Walking the Line of Nonsense

Dr. Foster W. Cline teaches:

"We walk the line of nonsense when we warn."

Warnings give kids a distorted view of cause and effect. They begin to believe that they don't have to make wise decisions the first time. (drugs, sex, destructive behaviors, etc.)

Love and Logic teaches that bad things can happen right away if you make poor decisions.

How many times do you find yourself warning, aka threatening, your kids if they don't get their schoolwork done on time. Explaining to them numerous times how their life will be miserable if they don't.
Maybe you get a little adrenaline rush when you see that they are worried about losing a favorite toy or if you're really lucky, they will shed a few tears for you. That gives you more motivation to keep warning them because "look how worried they are, they're crying! This MUST be working!!" And for some reason............the schoolwork continues to lag behind day after day. You've now taken away every beloved toy and activity they enjoy. We scratch our head and wonder why. We might even start to believe that our child is unmotivated.
They are very motivated. Here are the motivations of each party, consciously or unconsciously, of each party and herein lies the paradox:
Parents: If I take away something they love they will want to get it back and they will do what they are supposed to do.(schoolwork) They'll win...........they'll get their toy back. I'll win they get their work done. Win/Win
Child: If I do my schoolwork, I'll be doing what they want me so desperately to do. I'll lose. I don't care about Gameboys, Civil Air Patrol, Driving, Soccer Practice..........I care about being a winner. As long as I don't do what they beg me to do (and they read this in your every movement, your facial expressions, your heavy sighs) I stay the winner. They lose.
We shoot ourselves in the foot when we use warnings as supposed 'motivators' all day long.
3 Scenarios
  • "Honey, I'm not taking you to Civil Air Patrol if you don't have 3 lessons done"
  • "If you ever want to play on the computer again, you better get your math assessment done."
  • "Do you want to go to Grandma's tonight? You're not going unless I see that outline for your paper."
And on and on it goes.
I'm tired just typing about it.
Live. Your. Life.
Kid blows off doing his 3 lessons. It's time for Civil Air Patrol. He's got his handbook and he's in charge of conducting the meeting tonight. You are hopefully, relaxing reading a good book, making dessert, playing with a child, talking to your husband.........when son comes ready to be taken to CAP. "We need to go", he says.
Looking up from the newspaper with a wide-eyed, clueless appearance you say, "Oh, right honey. Hey, as soon as I see those 3 lessons done, I will zoom you down to the Elks Lodge for CAP."
(side note: THIS IS HARD TO DO. Hard to say! You want to give in because he was really sweet after dinner and did more than his fair share of the work. He was playing with his little brother even! You want to give a little, tiny lecture and then take him to CAP. Hoping and hoping that he's learned his lesson. He hasn't. He is learning that he can blow off your requests, do a couple of other nice things and you turn to butter. You get to decide. This is why it is all about you. Okay, back to the story..)
Earlier that morning I sweetly said in passing, "Honey, feel free to go to CAP when I see these 3 lessons done." I did not say another word all day.
When he was texting for 25 minutes, I said nothing.
When he took a 3 hour nap, I said nothing.
I went about living MY life, which was very successful, thank you.
I did 3 loads of laundry, called 2 friends, wrote 5 emails, finished my report for Friday, played the piano, sang to my favorite CD while sweeping the floor.
Does your son take this lying down? No.
Will he possibly get ugly and defiant? Yes.
Will you use a lot of words and explaining in this moment? Not if you want this painful experience to count for anything. If you get a lot of "Why????" and "You didn't tell me.......blah blah's", calmly explain that if he hasn't figured this out by tomorrow morning you would love to have a conversation with him about it.
I do not have conversations with angry/upset/rude people.
I use a one-liner to his every complaint.
"Maybe so.........and I'll be happy to run you down when I see 3 lessons" Repeated 16 times or as long as it takes him to leave your presence.

Why don't you see if you can come up with a way to handle the other two scenarios without a warning.
What would you do?
Can you get off the tightrope of nonsense?


ali said...

