Posts Tagged: Alyson Schafer

Two Arm Technique for Hitting, Biting, Pushing and Toy Snatching

One of the most common questions I get asked is how to respond when two toddlers or preschoolers are involved in an altercation. If your child has just been hit, had their toy snatched or pushed, just what should you do?

My answer is called the “Two Arm Technique”, taught to me by Althea Poulos.  Here is how it goes:

When you witness a situation when two young children are in a kerfuffle, begin by asking yourself, “Who owns the problem?”  In the case of a child having a toy snatched from their hands, it is the child who lost the toy. Our culture likes to label this child the “victim”, and we have very strong personal ideas about helping an innocent victim! Our first impulse is to rush over and console the “poor upset victim” and to admonish the “bully” who overstepped his bounds. We pluck the toy from the “bully”, yell at him for his mean behavior and return it to the “victim” to set things right!

The trouble with this response is that it actually grooms a child to become more likely to be a victim, because they have learned by standing still and looking tearful and upset (under-resourced or being incapable), that someone will come and handle their life problems. The successful outcome shows the child that their approach was a good strategy to solve a problem. This does not hold up well as a life lesson.  We don’t want to teach this.

The other faulty notion is to mistakenly believe that the child snatching the toy was in some way being mean and brutal. No, in fact, that child is also deficient in how to solve his life problems. He wants a toy and so he must solve how to get it. Much of what young children know has come from watching their parents deal with them, and they frequently learn from parent-child interactions that “might is right.”

The child takes the most simplistic model he is aware of in his young age and experience, and goes about solving his situation with his peers in the only way he knows.  He has no feelings of meanness, he just wants to solve the problem of getting the toy!  If we punish this boy, he may potentially learn that “life is out to get me”, and that he is a “bad boy”, and he will begin to grow and develop in line with that expectation.  Our responses will actually foster BOTH the “bully” and the “victim” idea we are fearful of and trying to avoid!

The parent or teacher’s role in these scenarios is to train the children in ways to deal more effectively and cooperatively with this life challenge. It is a time to guide and teach (the real basis of discipline), not to punish. Neither is a victim or bully, they are just two children in need of skills development and in growing their “social interest”, as we Adlerians call it (also known as social feeling­/caring for others).

So try this instead:

Drop to your knees so you are at eye level to the children when talking (this is so very important to creating a sense of equality and respect). Being towered over is very intimidating and distancing.

Collect both children up so they are facing one another. After all, this is their problem and their discussion.  The teacher or adult should be physically in a position that is neutral (not holding one child or standing beside one child,­ this gives the feeling of “two against one” and we are NOT here to take sides, or act as police or judge).  The name of this technique comes from the holding of each child, one in each of your arms, gently.

Hopefully in this position you will feel more like a mediator yourself.

Here is the script for the conversation that follows:

Parent to Crying Child: “Did you like that?”

Crying Child: (Shakes head or keeps crying ­ often not verbal or pre-verbal)

Parent to Crying Child: “Looks like you are saying you didn’t like it, but you need to speak up.  Can you say I don’t like that?  Your friend needs to know. He is a good listener.”  (Nice little bit of encouragement there, eh?)

Parent to Crying Child: “Tell your friend, I’m not done yet.”

Either the child will repeat the words you have just given them, and speak up for themselves saying, “I am not done yet”, OR they will say nothing and you can say the words, but the message is coming from the crying child, NOT from you!

Parent to the Toy Snatcher: “You friend is saying they don’t like that, they are not done yet.“

Parent to the Toy Snatcher: “Did you want a turn with the toy?”

Toy Snatcher: (Nods, or says yes, or looks at you neutrally)

Parent to the Toy Snatcher: “Can you tell your friend that? Can you say I’d like a turn please?”

Again ­ see if the child will repeat your words. If not, you say them ­ but don’t fall into the trap of talking for yourself.  There is a world of difference between “Your friend is asking for a turn when you are done” (correct version ­ the message is from the child, delivered by the adult) versus “It’s his turn next” (which is the adult’s instruction, and NOT a message from one child to another other).

