Giving up punishments and rewards=kids who don't respect boundaries? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 02:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK, so I've read a lot of the recommended books and authors, including Alfie Kohn, and have read a lot on here.

I like the idea of avoiding the use of punishments and rewards whenever possible. I love the concept of having a child's behavior motivated internally rather than being motivated by punishments or rewards. In theory, I like the idea of respecting everyone's needs and opinions and finding a balance that satisfies everyone.

But it seems that in giving up the use of consequences for behavior, there is very little motivation for a small child to actually do what they are asked to do, or even what has supposedly been agreed upon.

My 2-year-old doesn't really understand or care that sometimes she has to compromise and give up something she wants in order to find a solution that is mutually agreeable to everyone or takes someone else's needs into account. She is intrinsically egocentric by virtue of her age. She's not interested in sharing, and doesn't really care that hitting hurts people.

All three of my kids feel that they should be able to climb on the back of the couch and jump on the couch. Besides the safety issues, it's not even our couch. We're borrowing it from someone else, and it's important that we take good care of it.

We can talk about how "couches are for sitting and floors are for running and jumping" all day, but that doesn't convince the kids that they shouldn't run and jump on the couch. I can ask them to get down, and the older kids will get down, but the moment I'm not looking they're doing it again. The almost-3yo won't even get down when I ask her to, unless I physically make her. Then she'll be right back up again.

They simply feel that my request that they refrain from jumping and climbing on the couch is unreasonable.

I've explained why it's important to me, but they really don't care. They really don't believe me or care that it's not good for the couch. I have suggested other alternatives. We've talked about balancing everyone's needs and have tried to come up with ways to meet their needs in other ways besides using the couch as a jungle gym. We have a playset outside that they can climb on all they want. I helped them build a beautiful big blanket fort in the playroom so they don't have to use the couch cushions for a fort. I'm trying to find a way to meet their jumping needs in a reasonable way.

Even working out a solution that THEY agree to doesn't seem to work in the long term; they just decide that they don't like it or it no longer applies, and revert back to doing whatever they want.

The problem is that they aren't really willing to give weight to someone else's ideas or opinions. It doesn't matter whether it's my answering a question about how to pronouce a word or trying to explain why pushing someone off a stool is not ok; they just don't respect my word on things unless there is a reason that seems to make sense to them or a consequence they care about. I can use the dictionary to empirically prove to them that a word is pronounced the way I say it is, but I can't empirically prove to them that it's wrong to push someone off a stool.

They'll wear a helmet because they have to do it in order to ride bikes, not because they actually believe they could get seriously injured if they don't or because they agree it's a good idea. It's certainly not consensual. The consequence of refusing to wear a helmet is that that the bike gets put away.

It seems that giving up the use of rewards and consequences (or, even more, trying to do things consensually with small children) would just lead to kids with uncontrollable behavior, and who don't respect anyone else's needs or desires.

If there are no consequences for not respecting others' needs, and they are young enough that their own desires and opinions are more important to them than anyone else's, then how can they be kept from trampling all over someone else's boundaries unless there are consistent, clear consequences?
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#2 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 03:23 PM
 
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I don't have lot of time to post at the moment, but basically for me, enforcing the limit IS the consequence, and nothing needs to be done on top of it. I am not a consensual parent, but I also do not punish in the sense that I do not do traditional time outs, take toys away, or revoke privileges of things that are unrelated to whatever the situation is. Sometimes me enforcing a limit/boundary may *look* like a consequence and my kids might not be happy with me, like leaving a public place if they're not able to handle being out, or putting a toy out of reach briefly when one kid is using it repeatedly hurting someone (it will come back in a few moments after everyone has calmed down to try again). Most of the consequences I do wind up using are open ended and task-specific, not designed to "show" them anything beyond what is logically attached to the situation.

If my almost 2-yo takes a toy from someone, I find another toy to give her, explain that she needs to wait until that person is done with their turn, and give the toy back to the original person (I know some people don't agree with that). Then when they're done, she can play with it. That's enough of a 'consequence' IMO, explaining it to her and gently but firmly facilitating it.

When my kids take the cushions off the couch and we're not at a time when that's OK, I ask them to help me put them back up and leave them there; and if they don't then they can't play near the couch for a while and have to find something else to do, even if it means me gating off the living room for a while if they can't stay away from the couch.

Pushing someone off a stool would warrant a question about why they did it to see the motivation, then if happened again they'd need to do a time-in kind of thing to calm down before they could rejoin playtime...but nothing on top of that, unless it kept happening and then that would be telling me that they weren't in a place to handle the playtime then and we'd leave wherever we were. Once my son hit about 2-1/2 to 3 years old, I'd give him alternatives to things he was doing - like toy taking, you could ask if they're going to be done soon or see if they want to swap a toy with you; pushing would be to ask them to move or ask for a turn sitting where they were; hitting would be to high five if happy or clap/stomp if mad, etc. He dind't always take me up on it and I sometimes still had to remove him from situations or "solve" them myself, but eventually he started getting it and now is a pretty good problem solver.

