Saturday, August 18, 2012

Find Five Ways... A Simple Strategy for Overcoming Unkind Hands, Words and Feet

Unkind hands.  Unkind words.  Unkind feet. 

The boys needing a "relationship repair"...

When you are living with a household of young ones, such things can seem to proliferate. 

My remedy?  Habit training!

Whose habits?  Everyone’s!

Like many children, mine have some frustrating habits of hitting, yelling, threatening, biting, pushing, kicking light-sabering, etc.

In reaction to such behaviors, I am ashamed to admit that I have fallen into some not-so-productive habits of yelling, over-talking, getting upset, doling out punishments or otherwise generally adding to angst and negativity in our household whenever the kids “get into it” with one another or with me.

This is a problem.  A big problem, in my opinion, as it directly opposes our family mission to S.M.I.L.E. 

So, I decided to do something about it.  Something simple.  Something I could stand by.  Something that would focus us all on discipline not punishment and on kind habits to build, instead of negative behaviors to avoid.

Find Five Ways

Relationship healed! Smiles restored.
Whenever one of the children uses their hands, words or feet unkindly, I simply stop what we are doing, name what they have done and ask them in a calm tone to find five ways to use their hands, words or feet in a positive way.  I remind them to consider making amends for whatever they have done and repairing relationships with whomever they have hurt.

Example One: Words

When Nina bursts forth with, “I wish my brother was never even born!”, I say, “Nina, those words are hurtful.  Please find five ways to use kind and loving words.”

Then, if she doesn’t begin to do so within a minute or two, I motivate her to do so by letting her know “Nina, you must first find five ways to use kind and loving words before you can join us for (whatever the next fun thing we have planned in our day is.)”

Then, Nina usually gets started:

“Mommy, I love you... Jack, I love you...  Jack, you are such a good brother.” 

I see positive energy building in her, but no recognition of the fact that her words hurt her older brother, not her younger one.  Thus, I calmly say, “Nina,  I love you, too, and so does, Jack.  I bet Luke is feeling sad.  You hurt him with your words before...” 

Within a few minutes, Nina usually then succumbs to an “I’m sorry, Luke.”  Then, I ask her to find for one more way to use kind words and we are off with the rest of our day.

Example Two:  Feet

Luke kicks out at Jack in frustration when Jack comes too close to Luke as Luke is seeking alone time. I come to the room, observe and note, “Luke, you hurt your baby brother.  He’s crying.  I had to stop doing my chore so I could help calm him. Please find five kind ways to use kind feet towards your brother and towards our house.”  Luke balks for a moment, but then walks over to his crying brother to give him a hug. 

He walks to me to give me a hug.

“You are using your feet to walk to each of us to give hugs.  I love your hugs.  You need to use your feet to help our home, too.”

“Aw, Mom.  Why do I always have to clean?” Luke retorts.

“Luke, you stopped Mommy from doing chores right now, so you need to take some time to help our home.  Please walk around until you find three things to pick up and put away.”

Begrudgingly, Luke picks up three things in his room.  Without even realizing it, he picks up a fourth.  I thank him and he goes back to his drawing and coloring.

Example Three: Hands

Jack tries to tear something out of Luke’s hands at the table.  I stop eating, and helping to pry Jack’s fingers off the thing to give back to Luke, I say, “Jack, you used unkind hands.  Hands are not for grabbing.  They are for hugging. Please hug Luke.”  Jack smiles and hugs Luke.

“Thank you, Jack.  You hugged Luke.”  Jack laughs and hugs Luke again.
“What other fun things can we do with our hands?”  I ask.

Nina and Luke suggest things such as clapping and tickling.  Jack and his siblings begin to do each thing. 

By the time we reach five “good” things we can do with out hands, everyone is giggling and we get on with our meal and circle time.

Does It Always Work?

I have been employing this strategy for over a week now with great success, but can already attest:  It does not always work flawlessly all the time. 

Sometimes I have to strongly hold the kids to task, counting off their “kind” actions as they go and sticking to them like a shadow until they finish the challenge.

Sometimes they refuse to act kindly and then are required to “shadow me” until they have found five ways to use their hands, words or feet kindly.  Often, when they are shadowing me, they whine.  Whining is considered “ugly” in our home and “hurts other’s ears”, so if they whine, they have to add five kind and loving ways to use their voices to their list of must-do’s.  It can begin a viscous cycle, but through prayer and patience, I usually endure, and, in time, they reset with positive actions and words.

Will you have success with Find Five Ways, too?  I hope so!  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

1 comment:

Elisa said...

Thank you for this post. We need to better our strategy for encouraging kind behavior, so I am going to try this.


Related Posts with Thumbnails