Parent to Crying Child: “Your friend has asked you for a turn. Can you find him and give him the toy when you are done?”

Crying child will either be neutral (take that as a yes) or they will nod or say yes to affirm.

Parent to BOTH children: “GREAT ­ looks like you two worked it out!”

At this point I might use redirection to help the child left waiting for his turn by asking him what he would like to do while he is waiting.

Did you notice I did not make them hug or say sorry? I’ll have to write another post on that too. But for now, appreciate the idea of helping children learn language skills so they can handle these situations without an adult in the future.

If you visit an Adlerian classroom, you will often hear children saying, “I don’t like…” and teachers saying back, “Good speaking up!” If you train children to solve their problems, they don’t need to come to the teacher when discourse occurs. This is great preparation for the big world of school hallways and school yards at recess that are soon to come!

Two Arm Technique for Hitting

Parent to Crying Child: “Did you like that?”

Crying Child: (Shakes head or keeps crying often not verbal or preverbal)

Parent to Crying Child: ”Looks like you are saying you didn’t like that, you need to speak up.  Can you say I don’t like that?  Your friend needs to know, he is a good listener.”

Either the child will repeat the words you have just given them, and speak up for themselves saying, “I don’t like that”, OR they will say nothing and so you can say the words, but remember that the message is coming from the crying child, NOT from you!

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: ”Your friend is saying they don’t like that.”

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: ”We need to feel safe in (house/ classroom/ play group). Your friend might like to play with you more if he knew he was safe.  Can you tell your friend he will be safe? Can you say I won’t do that again?” (Notice this is a plan or promise for future behavior and not an apology for past behavior.)

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: ”Is there something you could do to make your friend feel better?” (This is restitution and healing since someone was hurt.)

Hitter/Pusher probably will look blankly at you since they have never done this before.

Parent to Crying Child: ”Would you like a hug from him?” (It’s okay for them to say no but if they say yes)

Parent to Hitter/Pusher: ”Your friend is saying they’d like a hug, would you like to give one?” (It’s okay for them to say no but usually they do just hug.)

Parent to BOTH children: ”GREAT ­ looks like you two are ready to play together safely again!”

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

 

Street-Proofing Our Kids: Rules to Protect Your Child from Possible Abduction

When a missing child makes the news, every parent has the same thought flash through their mind: what if that was my child? Unbearable thoughts. This is a good reminder that we should all talk to our children about street safety rules.

First, some facts for parents.  Almost all missing children in Canada are taken by a non-custodial parent who could not gain access through the court system. Random abductions are very rare indeed. Canada is a very safe and friendly country.  Sadly, most harm that befalls children in our society is inflicted by their family and caregivers, not by strangers.

Still, we need to teach our children safety rules and review them a couple of times a year.  I think it’s helpful to approach the subject with children the same way you would fire safety, or Elmer the Safety Elephant.  You don’t need to discuss what happens to children who are abducted.  Simply explain that to be safe when they are away from home, they need to know and apply 5 rules to keep them safe.  It’s NOT their job to decide which people are good and bad, or when something is safe or dangerous. It’s only their job to apply the rules every time!

Here are the rules every child should have en-grained in their heads. It comes from an abridged list from the Protective Parenting program created by one of my mentors, the late Larry Nissan.

1. I Won’t Go with Someone I Don’t Know

This is a rhyme your children should chant in their heads.  Have them say it out loud to you. Have them practice saying it out loud to another adult with assertiveness.  It’s a rule!  Children should not have to decide if a person looks like a nice person or a bad person.  It’s not their job to think, judge and assess. It’s only their job to follow the family safety rules.

2. Adults Should Seek Help from Other Adults ­ NOT from Children

If an adult asks for help, go get another adult to help them. That means that even if they are old and have a cast or crutches and need help carrying their groceries to their car; even if they have lost their kitten and also have a picture of that kitten­ don’t help.  Here is why – adults try to trick children, so children don’t need to think about how “real” the problem looks, they only need to follow the family safety rules. Adults seek help from adults, NOT children.  If you are asked for help, tell the adult you will help, by getting your teacher, or parent or some other adult to help them.