For me, it goes beyond being consistent, because my kids know that some things are OK sometimes (playing with couch cushions when it's just us, but not right before we have visitors coming), and that sometimes I might say no initially but may reconsider if they give me a good enough reason to change my mind. For me, more important than consistency is acting after the first or second time you've said something to them instead of asking them 10 times to do something and then snapping at them, and if they are having recurring trouble with your requests, eliminating the temptation or getting them completely away from wherever the "issue" is to short-circuit the 'obsession'.

So for me, I don't "do" punishments in the traditional sense; I also don't do much in the way of rewards because my kids aren't motivated by stuff like that, but I do have high expectations and gently but firmly enforce boundaries and limits by making situations safe and respectful, even if they're unhappy about it - but once the situation is safe/respectful again, I drop it and let them go back to playing or whatever...there's no added punitive measures added on top of the enforcing of the limit ( "enforcing" sounds so harsh, but it's the best word I can come up with).


Sooo, there's 2 cents from a non-consensual, but also nonpunitive mom of two. Hope that helps.

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#3 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 03:33 PM
 
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Originally Posted by purple_kangaroo View Post
I love the concept of having a child's behavior motivated by their own decision to be kind, appreciate their accomplishment, or that sort of thing rather than being motivated by punishments or rewards.
That seems like a VERY tall order, even for adults! For example, I appreciate my accomplishments at my job, but 95% of what gets me there is the reward => paycheck. Does that make me lacking in character?

Does no punishment/reward mean no discipline (in the sense that the word means teaching rather than punishing)? If so, that looks like an abdication of parental responsibility to me. I don't expect my child to have the same degree of wisdom and life experience as I do. Can you be consensual with a child who has no concept of danger from bike accidents? It's like expecting her to be on the same playing field as I am.

Expecting children--or even adults--to always act from a place of altruism or self-fulfillment is not realistic and imho places a huge burden on the child. It's my job to teach my child that "gently petting kitty = yes!" and "breaking window with bat = no!" in a way that the child will understand. The younger they are, the more black & white that association needs to be.

I'm rambling and probably not addressing your question at all.

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#4 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 05:42 PM
 
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I think what you are expecting of them is age inappropriate. I don't even think that with punishments you could reliably keepkids that age off the couch. The best thing would be to get a couch that can be beaten up a little so you don't feel so bad.

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#5 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 06:21 PM
 
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I have to disagree, I think a 7 and 5.5 yo could definitely be expected to not jump on a couch. My 4-yo can do it (er, rather, not do it), and he's not a particularly easygoing guy (meaning he's not compliant by nature/temperament) The 2-yo, I can see not being able to stay off...but the older two I think it's selling them short to say it's not appropriate for them to not be able to jump on a couch.

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#6 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 06:38 PM
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But it seems that in giving up the use of consequences for behavior, there is very little motivation for a small child to actually do what they are asked to do, or even what has supposedly been agreed upon.
It doesn't sound like you're really looking to agreed-upon solutions - rather that you're trying to get your kids to do what you want them to do. You're not willing to budge at all - you want to keep the couch you have and you don't want it climbed on. For that, yeah, you probably need to use rewards and/or punishments.

I've avoided both for the past 15 years, though. FWIW, we've always gotten couches free from friends or on bulky pick-up day, and jumping or climbing has never hurt them a bit. So, there's an option...

For the larger ideas, I see having boundaries as entirely separate from rewards and punishments. I've always felt free to set boundaries for what I'm willing to do or not do - and I don't think I have the right to set boundaries for anyone else, so that's where I stop. My non-punished and non-rewarded kid has learned to respect them just fine -I've always respected her boundaries as well.

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#7 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 06:44 PM
 
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This is an interesting question. I think that a lot of it has to do with our view of human nature--do kids really want to do 'good' things, or are they going to do whatever they can 'get away with'. We aren't CL, although I like the idea of it, but we do not use any punishments/rewards, either. Sort of like The4ofUs described, there are boundaries in place, but we don't impose consequences in order to change behavior.

So far, my kids have amazed me with their ability to care about other people's feelings. I am also astounded by dd's negotiating skills--often she comes up with creative solutions that I would never think of that please everyone.

You know your kids best, but I would guess that for your youngest, at least, the idea of jumping on the couch causing problems for someone else is a little abstract at the moment. I know that even as an older child, I wouldn't have understood--I mean, there is no immediate visible damage, so in my mind as a child, it wouldn't have been hurting anything. In your place, I would still enforce that boundary by removing my child(ren) from the couch when they did it, but I wouldn't try to punish by intentionally making them feel miseable, nor would I try to bribe them into leaving it alone.

