By: Delana H Stewart
[Or, download Empowering Mothers the whole four part series of articles.]
Part 1 of this series on empowering mothers equipped moms to deal with power drains. Nancy L. Thomas who wrote “When Love is Not Enough: A Guide to Parenting Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder,” teaches parents how to establish respect. Her advice benefits all parents, not just those with kids who have RAD.
Who am I, who are you?
Children are beneath their parents. If a child treats her mother like a doormat, then this child is no more than dirt under the doormat. If she wants to be a princess, then she needs to treat her mom and dad like a queen and king. As parents, we need to expect the respect that our role deserves.
Look into my eyes!
Establishing eye contact is critical to the development of respect. Eyes that are rested and full of love and steadfastness say: “You’re okay; you have me. You’re blessed.” Keep eyes soft and loving, as one look of daggers undoes weeks of work. This is a difficult area for me; when I get upset at the very least I get angry eyes. That reminds me of the movie Toy Story when Mrs. Potato head gives Mr. Potato head his angry eyes. Maybe I should carry around some plastic “angry eyes” as a reminder to leave my angry eyes in my pocket and off my face! Ms. Thomas encourages parents to always make eye contact when speaking to a child and always requiring your child to make eye contact when listening and answering. Do not, however, expect a child to maintain eye contact when you are angry and have lost control, make eye contact easy by holding love in your eyes.
Come when I call.
A child should always come to the parent and establish eye contact when the parent calls him. If this is difficult for your child, then practice just before the child wants to be somewhere. Sit in a comfy chair and send your child to his room and tell him to expect you to call him. Call him in a sweet voice and when he arrives, congratulate him on making it the whole distance. Then, tell him to return to his room and expect another call, and this time tell him that when he comes to look into your eyes and say “Yes, Mom!” with enthusiasm and respect. Practice till he gets it perfect, using positive reinforcement, pizzazz, eye contact, and hugs.
Come to me, don’t call me.
Yes, your child is going to accuse you of playing by different rules, but remember that you are the queen, and queens do not beckon to other people’s calls, they do the beckoning. If your daughter wants to be a princess, she must treat you like the queen. So, do not allow her to yell your name from another room. She should respect you enough to locate you visually before speaking (making sure that she does not interrupt). Play a game of hide and speak. Have her locate you visually and say Mom or Dad. Reward her with hugs, kisses, and tickles. Also, very important, when a child does find you and makes eye contact, do not let yourself be distracted by other work (reading, computing, dishwashing, clothes folding, etc.) when you listen to and respond to your child.
[I have not researched this next one to see how appropriate it would be for non-RAD kids, but for kids with attachment disorder Ms. Thomas says that position is important. Stand over them when talking or comforting them to make them feel you are a strong adult and they can feel safe. If you are sitting in a chair, have them sit on the floor and look into your eyes. Perhaps this would also work with strong-willed children.]
Once position is correct and eye contact is soft and filled with belief and love, we need to work on our speech.
I am not going to repeat it.
Our children should hear us the first time we say something. For them to see us as ones who have authority, we should not have to repeat ourselves. If your child does not know what you said, have her do 10-15 excellent jumping jacks or push-ups to get her brain in gear. Then make sure you have her full attention before repeating. For listening practice try this exercise: Throughout the day whenever near the child, whisper “Do you want some candy?” When she answers, “Yes, Mom,” then congratulate her on her excellent hearing and enjoy the treat together. Let her know how blessed she is to have such a wonderful parent to give her listening practice so that she can get over having weak ears. This teaches your child that your time is valuable and what you say is important and should be heard the first time.
A child should respond with “Yes Mom” or “No Mom.” It is also okay for her to say: “I don’t want to, but I will do it anyway.” It is not acceptable for her to shrug, grunt, and say I can’t or I won’t. When being instructed to do something, a child may not ask “why.” If they ask “Why do I have to?” then have them do the task and then write the answer to why they had to do it.
Asking or Telling
When we ask our kids for something personally, we should use please, as in “Please get me a …” When you tell them to do something, do not say please. For example, “I want you to clean your room. Got it?” And, expect the answer, “Yes Mom.” On the flip side, the child needs to use please and ask for things rather than making statements such as, “I have to go potty really bad.” Or, “I’m hungry.”
Using Good Manners
Day to day: Before the age of five, a child should be trained to be helpful and thoughtful, opening doors and carrying packages for Mom. Children should walk next to their parents not in front of them.
At the table: They should eat without gulping, slurping, or talking with a mouth full of food. The offender must finish his dinner in a room by himself. Respectful children request permission to be excused from the table; once given permission, they clear their place and prepare to help with kitchen clean-up.
Answering the telephone: Only allow children to answer the phone once they are able to take efficient messages and handle whatever may occur (obscene phone calls, solicitors, etc.). When an adult is on the phone, children should be quiet and considerate. Adults should keep conversations under 10 minutes. [Note: Click here for a great tip to deal with kids who like to interrupt phone conversations.]
Property: Children should keep their feet off of furniture and car seats and should sit properly in a chair. Consequences include standing for a meal, sitting on the floor (instead of the sofa or chair), and no front seat privileges in the car. Since so many cars have air bags these days and require kids to be in the back seat, maybe music selecting privileges or other such joys could be revoked. Do not argue with your child, simply tell them what to do without explanation, and then take action.
Car trips: When children cause a distraction, stop the car immediately and deal with the problem; do not wait until you are “foaming at the mouth.” Push-ups (or jumping jacks) on the side of the road is good for an overactive child who challenges your authority. Both hands on top of the head for a short while will keep their hands out of trouble. The consequence for being too loud or making senseless noises in the car is to not be allowed to speak unless an adult asks him or her a question. If he challenges parental authority, he must put one hand over his mouth. A second challenge equals two hands over the mouth. A third challenge and he rides with his forehead on his knees. Still challenging? Stop the car and have him do push-ups (or go home if necessary). In Parenting with Love and Logic the authors recommend (for a repeat offender) to have a back up plan. Have someone on standby whom you can call to come and get the child (or drop him or her off) on the way to the store (that book also offers more tips in the road trip department). Another great resource for helping your children have good attitudes, behaviors, and character is Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Leman.
For more on this subject, see Empowering Mothers, part 3, Developing Self-Control
Need Encouragement for the difficult days:
Is parenting and teaching overwhelming at times? Do you ever feel caught in an emotional undertow?