Tag: Boys

“Mr. Fisty”: Part 2

This is Part 2; to read Part 1 of “Mr. Fisty,” please click here.

After an exasperated parent coaching client of mine found some relief with his brilliant five-step “Mr. Fisty” process, new developments emerged (as they always do with kids) that caused him to use his creativity to come up with even more strategies for dealing with his 4-year old son who hit.

Recap: Putting Mr. Fisty into Time Out

As you learned in “Mr. Fisty Part 1,” Walker was empowered and taught that he was in control of his actions. This meant that when his fist, AKA “Mr. Fisty” had the urge to hit someone, the child talked to Mr. Fisty and talked him out of hitting. Sometimes this meant that Walker stuffed his fist into his pocket to help himself remember who was in charge. This externalized the offender and gave the little boy power to make a good choice rather than acting impulsively and getting in trouble.

After three weeks, however, putting Mr. Fisty in his pocket didn’t seem to work anymore. One day Mr. Fisty escaped and punched a kid at school.

Uh oh.

Mr. Fisty Strikes Again – A New Response

Walker’s dad’s response was to draw a hand on a whiteboard and say to his son, “It looks like you don’t have very good control of Mr. Fisty so here are five consequences for hitting, one for each of the next five days.” This caused the child to have to re-explain to Mr. Fisty why it is really important for him to listen and that is unacceptable to hit other kids.

The Five Consequences of Mr. Fisty

Dad reported that each morning, Walker would walk down the kitchen and look at the whiteboard to see what his consequence was for that day. When he saw “no dessert,” for the first day he whined, “Ah, dad, I love dessert!” Dad got to respond empathetically, saying how sad it was to miss dessert that day. Dad also got to ask Walker if he thought Mr. Fisty was learning how important it is to not hit.

Each subsequent day brought with it another consequence outlined on the whiteboard.

Externalize the Problem and Practice Positive Behaviors

This technique is called “externalization of the problem.” Dad externalized the aggressive, impulsive part of Walker and made it a separate character named Mr. Fisty. Next, dad built up the strong, resourceful part of Walker by putting him in charge of ornery Mr. Fisty. This gave Walker the chance to practice positive behaviors. When the effect wore off and Walker hit again, Dad decided that this was the time and place for a consequence. He was still able to empower Walker by talking about the consequence as something brought on by Mr. Fisty.

Address the Bad Behavior – and Don’t Forget to Celebrate the Good!

We parents always get to decide if we are going to punish bad behavior or focus on rewarding good behavior. I think there is room in healthy parenting for both…. as long as it is all delivered with as much love and compassion as we can manage on any given day and that it is done with the intention of teaching our children skills to be successful adults.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2016 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

“Mr.Fisty”: A Proven New Way to Stop the Pre-Schooler Who Hits

Hbanner_MrFistyNov2015An exasperated parent coaching client plopped onto the couch in my office recently and sighed, “How do I get my 4-year-old son to stop hitting?” At the slightest provocation, his son was hauling off and punching other kids at preschool. Needless to say, this did not go over well with teachers or classmates. The dad racked his brain to come up with a good “consequence,” a.k.a. “punishment” to get his son to stop.

Together, we came up with a completely different approach… what I like to call a “180 approach” and dad left, ready to give it a try.

Find humor and compassion instead of harshness and shame

Dad went home and talked to Walker about how hard it must be to keep his hands to himself, especially when he’s mad. With compassion, dad held Walker’s hand and folded it into a fist and said, “This little Mr. Fisty just loves to hit, doesn’t he? He must be trying so hard to protect you when you get stressed. Look how strong he is. He doesn’t mean to get you in trouble, but every time he punches someone, who gets in trouble at school?” Walker was listening intently, thinking about his rascal of a fist, and said, “I’m the one who gets in trouble, not Mr. Fisty!”

Empower the child to make choices and be in control

Together, father and son talked about how Walker was going to talk to Mr. Fisty and try to keep him from punching anyone. If Mr. Fisty got tempted, Walker was going to treat Mr. Fisty kindly, explaining to him how he had to stay in Walker’s pocket and that Walker would handle the situation.

Externalize the offender

This approach externalized the offender… rather than Walker being naughty, it was “Mr. Fisty” who was being ornery and Walker was the big boy in charge of things. Instead of Walker being punished and feeling bad about himself (which fuels more misbehavior), he became the big guy in charge of his fist. He felt empowered.