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#8 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 07:31 PM
 
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: to pretty much everything The4OfUs said.

If your kids don't care about or believe other people's viewpoints now, giving them punishments isn't going to help with that. They might stay off the sofa if there were a punishment for climbing on it, but they wouldn't suddenly start seeing things from your point of view and wanting to stay off the sofa. And they'd probably still try to climb on it every time they thought they could get away with it, which I suspect would be pretty often.

My own kids - even the 2 year old - sound a lot more willing to listen to me than your kids. If your kids are as self-centered and unwilling to listen to other viewpoints as you say, they seem particularly in need of an approach that could help them in that area - like emphasizing the reasons behind your requests, rather than the consequences of not obeying them.

I don't try to live consensually, and I don't think it's necessarily wrong for a parent to unilaterally decide that the couch must not be jumped on. But your life might be a lot less stressful if you just gave this couch back to its owner and got a used one that you were willing to see take a bit of damage (and if you decided the safety risk was acceptable.)

If I had a couch that that I strongly felt should not be climbed on, I would do whatever it took to keep that from happening - ever. If the kids couldn't be trusted not to climb on it if they were in that room unsupervised, I wouldn't let them be in the room unsupervised. Of course, that would be a huge hassle, so I would probably just end up getting rid of or replacing the couch.
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#9 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 08:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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For me, more important than consistency is acting after the first or second time you've said something to them instead of asking them 10 times to do something and then snapping at them, and if they are having recurring trouble with your requests, eliminating the temptation or getting them completely away from wherever the "issue" is to short-circuit the 'obsession'.
That's a good point . . . maybe I should have them go play somewhere besides the family room for a while if they won't treat the couch gently.

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Expecting children--or even adults--to always act from a place of altruism or self-fulfillment is not realistic and imho places a huge burden on the child. It's my job to teach my child that "gently petting kitty = yes!" and "breaking window with bat = no!" in a way that the child will understand. The younger they are, the more black & white that association needs to be.
I think this is probably a good point. I try to focus as much as possible on teaching and equipping my kids in my interactions with them. We do a lot of, "let me help you practice how to pet the kitty gently" stuff here.

I greatly prefer focusing on what TO do rather than what NOT to do whenever possible. It's when they're still not getting it after the hundredth repetition of "do this, not that" that I start wondering if maybe we need a different approach for that particular issue.

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I think what you are expecting of them is age inappropriate. I don't even think that with punishments you could reliably keepkids that age off the couch. The best thing would be to get a couch that can be beaten up a little so you don't feel so bad.
Getting a new couch at this point is not really an option. It did, however, occur to me that putting slipcovers on the couches might be a helpful solution. It would make taking the cushions off the couch harder, at least.

I do think a 7-year-old and a child who will be 6 next month are old enough to respect a request not to jump on the couch. The almost-3-year-old mainly does it because the other two do it, I think. She normally responds better to being redirected or physically removed from something if the older two aren't egging her on.

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I have to disagree, I think a 7 and 5.5 yo could definitely be expected to not jump on a couch. My 4-yo can do it (er, rather, not do it), and he's not a particularly easygoing guy (meaning he's not compliant by nature/temperament) The 2-yo, I can see not being able to stay off...but the older two I think it's selling them short to say it's not appropriate for them to not be able to jump on a couch.
Exactly. I also expect them to stop pulling on peoples' clothes or jumping on someone else's special blankie when asked. Surely they're old enough to be able to do those sorts of things and respect people's bodies and possessions--they're grade school age, not babies.

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It doesn't sound like you're really looking to agreed-upon solutions - rather that you're trying to get your kids to do what you want them to do. You're not willing to budge at all - you want to keep the couch you have and you don't want it climbed on. For that, yeah, you probably need to use rewards and/or punishments.

I've avoided both for the past 15 years, though. FWIW, we've always gotten couches free from friends or on bulky pick-up day, and jumping or climbing has never hurt them a bit. So, there's an option...
You're right. I am not willing to compromise on letting the kids mistreat the sofas. I would also not be willing to allow them to scratch up the kitchen table with keys, purposely crash their bike into the car, break someone's porcelain doll, or color on the walls with permanent markers. I don't really see a problem with expecting kids to treat things appropriately and with respect, and not ruin things. I am, however, quite willing to work with them on appropriate ways to honor the impulses to do things like jump, color, scratch lines into, etc.

If you were visiting at someone else's house and they asked your child not to jump on their couch, would you expect her to be able to honor that? If not, what would you do?

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For the larger ideas, I see having boundaries as entirely separate from rewards and punishments. I've always felt free to set boundaries for what I'm willing to do or not do - and I don't think I have the right to set boundaries for anyone else, so that's where I stop. My non-punished and non-rewarded kid has learned to respect them just fine -I've always respected her boundaries as well.

