What Shamu taught about …. raising kids?

What Shamu Taught Me about a happy marriage is written with the spouse in mind. Specifically, about how one author has learned to ‘train’ her husband out of hovering in the kitchen while she cooks, drive slower, and clean up his stinky exercise wear.

It’s also an excellent article on a more aikido-ish way of training your kids. I always wear myself out yelling about dirty laundry, holes in the yard, sibling name calling, before the kid wears herself out by listening. The central tenet of Aikido is using your “opponent’s” energy against them; and you spend less energy beating the snot out of them. Shamu teaches us a smoother way to reach our kids, as long as we’re happy with results over the longer term. And really, what kind of results are we getting by shouting and grounding? Short term, maybe, but long-term definately not.

So… here’s some tips from the article (And of course I recommend the article for better context).

Work in approximations.

Praise every small good thing they do every time. Each time your kid picks their stuff up, give them a hug, or whatever. Compliment them on their initiative. If they share their food with the little sister, praise them. The small stuff adds up.

Understand your child

Figure out what motivates your child. Do they care about hierarchy? Do they want to be part of a group? What do they want out of life, whether it’s more television, more computer time, or a new book.

Incompatible Behaviour

This one might take some thinking on your part; but “train” your kid to do something that directly conflicts with something they do that you don’t like. For the author, it was training her husband to chop parsley on the far end of the kitchen while she cooked; if he was chopping, he wasn’t hovering over the stove. With your kid, perhaps to encourage her to clean her room, you should … uh… let me get back to you on that one.

Least Reinforcing Syndrome

Here’s a good one. Sometimes, (and I was excellent at this when I was a kid), to get attention, a person will behave badly. Especially if they’re not getting good attention. It’s not necessarily on purpose, but somewhere in the kid’s head, they’ve decided that it’s better to have bad attention than no attention. What a “LRT” is defeats that. When the kid does something wrong (I mean minorly wrong, not like stealing the car and driving down the street chasing cats), just look at them blankly for a couple of beats and then go back to whatever you were doing. By doing this, you acknowledge them without really attending to them (and rewarding whatever behaviour they’ve done to get your attention).

Remember what the animal trainers say: “It’s never the animal’s fault.” I’m certainly guilty of ascribing Lex Luthor brilliance and behaviour to a five year old, but they’re really out for one main thing.

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