Hi Des! I so want to win a L&L prize, but I've read and re-read the email you sent and I'm not sure if I can figure out what my assignment is, lol.

I CAN tell you that I thought I was a great mom - my kids are well behaved and obedient and are happy to help me when I ask them to. However, I've realized while taking the class, that I am taking a lot of the learning opportunities out of their little lives. They don't get to choose a lot of stuff. They just happen to be very easy-to-get-along-with guys who like to make their mommy happy.

Anyhow, this week I gave them complete control over their class assignments. I simply printed up the list of all they needed to get done, provided them with their 'hours of wonderful learning time', lol and let them choose how they would spend it.

By last night when it was our movie night and one child still hadn't finished all his work, I did not warn! I did not complain! I used the line (and find I LOVE it!) "I love ya too much to nag ya"

What was awesome was that this son of mine broke down in tears - NOT because he was mad at me, but because he realized HE had let himself down. I was THRILLED!

And even better, I had a lot less stressful week knowing the control over their success or failure rested squarely where it belonged - WITH THEM.

I feel great going into this new week because I think now that they have a better idea of what to expect, they're going to do awesome and I'm going to love it even more!

So, I know this isn't what you were looking for Des, but ... can I be entered into the drawing anyway? Please??? *U*

Dave and Deslynn said...

Absolutely!! You're entered. I was worried my post assignment wouldn't make much sense. Oh well. I don't know that I'll have many takers you're probably a shoe-in!

Great example. We're going to talk about parenting styles next week. It's pretty spot on most of the time.

Thanks so much for sharing your story. "See you Thursday!"

Diann Ruesch said...

HI Des! So it took me a little bit to find the two scenarios you were wanting us to talk about, but I think I understand. So here goes. Scenario #2 I have to admit that I think I have been the queen of warnings and this sounds super familiar to something that I have said before to my kids.
Parent: Honey, here is your math assignment and assessment as soon as you finish this assessment feel free to play a game on the computer or go outside to play with friends.
Child plays and doesn't get his math assessment done in the allotted school time. He plays with his brother instead, plays with his toys. Parent does housework, plays with baby, checks e-mail, etc.
School time is over and child wants to play on the computer. Parent: Feel free to do that honey when you've got your math assessment done.
Child: But I need your help!
Parent: What a bummer!
Child continues to make a fuss and parent continues to use neutralizing responses.
Child will get to play on the computer if they finish assessment. Hope that is enough of an explanation on that one.
Scenario #3-Instead of warning on this one a parent could say something like, "Kids who finish the outline for their paper get to go to Grandma's house. I sure would love for you to come with us." If child doesn't finish than they might need to pay for a babysitter for them to stay at home. Everyone else should still go. Parent should be sure to use empathetic responses with the child such as, "I'm so sad, that you can't come with us. Maybe next time."
Well, hope those are okay examples of how to "jump of the line of nonsense." I will have to remember that when I am tempted to warn. I remember learning to give a child 3 warnings before the consequence from somewhere. Maybe my parents. And I can't tell you how many times I have really "walked the line of nonsense." It's good to see the light and a way off of this tight rope and on to safer ground.

Dave and Deslynn said...