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Do you feel that you have a right to set boundaries for what you will or will not allow someone else to do with or to your possessions or your body? Isn't that sort of "setting boundaries for someone else"?

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This is an interesting question. I think that a lot of it has to do with our view of human nature--do kids really want to do 'good' things, or are they going to do whatever they can 'get away with'. We aren't CL, although I like the idea of it, but we do not use any punishments/rewards, either. Sort of like The4ofUs described, there are boundaries in place, but we don't impose consequences in order to change behavior.
Or, as another possibility, do kids basically want to get their own needs met, and need help learning how to do this in a way that doesn't infringe on other people's needs? I tend to think that most kids are somewhere in the middle--they don't necessarily want to always do "good" things, and they aren't necessarily always trying to be "bad" or see what they can get away with. They just basically often don't think about much beyond the moment and themselves.

I think one of our tasks as parents is to help them communicate and meet their needs in appropriate ways, but also learn to consider the future and the needs of others.

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I know that even as an older child, I wouldn't have understood--I mean, there is no immediate visible damage, so in my mind as a child, it wouldn't have been hurting anything. In your place, I would still enforce that boundary by removing my child(ren) from the couch when they did it, but I wouldn't try to punish by intentionally making them feel miseable, nor would I try to bribe them into leaving it alone.
Yeah, I think you're right here.

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If your kids don't care about or believe other people's viewpoints now, giving them punishments isn't going to help with that. . . .

If I had a couch that that I strongly felt should not be climbed on, I would do whatever it took to keep that from happening - ever. If the kids couldn't be trusted not to climb on it if they were in that room unsupervised, I wouldn't let them be in the room unsupervised. Of course, that would be a huge hassle, so I would probably just end up getting rid of or replacing the couch.
You had some good points in your post, especially about reaching the goals of having the kids respect others' viewpoints and doing things from motivations other than avoiding punishment.

Right now, though, I'm not sure if I care as much about having the kids understand WHY I don't want them to jump on the couch or push each other off things, as much as I honestly just want them to stop the behavior when asked to. I kind of think that, especially with young kids, they might possibly need to learn to stop hitting or jumping or whatever when asked to, first, and then understand the reasons later?

I'm curious how you would keep the kids from being in the room with the couch unsupervised, and how that would be any easier/better than just expecting them not to jump on the couch? It's a large open room that flows into the rest of the house. Not allowing them in the room seems a lot more unreasonable than asking them not to jump on the couch.
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#10 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 09:14 PM
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You're right. I am not willing to compromise on letting the kids mistreat the sofas. I would also not be willing to allow them to scratch up the kitchen table with keys, purposely crash their bike into the car, break someone's porcelain doll, or color on the walls with permanent markers. I don't really see a problem with expecting kids to treat things appropriately and with respect, and not ruin things. I am, however, quite willing to work with them on appropriate ways to honor the impulses to do things like jump, color, scratch lines into, etc.
And that's your choice, of course. When Rain was little, I found that things went more smoothly if I was less attached to things and more concerned with people, so we owned stuff that was pretty sturdy and also not hard to replace. When she was little Rain drew on all of her blocks with markers and carved up our coffee table - we finally put the coffee tabel outside as a plant bench, but we did use it for many years. I considered that "appropriate" and "respectful" treatment of those things and it worked for us.

We didn't own permanent markers when Rain was two... that would have been asking for trouble at our house! She was generally very rational, though...

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If you were visiting at someone else's house and they asked your child not to jump on their couch, would you expect her to be able to honor that? If not, what would you do?
Now? Sure. When she was little, probably... she never seemed to feel very strongly about jumping on couches, although I don't remember any of our friends then having a problem with it, either. If she wasn't, we'd figure out what to do...

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Do you feel that you have a right to set boundaries for what you will or will not allow someone else to do with or to your possessions or your body? Isn't that sort of "setting boundaries for someone else"?
I set boundaries for my self and my body. If those boundaries impact someone else, then we negotiate. For example, I used to refuse to read to Rain after midnight, because I would be too tired. She had a bunch of story tapes, though, and usually she was happy to listen to one of thoise instead. If she was dead-set on being read to and I wasn't really tired, then I would, but it usually didn't get to that point.... and I didn't feel like I had to read to her, but that I was choosing to.

Possessions... most of our home-possessions are things I consider family-owned, not mine alone. I'm not strongly attached to things, in general, but if it came up than I would set a boundary, yes...

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#11 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 10:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And that's your choice, of course. When Rain was little, I found that things went more smoothly if I was less attached to things and more concerned with people, so we owned stuff that was pretty sturdy and also not hard to replace. When she was little Rain drew on all of her blocks with markers and carved up our coffee table - we finally put the coffee tabel outside as a plant bench, but we did use it for many years. I considered that "appropriate" and "respectful" treatment of those things and it worked for us.
Thanks for your reply . . . so was there anything you had to set boundaries about in your home? Not pulling the cat's tail? Cutting up the blankets with scissors? Ripping books? Hitting the car with a baseball bat? I'm just trying to picture a home where a kid was really never told she couldn't do something that would harm a possession, pet, etc?

