Please clarify how to use natural consequences when my child has a health issue.
My nine-year-old son often loses his coat at school. Sometimes we don't get them back. We have had him use his own money to buy a new one for himself and he has improved but sometimes he is still careless. Is it reasonable to send him to school without a coat on cold days to teach them responsibility or should we bail him out? I am afraid going to school without a coat could negatively impact his health. If he gets a cold, it could develop into a lung infection. – Dave N. P.S. He recently lost his new coat- again!
Dr. Cline's Answer:
Sounds like you have a pretty normal nine year old to me. Frustrating at times isn't it!? Surprisingly, a kid who loses his coat can grow to be an adult who appreciates nice clothing, buys expensive stuff and takes care of it. Wonder of wonders!
Happy parenting occurs when parents seldom, if ever, set themselves up to feel taken advantage of. Children's clothing fills second hand stores. Some very nice clothing can be obtained for very reasonable prices. And worn, slightly tacky, clothing can be obtained for practically nothing! How nice! Simply have fun with your son going through Goodwill helping him pick out the coats he wants, using his own money. If he doesn't have money, “Not to worry. We will consider the rag you buy as your Christmas present.”
If there is a pretty good possibility that he will lose whatever he buys, make sure he always has a second rag - an awful looking coat on hand that he can wear as an emergency coat until he picks out and buys his next coat. The secret is to have fun with this. Take a picture of him wearing the coats he picks out. They may look pretty bad considering how poor he is! You'll love looking at those pictures and reminiscing when he is an adult! Myself, I would allow my kid to be somewhat cold, but I would certainly stop short of allowing him to outright freeze.
And, when health issues are present, as in your case, natural consequences may not be appropriate. Pages 22 – 31 of Parenting Children with Health Issues teach the important distinctions between using natural and imposed consequences. Natural consequences should never be used when they can result in danger to life or limb. So, if your child’s health might be affected by not wearing a coat, then the “used coat” option is the way to go.
How do I handle natural consequences that cause the whole family to suffer?
Question: If my sick child (severe eczema/allergies) doesn't moisturize or eats the wrong foods, the natural consequence is that she wakes up through the night extremely itchy. The whole family pays for it. It's not so easy to simply say "good luck." – Connie
Dr. Cline’s Answer:
Luckily, as is often the case, this problem appears to be chronic. So we can plan ahead for it. And we can wait for a good time because chronic problems will always crop up again. No sense rushing into a solution!
So, instead of dealing with this problem in the middle of the night, ask your child the same question you are asking me in a curious and sweet tone of voice:
"Honey, sometimes you don't eat quite right or you don't moisturize enough and then in the middle of the night you are very, very itchy. That is so sad for you. How would you like to handle it, dear?”
Now, with your daughter, have fun brainstorming solutions that only involve her. Some ideas can be immediately discarded such as gluing a large piece of sandpaper onto a big piece of cardboard on the floor so she can rub her back on that. :-) Or perhaps you can decide that she simply needs to have one type of ointment or another available and a back scratchier and sponge so she can apply when she is very, very itchy in the middle of the night. I'm sure you can be more creative than I.
The point is: you need your sleep and waking you up is NOT one of the options!
Just remember to always solve chronic problems when they are not occurring. Problem-solving can be fun for the parent, if not for the child. Hopefully it will be fun for both of you.
It is hard when the consequences of a child’s lack of self-care affect the whole family. Foster gave some great ideas about how to problem-solve together. But what if she just won’t take care of herself and doesn’t really care about how she affects everyone else? The key is to find a way to ensure that the consequences (of your daughter’s bad self-care) affect her the most (without ever crossing the line to “damaging to life or limb”). This is where imposed logical consequences come into play: when natural consequences affect others or are too harsh to allow. We discuss this at length on pages 23-31 of our book.
So, if her itching and moaning has kept you up all night then maybe you need to take a nap that afternoon instead of taking her to a Girl Scout meeting (or soccer, etc). This would be a good imposed logical consequence of being kept up all night by her bad self-care choices. “Sweetheart, I have some bad news for you. I am so tired from being kept up all night that I need to take a nap this afternoon so I won’t be taking you to scouts. Thank you for understanding.”
If the rest of the family has been kept up all night, too, then restitution is in order. Ask her how she plans to help the family get caught up on their rest. If she doesn’t have ideas then brainstorm together. Perhaps cooking the family meal or doing some chores while the rest of you relax might be nice. Just remember that consequences/ restitution should always be delivered calmly and lovingly with empathy. “Oh, sweetheart, this is such a bummer. Last night your itching and moaning kept us up all night so you’ll be fixing dinner while we relax. Lucky for us you’re such a great cook! Thank you.”
