably spent maybe 15 minutes on that chair. 15 minutes on one chair, not doing very much, is practically an eternity in the life of an active toddler. And we almost “caved in” cos his constant whining was driving us nuts. Okay, just me. But since Daddy was adamant, I stood with him and dutifully restarted the count (I used the stopwatch function on my handphone!)

But at the end, he could tell us what he had done, and which house rule he had broken. (Which was good, cos if not it would be back to the chair for him!)

And since then, he had been sent to the chair another 2, 3 times. He now understands not to be distracted with other things and so he stays for a max of 8 minutes now, sometimes without a single “re-start” of time.

And while he cannot really read, the amazing thing is that he remembers the house rules. Very well.

I am so impressed.

Oh, but with every consequence also has a flip side. The reward part. For every time he does something nice (like sharing a toy with Xav without prompting), he would get two minutes of our time. Two minutes to be accumulated, and for him to choose what he wants to do with the time. Be it art time with us, or going to the beach, or Takashimaya – it is HIS choice! And he loved the idea! He wanted to go to the zoo, after accumulating a grand total of eight minutes, to which we pointed out he probably has to wait a little while more. Haha! (Of course we still spend time with Jay, but the point is we will go where WE choose… but with this reward, he gets to select what activity he wants us as a family to engage in).

I don’t know about stress-free parenting… but definitely I am less stressed!

And to end of my ultra Talkative Thursday post… a final word from Dr. Robi:

Rules before relationship results in resentment & rebellion.

Relationship before rules results in respect!

Let’s build strong relationships with our kids!


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