What would you do if you went to someone else's house and she wanted to cut marks in their coffee table? I'm just trying to picture how this works. Do you ever tell your child she can't do something? It's kind of hard to wrap my brain around.
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#12 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 11:01 PM
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Thanks for your reply . . . so was there anything you had to set boundaries about in your home? Not pulling the cat's tail? Cutting up the blankets with scissors? Ripping books? Hitting the car with a baseball bat? I'm just trying to picture a home where a kid was really never told she couldn't do something that would harm a possession, pet, etc?
Well, we'd talk about stuff... it wasn't like I'd just smile as she trashed the house. But we were generally able to find solutions that worked for both of us. She never wanted to hit the car with the baseball bat, or cut up blankets... we do have a very cute picture of her at about 6 months sitting by our cat and sucking his tail, but our cats were pretty good at taking care of themselves... and I made sure they had lots of escape routes. Ripping up books was something she did really young, before she was a year old, so she was happy with an old phone book and some library book sale rejects for that.

It did force me to re-examine a lot of my ideas about what things were okay and what things weren't... like, when she was 4 she had a sweater with these little yarn puffballs on it, and she loves to cut them off and give them to her friends. At first I was against the idea, but when I stopped to think about it I couldn't come up with a rational reason why... the sweater was perfectly functional as a sweater with or without puffballs,

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What would you do if you went to someone else's house and she wanted to cut marks in their coffee table? I'm just trying to picture how this works. Do you ever tell your child she can't do something? It's kind of hard to wrap my brain around.
Well, again, she's 15 now... but when she was little? We'd ask, and if they weren't up for it we'd try to figure out something else...

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#13 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 11:18 PM
 
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this is a great thread. Purple_kangaroo, you've put into words what I've been thinking about for over a year. I know I WANT to be CL, I just find it hard to put it into practice most of the time...especially with young kids. I feel like when I do, I am expecting WAY more of them than is age appropriate. Like, I've taken the time to stop, explain, and reason with her, and she is NOT budging. She wants what she wants, when she wants. And that's simply because she's 3. She is often not willing to compromise or find a mutually agreeable solution. I feel like if I just did punishments/rewards, it would be easier to keep her age in mind. But since I am trying to reason with her at every turn, I'm putting more pressure on her. Does that make any sense at all? Sorry, I'm really tired.

I wish I knew some IRL people/families who RU or CL. It would help tremendously to see everyday situations, and how they are handled.
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#14 of 76 Old 05-17-2008, 11:37 PM
 
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Sorry, but just because I have a couch that I don't think my kids should mistreat doesn't mean that I value it (or things) more than I value my kids (or people). I don't. I value my kids more. But they do need to learn that "things" have a value, and that we work hard for that. My couch is old. And sturdy. And didn't cost me a dime. But I am not willing to spend money to buy another shoudl they ruin it. My having to work to buy another couch wuold simply take time away from me and my kids. Sometimes we can go a little overboard with non-discipline. And I know kids who weren't, and they are not a "pleasure" to be aroudn.
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#15 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 01:06 AM
 
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I'm curious how you would keep the kids from being in the room with the couch unsupervised, and how that would be any easier/better than just expecting them not to jump on the couch? It's a large open room that flows into the rest of the house. Not allowing them in the room seems a lot more unreasonable than asking them not to jump on the couch.
Well, like I said, it would be such a huge hassle I probably would come up with another solution, like getting a couch I felt I could let them jump on. But if I didn't want to do that, I suppose I would plan on being downstairs whenever one of the kids was downstairs. (My house is small enough that if I were downstairs and paying attention, I would realize it pretty quickly if my kids started jumping on the couch.) If I needed to go upstairs for more than a few minutes, I'd tell them they had to either come with me or promise not to jump on the couch. (This would work with my kids. If I reminded them about it just before I went upstairs, and they agreed they wouldn't do it, I could count on them not to do it for a while.) I might also put barriers in the doorways to that room (not necessarily something they couldn't get over or around, just something to make them have to stop and remember I didn't want them in there.)

How would that be easier/better than expecting them not to jump on the couch? Well, it doesn't sound like just expecting them not to jump on the couch is working very well. Watching them closely enough so that you could stop them immediately any time they started jumping wouldn't be any easier - it would be a lot harder, maybe too hard to make it worthwhile - but it would certainly work better. And I could imagine that if you simply told them to stay out of that room, and put up barriers to remind them, in a couple of weeks they might develop new playing habits and hardly even think about the possibility of going in there, and it might actually end up being easier on you. It might be easier for them to resist going into the room at all than to resist the temptation of climbing onto the sofa once they find themselves standing right next to it. (Of course, this might not work at all if the layout of your house makes it impractical to get around without going through that room.)
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#16 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 03:50 AM
 
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Purple_Kangaroo, ITA with The4ofUs and Daffodil, but I have something to add.