I think that this approach will help your daughter become more receptive to Foster’s problem solving ideas. Best wishes! Lisa
Posted 9/07 Please see disclaimer at bottom of page.
Please help identify effective consequences around food issues
Question: My 1 1/2 year old does not like to eat. She has had a feeding tube for four months and I give her pureed meals after giving her the opportunity to eat a regular meal. Am I not giving her enough consequences, natural or imposed, to develop better habits? At what age are consequences appropriate and effective? What are your ideas for eating incentives? -Unsigned
Dr. Cline’s Answer:
Most issues like this one are time limited, and if parents don’t show frustration and model the right behavior they are simple stages and children generally outgrow them.
When children are 1 1/2 through 2 1/2, parents simply have to put up with a bit of nonsense. Sorry about that! However, things will probably turn around if you handle pureed eating in a "matter of fact" way that is not particularly fun. I mean, don't be grouchy but when the child is "forcing a parent into a non-optimal position,” it should be no fun for the kid. However, if a parent shows frustration, it always makes the situation worse.
On the other hand, it is important to make each time of eating "regular food" a real blast. Give yourself a pea and go crazy over the taste of it. Show particular joy in eating all those foods you would like her to accept. Do a lot of joyful modeling as you chow down on the right vittles! Have fun.
Finally, always keep in mind that the taste buds of children are different than those in an adult. Things taste very different to children. Children taste things on the side of their tongue in the back. Almost all adult taste is on the tip of the tongue. Things that taste really good to an adult may taste like they came right off the barnyard to a child. So give your kids some slack for not trying certain foods!
I hope this is helpful. - Foster W. Cline, M.D.
One of the first “demeanors” every parent should perfect is the "matter-of-fact and not particularly fun” demeanor as described above by Foster. This is also known as “poker face.” We don’t want to make undesirable behavior “pay off” by showing any kind of emotion around it. This includes both positive and negative emotion. Either response can cause the behavior to continue well past its natural life expectancy.
Poker face is very useful in situations where you need to help a child with a necessary task that you don’t particularly want to encourage. This includes food issues, changing diapers for a child who is in potty training or dealing with a child’s misbehavior.
Use poker face in situations where you are tempted to express negative responses like anger or frustration. And use joy, joy, joy in situations that you want to encourage.
Practice your poker face in the mirror till you know just how it feels. When you are feeling the beginning twangs of frustration over your child’s behavior, immediately put on the poker face. Then, pull out the old Love and Logic tool box to respond accordingly.
And lastly, with tube feeding, there can be oral aversion issues at play. There are specialists that can help you in this area so be sure to check with your doctor about this.
Happy parenting! - Lisa
Posted 9/07 Please see disclaimer at bottom of page.
I need help using the "Five Steps to Problem Solving" model.
Question: I tell my child, "Would you like to hear how other people have handled it?" And he is smart enough to call my bluff knowing that I don't know anything at all about what others have done! Now what? -Unsigned
Dr. Cline’s Answer:
This simply falls under the category, "Never lie to your kid!" If you don’t know how other people have handled it, then don’t use this statement.
There can be an inherent problem when using Love and Logic. Love and Logic teaches all kinds of caring, truthful statements, tools and techniques that parents can profitably make to enhance the parent-child relationship. However, these tools can be tossed off so frequently and lightly that they lose their message. For instance, one example might be, "That is so sad for you" which, when said with caring, lays the problem on the child while allowing the parent to show loving regard. Yet, the same phrase can also be said with all the empathy that a leopard seal shows while eating a penguin!
It sounds to me like you need to say to your child, "It looks like you need to research what other children have done or you are likely to make your own unique mistake. That would be sad for you."
The essential facts around sharing the thinking and problem solving are covered in Parenting Children with Health Issues on pages 31-34. Love and Logic’s Five Steps to Problem Solving are shown in the Powerpoint presentation of this website.
Try re-phrasing your question to “Would you like to hear ideas about how other kids might handle it?” If your child is a “literal” personality type who likes to question everything (which one of mine is), then I could see where he would question the statement you are using. Using more open-ended phrasings should help. When he starts to argue, give him permission to accept (or not accept) your ideas: “Sweetheart, you asked me for my help with this problem. This is how I see it. It’s up to you to decide what to do with it. Let me know how it works out for you.”
Take the time to get facts before you go through the problem solving model. When dealing with medical issues, visit your doctor together and discuss “What other kids have done” and “How that worked out for them.”
When he comes to you with, “I have a problem” (which is when we would use Love and Logic’s Problem Solving model) then use an enforceable statement like, “I am happy to discuss this with you if you can be respectful about my ideas.” And, of course, if he begins to argue with you, then say: “Sweetheart, I am sad to say this conversation is done. Perhaps we can try again later.”
Posted 3/27/07 See disclaimer at the bottom of this page.