Diann: I really liked how you told him/her that you would miss them and maybe next time. We can really be sad and hope that they are with us next time. And if we're really lucky, they will not listen to us next time either and we'll get to practice this all over again! :) Look forward to getting really good at missing them. Then it will feel SO good when they finally accomplish their work and we can truly love every minute of being with them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Des! I am the absolute queen of warnings. But this week I have improved dramatically! I am not very good with roll playing so I will just let you know how we've done since our last class. I have had family and friends comment on how well my 10 year old is doing. In the past he has been the king of fits. (Not because he gets what he wants) I finally realized he is reacting to my tone of voice and I've been feeding his fits. Now when he starts into his fit I respond with, "that's a bummer, I hope you figure it out" and he actually stops to think and most of the time it diffuses the fit. The back talking and name calling has greatly reduced because I tell my boys "I only talk to or help people who talk nice to me."
I have an 11 year old who is pretty ticked off because he wants the warnings back. We've been telling him and telling him if he doesn't clean his room he is going to loose it. (His room is guest/bed room) Yesterday I started into it and my husband whispered in my ear, "no more warnings." So we informed him he had lost his room and will be moving back in with his 2 other brothers. He's not a happy camper, but he is learning a valuable lesson.
Today I saw the pay off from the Uh Oh song. I've been singing it to my 2 year old for the last couple of weeks. In the beginning I put him in his room, but Monday he climbed out through his window in bare feet and ran off to play with the dog. (30 degree weather) I completely ignored him until he came crying to the door. I decided the best place for time out was in the middle of whatever room I'm in, on a kitchen chair. At first he resisted, but now he just hops up and folds his arms. Today I saw the real payoff. This morning we were sitting in church and he wanted to climb over the bench to run off and play. I told him no. His reaction was to reach out and hit me. I whispered in his ear, "Uh Oh, that's really sad." He immediately folded his arms and sat quietly until I asked if he was ready to apologize. He gave me a kiss better and whispered he was sorry. After church several people commented on how well behaved he was today! Our home is far from perfect but I see a great deal of improvement! Thanks a million! And thanks to our teacher who let us know about this class!

From Mary-UTVA

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave and Deslynn:

I'll admit it: warnings and reminders are a problem around our house for our son, who lives with autism and ADHD. Since he can't stay on task too well, I find myself reminding him quite a bit in an effort to redirect him. I love the idea, however, that giving him the responsiblity and getting out of the way can say to him, "You can do it! I believe in you!" That is just the message he needs. I just find it hard to walk the line to know how much he truly can be expected to do. I want him to be independent and functional, so we need to start giving him more opportunities. I'm going to continue to think on this one....
As for the examples, both scenarios #2 and #3 show the parent making the decision and drawing the lines. This sets up a power struggle with a child--especially one that wants more control. In either situation, the parent needs to go about their life, allowing the child to make the mistake of not getting their work done. Then, (most important!) the parent needs to allow the consequences to do the teaching, and show empathy. "I feel sad that you aren't coming to Grandma's." or "What a bummer. I will miss you."
One thing I have appreciated about this class is realizing how much responsibility I have taken on as a parent to facilitate my special needs son's learning. I truly do care more about it than he does, and I knock myself out trying to make it enjoyable for him. I have appreciated the shift in thinking: I have a life, too, unrelated to the special needs of my child! Thanks, guys!
Andrea Snarr

Anonymous said...

Ok, on warnings. I think it is an interesting theory and it makes sense. Look at the animal world. There are consequences that come of decisions that are made and no "verbal" warnings are given. I think sometimes we try to "talk" our children into doing something that has a built in consequence - but often times we don't want to follow through on it unless we have given the child enough of a headsup. We don't want them to miss out so we try to talk them into it - try to convince them. If we are doing the caring/worrying about the consequence for them then they don't have to. Anyway, just my two-bits... Cara

Melanie said...

Wow warnings, I didn't realise how much I gave warnings until I heard my six year old warning her two little brothers. She sounded amazingly familiar. Ugh, it was my voice and tone coming out of her sweet little mouth. If ever we need a time to ponder humility, children will certainly provide it.
As for scenarios on completing assignment. A usual for me would be morning reminder before the day begins. Child off to do chores at his/her usual pace (slow). I watch clock and hope they hurry up. It doesn't happen. They come in and more warnings come, especially about use of time and how hard it will be to catch up on the day. Two hours later we are to lunch and less than half the days work is accomplished and especially not the assignment I have warned about the most. Naps for wee ones after lunch, big kids back to school. They use time to their convenience and I stress about how much isn't getting done. Next thing we know dinner, chores, bed and yep school work not done. They go to bed pleased as pickles and I go to bed thoroughly exhausted.
Can't say I am proud of myself, but being aware of the possibilities for improvement on my part will certainly help in handling the inevitable for tommorrow.