I've noticed that when things get stressful around here, or when we're on a trip and my kids get kind of wild and out-of-control, I start using lots of threats and punishments. It works...in the short term. However, after a few days of it I always notice a definite downturn in behavior.

I think there's two basic reasons. One, if you're threatening and then enforcing punishments upon your child, your relationship will naturally suffer. You can't avoid their resentment, even if they "knew it was coming". They will most likely also feel ashamed. Then when you ask them to do things they feel angry and vengeful.

Two, I think that they start thinking more and more about what is in it for them. Or what the trade-off is. By threatening a punishment, I think an alternative is actually created in their mind. For example, you say, "Stop jumping on the couch or you aren't going to get to watch TV tonight" (or whatever, just using that as an example). They think, "I can either jump on the couch or watch TV tonight. What should I do?" If you had said, "Get off the couch. Jumping on the couch ruins it," there's just not any wiggle room. You have made a definitive statement and your expectation is loud and clear. I have found this to be the most effective way to enforce my boundaries, and I do have them. I completely disagree with Dar that you have to use rewards and punishments to get your kids to do what you want. As long as it's reasonable. And I think using a couch for sitting only is definitely a reasonable request.

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#17 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 12:09 PM
 
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Purple_Kangaroo, my dd is 3 years old and I'm feeling you on the she-doesn't-get-it-yet when it comes to respecting other people's rights and possessions. But I do think she's getting it more than she used to.

I talk to her a lot about why I'm doing things such as, "I'm cleaning up the living room so that the house will look nice for your daddy when he gets home. He's been working all day and I know it will make him happy to come home to a beautiful house. And I love to look out how beautiful our house looks when it's clean, don't you?" It may not change her behavior on the spot, but I think it's worthwhile and that it is giving her a reason why we should want our house to be clean when before she had no reason.

Also, I expect that it is more difficult to take children who are used to rewards/punishments (if yours are) and then switch to a non-punitive system. If they are used to jumping on the couch until they get sent to their rooms, then asking them politely to quit it probably just means (to them) that they get to keep jumping until they get sent to their rooms.

I think it is totally worth switching to non-punitive, I just imagine that there is going to be a period of adjustment that will be rough. Maybe it would help to sit them down and tell them that you don't want to do rewards and punishments because you feel they are responsible enough to participate in taking care of family belongings and adhere to family values without needing punishment or rewards. Tell them exactly what you expect of them, and tell them that you are not doing the punishment thing anymore, but that if you need to take action to protect a belonging, a value, a person, etc, you will do that not as punishment but because it is important to do. And ask for their cooperation. And ideas. And to help by reminding each other about the new system if need be. And encourage them to come to you if they have any questions about what is acceptable.

Then, when they jump on the couch anyway, TRY not to get mad and say matter of factly, "We need to take good care of this couch so no more jumping on it." And follow up with, "Come on, let's go jump on (whatever is acceptable)." or "how about playing in the yard instead?" or "Let's sit on the couch instead and we can have a story." or even, "dinner's almost ready anyway, so come on into the dining room." You know, the old redirect plan. And, if your two oldest jump down and wander off but the little one is paying you no heed, then this is where the pp's recommendation of 'enforce' comes into play. You take her hand and say, "Come on, you, that's bad for the couch so let's do something else instead," and take her to do something else.

And if they are thusly stopped any time they start to jump on the couch, I think they'll stop jumping on the couch. And they'll probably appreciate being treated like reasonable people, too.

Anyway, these are my thoughts, and if they are all obvious things that you have tried and have failed, I'm sorry! I know how easy it is to get unhelpful advice on these forums because all of our families are so freakin different!

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#18 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 12:44 PM
 
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I have to disagree, I think a 7 and 5.5 yo could definitely be expected to not jump on a couch. My 4-yo can do it (er, rather, not do it), and he's not a particularly easygoing guy (meaning he's not compliant by nature/temperament) The 2-yo, I can see not being able to stay off...but the older two I think it's selling them short to say it's not appropriate for them to not be able to jump on a couch.
I stand corrected. I didn't realize they were all that old. She OP only really talks about the 2 year old specifically. I still think that it is unwise to have a couch that you cannot afford to beat up a little with that many small children. At 5 or 7 years old I was not into taking care of furniture.

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#19 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 02:07 PM
 
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Sorry, but just because I have a couch that I don't think my kids should mistreat doesn't mean that I value it (or things) more than I value my kids (or people). I don't. I value my kids more. But they do need to learn that "things" have a value, and that we work hard for that. My couch is old. And sturdy. And didn't cost me a dime. But I am not willing to spend money to buy another shoudl they ruin it. My having to work to buy another couch wuold simply take time away from me and my kids. Sometimes we can go a little overboard with non-discipline. And I know kids who weren't, and they are not a "pleasure" to be aroudn.
: To me it's not just a thing, it's the wood and cloth used to manufacturer it, the oil used to transport it. We don't want to consume more things just because our youngest is destructo.