3. Family Code Word

Make up a family code word that ONLY your family knows, and keep it in your heads ­ no writing it down on paper to remember.  If someone needs to pick up your child for you, tell them the password and then create a new one since that one is now used up. Tell your child to always ask for the password if it’s not the pre-arranged parent picking them up.

4. Take Two Steps Back

Always keep two steps back from a car.  If a car slows down and asks for directions, take TWO STEPS back from the car. You can give driving directions from the sidewalk.  NEVER get into a car for any reason. Even if it’s cold or rainy and they can drive you a few blocks home.  Not even if they say your mom was in a car accident and they are supposed to take you to the hospital to see her and she didn’t have time to give the code. Remind them that since these can be tricky, it’s not their job to evaluate the safety of situations, just follow the family safety rules!

5. A Weapon Means SCREAM, YELL, KICK AND RUN

Abductors are also cowards (why else would they be doing this?) and even if they threaten you, they will not chase you if you are running through a parking lot or screaming.  If they touch you, make a scene and shout at the top of your lungs:  “This is NOT my PARENT!”  This is even the case if they hold a gun. They don’t want to fire a gun in public and be noticed.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Should A Pre-Schooler Be Made to Pay For Her Mistakes?

Imagine following a strange sound across your house only to discover your 4 year-old has tossed one of your books into the washing machine.  There it is, soaking wet, banging against the drum – ruined! You are shocked and upset.  What were they thinking?

As far as you can tell, she was just curious about the washing machine.  But, it also crosses your mind that she may have plunged the book to its death in retaliation to an early tiff you had.  The trouble is… you’re not really sure.

What is a parent to do when they don’t know if it is an accident or a stunt that requires disciplinary action? It would feel wrong to punish a child for an innocent mistake wouldn’t it?

The parenting paradigm that I teach is based on Adlerian Psychology. It argues against the use of punishments, which rely on fear to control a child’s behavior    Instead, the “democratic”, “ backbone” or “authoritarian” approach as it is some times referred to, focuses on an education approach to discipline.  In fact that is the root word “disciple” which means “to teach”.   Discipline without punishments is about educating the child about how life works, their freedom to make choices for themselves in society, but also (and equally important) holding them responsible for the choices they do make.

Whether the book was thrown in the washer as an accident, an experiment or a ploy to upset mom, the child is still accountable for their actions and needs to learn about the outcomes from making that particular choice.

Share with the child that even when accidents happen, things need to be replaced.  You can explain that from your perspective, you didn’t leave your book in the wrong place or anything, but now you have no book and it needs to be replaced. Ask if she has any ideas.  How can this situation be rectified?  Who does she think should pay for the new book?

Be sure to ask with true curiosity, so the child actually reflects on your question.  If you are angry and accusatory, your child will likely stop thinking and start defending their position instead.  Help them stay open by being calm and patient.

Ask them what they think should happen if the tables were turned, and you accidentally stepped on one of their toys and broke it?

Work together to strike up some arrangement together that makes sense to both of you.   Be creative, there is no one right perfect answer here.  For example, with small children who have little or no money, you may ask the child to make a financial gesture of some kind.  Perhaps they want to see if they have any money in their piggy bank.

I made my preschooler pay for the full amount of an aquarium ornament that she broke while shopping. She was about 4, but at that time, was getting a small allowance.  The arrangement we came up with together was to hold back half her weekly allowance until it was paid off.  We kept track of the debt reduction each week by posting a ledger on the family bulletin board.  Maybe it sounds cold hearted, but at the age of 4, money holds little true value (they are not Jonesing to go shopping at Aritzia yet), but symbolically it represents a lot.  She didn’t really miss that half of her allowance too much, but she sure did know she was clearing her debt and making good on her responsibilities. She felt really proud of herself when she made her last payment and was debt free with a clear conscience.   From that time forward, she has been very careful with breakables, and all her responsibilities come to think of it!  Co-incidence?  I think not.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

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