The plan worked brilliantly. Dad was thrilled. Walker maintained Mr. Fisty’s good behavior for a solid three weeks. This was a first for Walker to go three weeks without a single incident. Dad was so happy that he sent me a picture of Mr. Fisty.

Keep in mind, setbacks are inevitable

The story doesn’t stop here, however. Mr. Fisty did misbehave again. Dad’s response to the latest offense was even more ingenious than the first.

Stay tuned to read part two of the Mr. Fisty saga.

Insight on Managing Misbehavior

I call this a “180 approach” because it is often helpful to try an approach that is the complete opposite of what we think of automatically when it comes to handling misbehavior. The more a kid acts up, the more parents think they should come down hard on their kids. However, when we go for effective, powerful kindness in lieu of punitive discipline, we can meet our kids’ needs, fill them up, and change their behavior for the long-term. In this case, Dad had the chance to show compassion for Walker and teach him the essential skill of impulse control.
 
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Sick of all the Whining”

DearKerry_12yoWhiningDear Kerry,

My 12 year old son whines constantly and it drives me absolutely crazy. It’s almost like it’s his default way of speaking. I don’t want to constantly berate him – but I am not sure how to curb the whining?

Sick of All the Whining

Dear Sick,

For better or worse, this seems to be rather common for kids this age. I know that doesn’t make it any less aggravating for you to live with, but hopefully you at least know you are in good company with a lot of other parents.

If you focus on putting an end to the whining, you will end up putting your attention on what you DON’T want.

Focus instead on what you DO want; for example, calm voice, doing what you ask the first time, respectful words, pleasant tone. I call this “Parenting the Invisible” because it’s hard for us to notice when our kids do it.  We tend to take the good, quiet, cooperative behavior for granted.  Our brains are wired to hone in on the undesirable behaviors.  If you pay attention, however, to the little, quiet, good behaviors and nice way of speaking, you’re likely to see that they actually do exist even when it seems like they don’t.  If you can reward those in some way, you are helping your son grow the good behaviors.  Rewards can be small and simple like a smile or nice word or affectionate touch and thanks.  Even better, you can set up a plan for your son to earn something worth earning by having a point system and earning a point with every good behavior.  Dr. Kazdin outlines a specific strategy for this in his book, The Everyday Parenting Toolkit.

I think the only way to really make “Parenting the Invisible” work is to set timers.  When I’m really working it with my 12 year old son, I have to set a timer to go off every 20-30 minutes to remind me that I’m watching for the invisible.  If I don’t set a timer, I forget.  I like to give myself a certain chunk of an evening that I’m focused on being diligent about  parenting this way and during which he can earn points.  It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to do it perfectly all the time, especially if we have other kids and other distractions.

It’s easy to say, “I shouldn’t have to reward this; he should just do it because it’s the right way to act.”

Often times we parents have to give our kids external reasons to do the right things until they develop an internal compass that guides them.

This internal compass kicks in for different kids at different ages depending on their temperament and life stressors, among other things.

Another idea is to stay as calm as possible and simply make an enforceable statement: “I will help you when I hear you ask in a respectful way.” Then go quiet and do not argue or engage with his whining.  If we parents respond and argue and engage when our kids are nasty to us, we teach them that this is an OK way to talk to people.  It’s better for us to let them know that we will be available to provide services, help, time, etc, when they treat us respectfully.  Think “FUTURE SPOUSE.” If you don’t want your son to grow up treating his spouse the way he’s treating you, then do not reward the nasty tone.  Stay calm, go quiet, and be available when you are treated well.

One more idea for you is the Love & Logic® notion of putting an end to whining and arguing by going “Brain Dead” and using a “One-Liner.”  Check out these videos to learn more:



Good luck and please let me know how it goes!

With love and laughter,
Kerry
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Standing Up to Teen Defiance

How to deal with teen defiance, love and logic, parenting classes, denver, co

Big Problems with Teen Defiance

Siblings and rivalry go hand-in-hand so it’s no surprise that 14 year-old Preston taunts and pesters his younger brother, Kyle. Recently, Preston refused to stop pestering his brother and was provoking him by throwing things, hassling him and doing anything he could to elicit a response from his brother just for entertainment. This was much more interesting to him than sitting down and doing homework.  As mom listened to the bickering, name-calling and yelling, she wondered how she would diffuse the situation without aggravating her defiant, strong-willed adolescent even further.