LC said...

Oh dear....after reading the scenarios I realized how much I have been "warning" all day. It's true that warning/nagging makes it MY problem. It takes a lot of MY energy (and I have precious little)!
So I am going to learn from your example and the other comments. Thanks everyone.

Anonymous said...

We have really put out the high level of what we have learned on the kids. Every new week is fun to see how they discover their new freedom of choice. Putting the problems back on them is GREAT for us!

One thing, at the table, child (8yr) playing or being contentious with others, Dad has a bad habit and gives a warning and by the time I come to sit down from cooking and find a warning has been given, I just don’t mind, saying “Oh, we don't warn, go” like an umpire sending him out of the game but with a calm voice. Our meal time is a place that I get to relax and enjoy my husband’s company after he has been gone all day. I admit, we are lucky to have three meals a day together. We read a chapter before breakfast and Dad comes home for a quick lunch and then dinner comes and I am firm about wanting absolutely no contention at the table. They take their meal to the mud room.

We have noticed that our son does not like the “no warnings” policy. We have used the “love you too much to nag ya” phrase and we often get the response “I don’t believe you do!” or “it doesn’t feel like you do!” Maybe this is him taking responsibility for the problem and not us. Now when we send him to recovery time, known as “Deep Dish” (thanks to ‘Meet the Robinsons’ movie) in our home, his responses are very unkind words on his way to cool off.

He hates the "UtOh" song. I am just glad he is willing to go without assistance. Is this effective during learning time? He went 9 times on Monday and earned every one of them. I think he is reaching the age where he must think it is better to sit in timeout than do lessons.

I can hardly wait until Thursday when we may learn how to help our son have the same concern as we have about his education. He says he wants to play after learning time but he spends all his time dinking around with his lesson material during his lesson time that play time comes and goes without him.

Our son has agreed that he hasn't done his lessons when he should and said "yup, that is my choice." We paid for a babysitter while we went to the theater (comedy play), He lost his piano lessons (because he is not practicing enough and his lessons are way behind), movies with the family, privilege not much left to take away.

It is really hard to let him fail this long by only getting one or two lessons done a day. Before the Christmas break (on occasion) he was getting all of them done before lunch. Maybe its the new way that has him reassessing what is going on and so he is thinkin of new spins to put out there.

We remind each other to give the kids P.I.E. Praise, Inspiration, Encouragment.

Thanks a bunch for everything thus far it has been SuperSteps in a better direction. Sorry so long.

Anonymous said...

Ok if that wasn't enough, here is a little more. Not clear on the question but instead of being the daily reminder lady "time for chores" . . we now say "I am going to have breakfast at 6:30" or "Oh, look at the time, its 30 minutes to breakfast time" this gives our son an indirect warning and off he disapears to practice piano so he doesn't miss breakfast with the family. Except that yesterday morning he twirled around the kitchen singing all morning (since his chore is to set the table-he was doing that slowly) and when he saw that we were going to have breakfast in ten minutes he went to practice piano and only played for 10 minutes and said "I'm done." sent him back to finish for another 20 minutes. He has been taking lessons long enough to know when practice is about 30 minutes. I think.

He is really testing the new waters of all that Mom and Dad have changed with the program. He gets so close to catching up his lessons but there is an issue with him about success. He was adopted at age 4. He came from many rejected foster and failed adoption homes so he gets really close to his goals and then denies himself the finish line because its too good to believe that he is being loved, accepted, happy. He throws a wrench in fun stuff all the time. It is really discouraging to be seperated as a family because he chose not to complete the task of the day and its dinner and a movie night or he is welcome to join weekly family night but sorry no treats. Guess that is time to say "feel free to have a treat when your school lessons are caught up." I know that sound like using food as a reward. How do we motivate this kid?

Dave and Deslynn said...