To the OP, could you make some floor cushions so they could use those to build forts and leave the couch alone? Or salvage some cushions from bulk trash or the thrift store? Kids are so different. My 4 y/o I could ask him once to not jump on the furniture and he never would again. My 2 y/o I could ask until I was blue in the face and he just wouldn't care. Our rule is that if you are doing something potentially destructive (jumping, playing ball in the house), you do it in your own room. That way the rest of the house stays mostly intact and if something breaks, it's their own stuff.
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#20 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 02:07 PM
 
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I appreciate my accomplishments at my job, but 95% of what gets me there is the reward => paycheck...
fascinating. your post made me think. i love to think.

i don't think a paycheck is a reward (or a gift); a paycheck is earned (it's wages). if i didn't get a paycheck, i wouldn't be an employee; i'd be a 'volunteer.'

i don't know how that translates into parenting though.

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#21 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 07:00 PM
 
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i don't think a paycheck is a reward (or a gift); a paycheck is earned (it's wages). if i didn't get a paycheck, i wouldn't be an employee; i'd be a 'volunteer.'
I agree. People always use this example and it's never totally made sense to me - it's a different arrangement. For one thing, it's a voluntary relationship. I choose to work where I work. If I don't like it I can leave. My kid doesn't get to choose who her mother is or where she lives. I'm in almost total control of the situation and the way that our relationship goes (while she's little, at least). So I'm in a position where I could manipulate or coerce her if I'm not careful. My boss doesn't have that kind of power over me.

ETA: But to OP, I'm pretty much seeing things like you are as I try to figure this all out. I have certain limits regarding acceptable behavior, and I don't feel like it's wrong for me to have them. My approach with kids I've babysat (my lo is only one, so no direct parenting experience with this yet) is kind of just to remove them from the situation, over and over, until they realize "okay, she's really not going to let me jump on the couch, and this is getting boring, so I'm going to find something more fun to do." I've had kids to take care of that were dedicated couch-jumpers, and everytime they did it, I'd gently pick them up and say "that hurts the couch, but you can jump here on the floor / trampoline / etc." Over and over.
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#22 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 07:50 PM
 
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I'm curious - can you explain?
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#23 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 08:43 PM
 
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i don't think a paycheck is a reward (or a gift); a paycheck is earned (it's wages). if i didn't get a paycheck, i wouldn't be an employee; i'd be a 'volunteer.'
I see your point.

My thinking is along these lines: my job requires an advanced degree which took me a lot of time and $$ to get; so I feel like I'm being "rewarded" for making that investment in myself; I've also had other jobs that required the same degree but paid a WHOLE lot less so that makes my current salary even more of a reward in my mind. From a nonfinancial viewpoint, when I work intelligently and creatively, show enthusiasm and dedication, I have a better chance at bigger assignments, promotions, etc. That also seems reward-based to me.

If I didn't get paid at my current position, I wouldn't be there as a volunteer. I simply wouldn't be there. I feel fortunate to get a certain degree of self and professional satisfaction out of my work. But my main motivator is my need for the greenbacks.

Maybe "results" is a better word than "rewards"? Or "cause and effect"?
I eat more healthily; the result/reward is that I feel better, lose weight, etc.
I'm more responsible with money; the result/reward is that I'm not so stressed by family finances.
I donate to a charity or use organic yard products; the reward/result is that I'm contributing to the common good.

How does that translate into parenting? The "reward" of not jumping on the couch is that Mom isn't upset and fussing, that you (the child) get to do other things on the couch (read, color, play games) if you're not banished from it, that you learn to respect yours and others' property, that you don't fall and knock your head on the wall or floor, etc.

I don't think there is anything wrong with pointing these things out to a child in an age-appropriate way. It's not like OP is saying to her kids "don't jump on the couch and I'll give you 5 lbs. of candy." She's actively seeking better outlets for their jumping interests.

What value is there in letting children think they can destroy things as the mood strikes them? Build a sand castle and want to smash it? Lots of fun! Trash the family couch? No, thanks.

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#24 of 76 Old 05-18-2008, 11:37 PM
 
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Maybe "results" is a better word than "rewards"? Or "cause and effect"?
the word reward has lots of connotations. i like your use of the word 'result' in your example, rather than reward. another word in that category might be 'pay-off.'

i am a word person. isn't it interesting how we can all be using the same words - 'reward' or 'punishment' - and each mean something subtlely different? it's a wonder anyone can communicate effectively.

many years ago, i learned in dog school that a treat offered or shown before a command is obeyed is called a 'bribe.' (in this school, the dog owners were not allowed to bribe the dogs.) however, a treat given after command is obeyed was called a 'reward.' (rewards were allowed in dog training.) according to this definition, many parents bribe their children and call it a reward!

