From the Parenting Coach's Desk

A-B-C: Action Before Conversation (ABC's of Parenting)

For the sake of our children, we parents could all stand to talk less and act more often when it comes to correcting negative behavior.

In general, act first and talk later. Parents spend far too much time explaining and reasoning with their offspring, rather than taking action.

Try "get off the top of the refrigerator NOW" instead of "how many times have I told you that it is not safe?" Or a simple "pick it up" rather than a lecture entitled "I love a clean San Diego!"

Have you ever noticed that as parents' energy investment in a given task or situation gets larger, the child's gets smaller? If you're working harder at getting your child's chores done than she or he is, try a little exercise. Bite your tongue! Stop repeating yourself.

Communicate your message as succinctly and firmly as possible, then bite your tongue and silently count to twenty. If the child hasn't moved, gently assist him or her physically in the direction of the desired behavior. Then repeat your brief message a second time using the same words, voice tone and volume. Bite your tongue again, and count to twenty. If the child still isn't cooperating, move to an action step.

Time-out is a great intervention for many children. The child loses something they want - contact with other people and ordinary activities, while gaining something else -self-control. There are some helpful rules of thumb for time-out:

1. Time out should be done calmly and firmly, never in anger or frustration.

1. Length should be one minute for each year of a child's age

2. When the time is up, the child should be given an opportunity to come out of time-out and practice self-control

3. If the child achieves self control before the time-out is up, let him/her out early. They have risen to the challenge and it should be immediately acknowledged.

4. Time-out should not be more fun than the problem behavior that earned it! Playing with toys during a time out defeats the purpose, which is to allow the child a chance to focus on regaining self-control.

Withdrawal of privileges can also inspire a young person to be a good cooperator. But make sure you impose a loss that makes the child suffer more than the parent! Grounding a teen-ager for the rest of his or her life might prove too much to handle for mom or dad. Also, withdraw the privilege calmly and firmly – NO DRAMA!

Playing with toys and earning screen time are examples of privileges that can be temporarily withdrawn to motivate the child to be a better cooperator at home and a better citizen at school and with friends.

ABC is especially important during times of transition. Some transitions are natural and expected, like the birth of a new child. Regression and mixed feelings are to be expected.

Other transitions are unexpected and create a crisis, like divorce. If you are in transition, stop and think before you make decisions about parenting. You may inadvertently burden a child with adult concerns by saying too much or by being too punitive. Or you may withhold appropriate discipline because of guilt or fear. So talk problems over with a trusted adult before talking to your child when your family is going through a major change.

Listening is one of the most important skills of a good parent and it’s important to talk with your child after self-control is regained, whatever intervention you use.

Ask the child to tell you their understanding of what was negative about the behavior. Support attempts at honest communication, and keep it brief. Take your cues from the child for the end of the conversation. Then take action again - a hug would probably be just right.