Anon: We're going to talk a lot about this 'success' issue on week 6. Ask Dave about the 'wrench in the fun stuff'. He deals with this at school all the time and with children who have been through experiences like your son. It is definately a slow process but one that can huge payoffs. Maybe not for years.

As far as food as a reward........i don't have a problem with it. It goes back to....when we do our job we get to live our fabulous life. If dad doesn't do his job, we lose job, we have no money, we don't eat too well. If kids don't do their job, they are welcome to have bread and milk. I won't starve them, but there's no pizza tonight. Just don't want them getting used to living at a high standard when they're not willing to put out the effort it takes to do their job.

Great stories and insights. Thanks.

K said...

I wish I wasn't guilty of warning my children. I have worked on not warning them this week, and just letting the consequences happen. I still need to work on the love and empathy when the child realizes that they have their consequence. I come off as frustrated or irritated sometimes. I think to myself - I just blew that learning opportunity!! Changing the way I think is really hard! I am still trying to embrace the idea that I want my children to mess up. My parent's words and ideas run over and over in my head and out of my mouth.

My oldest daughter wants to go to a Daddy Daughter Dance on Feb 6. I said that she is free to go when her lessons are caught up. (Something that we have been working on for awhile, but then she looses focus. She is so close, but just needs a bit more effort.) Over the past week I have not warned her on some other things, and now she is realizing that if she doesn't actually catch up on the lessons, she may loose the Daddy Daughter Dance. She is now really focusing on reaching the goal!
Maybe I can be taught!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! Its a good reminder for me. I want, so badly, to fling the ideas I grew up on like a frisby but it is all I knew. My childhood is full of loving memories and visits to extended family in Idaho (near Firth by the way), BUT I felt really empowered when I served a mission with people who invited us into their homes. We saw the techniques and ways they were teaching their children that I knew I wanted to do things differently when I had a family. The only thing I've been able to compare it to is a tv program Wife/Swap. Its all attitude and vision of how you want your family to be and aim for it teachably.

The feeling in our home and how others feel when they enter is important to me. It requires me some hard changes, things I didn't know how to do but that I am willing to be teachable about. Enough to "roll play." That is a tough situation with my husband but he is coming around to it because we have good kids. We just need to adjust. We can see small degrees of change already encouraging.

Thanks to Love and Logic! We hope our change although slow pays big before the teen years come around. It was comforting to hear that as we adjust the children will adjust.

We log in to class as Dan and Amy from Utah with K12 but I already clicked anonymous and afraid to click back and lose what I have typed.

Jacqui said...

Hi Des....
I am not really sure what I am supposed to write but I wanted to say.....I have spent the last few weeks really going over my parenting styles. And I have to say that I do everything I promised myself I would never do when I had kids. I read your scenarios and it made me think of the book I just finished called Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants. I think that is what we are talking about tonight... But I realized I am a Drill Sergeant and not very proud of it. But I also realize that is how I was raised. We were always threatened You had better do this and do it now. I was raised to be scared of my dad. But now as I am typing I think I am digressing. So - the warning parent I think would be more under the helicopter. You are not smart enough to remember or do it so I had better keep reminding you over and over and then I will just do it myself if you forget. I think I missed the point of this assignment but it has been good for me to really think of how I react and respond to my kids.

Craaaazy Laaady said...

I listened last week, and for the first day or 2 I did well, and then I fell back into my usual day to day, if you don't get the dishes done I am going to send you to your room, blah blah blah and so forth. My husband Jack sat in with me, and he used the love and logic on me, and it cracked us both up! After we put the kids to bed, he makes his tea for work the next day, and I asked him if he could make me a pot of Jasmine tea for the next day. I walked out of the room to take care of the baby, and he came looking for me and said that I could tell him where my tea was, or I could make it myself. It was pretty darn funny. Thanks alot for having this available to us. How can I get a hold of some more Love and Logic materials so I can catch up with what I have missed. It is really effective if I could just master it! Heather Jensen IDVA


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