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#25 of 76 Old 05-19-2008, 01:12 AM
 
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#26 of 76 Old 05-19-2008, 01:42 AM
 
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I need to learn in the area...LOL
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#27 of 76 Old 05-19-2008, 01:54 AM
 
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What would you do if you went to someone else's house and she wanted to cut marks in their coffee table? I'm just trying to picture how this works. Do you ever tell your child she can't do something? It's kind of hard to wrap my brain around.
The4ofus said pretty much what I would say ;-) but I thought I'd address this.

Here, the problem isn't that the child wants to mark up the table; the problem is that they have the tool to do it with. Where did they get it? Why haven't I taken it away from them the first time they demonstrate that they (a) want to play with it in a disrespectful way and (b) cannot stop themselves from doing so?

It is MY responsibility as the parent to set and enforce the boundaries. As my child gets older, I can "delegate" that responsibility to him more and more, but ultimately, it's up to me to see that it happens. Like The4ofus, I have found this job to be easier when I'm pickier about what boundaries I set; on another list I used to belong to, people talked about "creating a yes environment" to make discipline easier.

It's tougher to switch over with older kids. With a 2-year-old, you can pick them up and make things happen much more easily. If you start off with a child who you can no longer lift, you've got a much harder job ahead of you. I'd agree that the older kids are developmentally in a place where they can control their impulses and stop themselves from doing the things you ask them not to do... but they haven't yet been taught how to do this without the cue of a reward or punishment. It will take them time to learn, and their behavior will get worse before it gets better.
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#28 of 76 Old 05-19-2008, 03:29 AM
 
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I'm another one of those that like the idea of CL but don't believe it works for every family. There are some situations that simply don't have a consensual solution, and so often (it seems to me) what ends up happening is the parent gives up their need in deference to the kid. But that isn't truly consensual.

The OP's desire for the couch to remain in good shape is every bit as valid as the kids' desire to jump (because after all it is a desire, not a NEED for them to jump on that particular couch). So if she ends up giving it up because the kids won't stop jumping on it, how it that in any way consensual?

"Consensual" implies being able to take another's needs into account and creatively brainstorm for solutions. It's a pretty advanced skill IMO, and while I don't doubt that some kids are naturals (my dd's best friend comes to mind) there are other kids that simply aren't there yet (my dd comes to mind).

OP, have you tried positive reinforcement methods on this problem? I don't know if you'd consider it a "bribe" or not, but we used to do a thing where if my dd accomplished a certain behavior for a whole day (I think we were working on respectful communication, so not whining or yelling) she got to put a marble in a jar. When the jar got full (it took a few weeks), we had a special day out. I can't say it solved the problem but it did help her focus and work on establishing some better habits.
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#29 of 76 Old 05-19-2008, 01:40 PM
 
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I'm another one of those that like the idea of CL but don't believe it works for every family. There are some situations that simply don't have a consensual solution, and so often (it seems to me) what ends up happening is the parent gives up their need in deference to the kid. But that isn't truly consensual. [...]"Consensual" implies being able to take another's needs into account and creatively brainstorm for solutions. It's a pretty advanced skill IMO, and while I don't doubt that some kids are naturals (my dd's best friend comes to mind) there are other kids that simply aren't there yet (my dd comes to mind).
ITA

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#30 of 76 Old 05-19-2008, 04:28 PM
 
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thank you OP for posting this. i, too, have had the same questions myself. my oldest is only 3, but i'm having a hard time as well. i REALLY can't wrap my mind around letting children do what they want b/c "it's just an old couch" or "it's just a junk table" or whatever. i mean, we have an old mattress for jumping, but that doesn't mean my ds doesn't also want to jump on the good mattresses. and if we let him do that here, you can darn well bet that he wants to do it at grandma's house too. what if grandma doesn't like it. i really want someone to answer that question....Dar, where are you? you've only said something to the effect of "we'd figure something out". please tell me what you'd do!!! i need some advice from the mother of a teenager b/c i'm having problems here!
let me see if i get this right. in order to discipline (teach) without consequences, we basically spend many many years repeating ourselves over and over again in the hopes that at ____ years of age, it's going to finally sink in and mean something. i'm not being snarky. this is totally serious. and if i might add, it makes me feel like i'm not really being a good parent

i feel like i'm failing my ds by NOT having a consequence b/c telling him not to slide off the arm of the couch, physically removing him, taking him to his slide, assisting him in making a slide out of our leather cushions on the floor, etc... does nothing more than use up 10 minutes before he waits til my back is turned and slides down the arm of the couch again. is this desire/defiance? what is it? my talking and redirecting doesn't seem to mean a hoot to him.
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