Parenting was so much simpler when the boys were little but now as a single mother of 3 boys, parenting was often aggravating and left mom wondering what to do. After all, two of her three sons were teenagers and had outgrown the parenting strategies that had worked long ago. She wondered how it was possible to reprimand her sons when they became defiant without putting herself in harm’s way.

Taking a Stand Against a Big Kid

When Preston refused to leave the room even when mom demanded it, it was apparent that he had his own agenda. Finally, he left the room but only to return minutes later exhibiting the same behavior that got him in trouble the first time. At that point Preston was worked up and mom was frustrated at her son’s unwillingness to cooperate. Nothing was resolved and mom felt miserable with the state of her family, but it was time for bed. There was no way that this mom was going to try and reprimand her strong-willed teen when he was clearly fired up. She knew better.

Get Out of the Red Zone

Stepping away and allowing her son a chance to cool down elicited a much different response the next morning. After a good night’s sleep, mom decided to tackle her son’s growing defiance when the situation was no longer in the red zone. That morning, she took her son’s phone away for the defiance he had exhibited the night before. Although he was unhappy with his mom’s decision, he was no longer fired up and he begrudgingly handed over his phone.

Be Persistent

After surviving a day without his cell phone and then getting it back, Preston was back to his old tricks. He was taunting his little brother and pestering him for no reason.  This time, however, mom set boundaries immediately for his unwanted behavior and stuck to them. A quick glance from mom along with a calmly executed, “This looks like defiance” was all it took for him to stop. Preston had figured out that his mom was not willing to let his poor behavior be left unchecked..

This was a big wake-up call for her son and a feeling of accomplishment for mom.

She had busted through the fear of angering her teen and was able to take control of the situation with minimal struggle.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

Ask Your Misbehaving Son: “What Kind of Man Do You Want to Grow Up to Be?”

Raising Boys, Raising a Teenage Boy, How to deal with a misbehaving teen

While on vacation recently at the beach, a family of five found themselves having a less than ideal time together.

Lying on the beach and doing absolutely NOTHING sounded perfect for the over-worked parents, but the two older boys, James and Liam, wanted ACTION and their little sister Mattie wanted to join in the fun.

The water-fight that started out as fun quickly turned into James and Liam ganging up against Mattie – taunting, teasing, and leaving her feeling hurt and unwanted. She just wanted to play with her brothers! Her protests were met with a “You can’t play with us!” blasted at her by James. Mattie burst into tears.  This got mom’s attention.

The family vacation that was supposed to be fun and relaxing had somehow devolved into an exhibition on the beach of wet, upset kids that really wanted to have fun but couldn’t quite figure out how to make that happen. Mom thought fast.

“James, what kind of guy do you want to grow up to be?”

James: “A nice guy!”
Mom: “That’s wonderful to hear. Now, what do you think a nice guy would do right now?”

James’ face fell. He knew the answer.

Fascinated, Mom watched him go through the mental gymnastics:

“I don’t want to let Mattie play and I don’t feel like it and I’m not going to. So there! But I want to grow up to be a nice guy and a nice guy would let her play. So I guess I have to shift out of my “mean-boy” mode and into my “nice-guy mode…”

Sometimes kids feel ornery or stubborn or righteous and it is our job to ask questions to help them shift into a more civilized state of mind.

One of my favorite series of questions which help accomplish this are:

  • 1. “Who do you respect and admire?”
  • 2. “Would you act this way if he was watching you?”
  • 3. “Would he treat others this way?”
  • Besides stopping kids in their tracks to think about their behavior, these questions open the door for a conversation about integrity which calls for them to treat people well, whether or not anyone else knows about it.

    Siblings provide countless opportunities for teaching children how to treat all of the people around them. The next time your children are bickering/ fighting/ becoming increasingly aggressive towards each other – thank the universe for giving you such a great real-time, perfectly chaotic moment on which to build important life lessons!



    Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
    ©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

    “I Overreacted and Gave My Child Too Harsh a Consequence…. Now What..?”

    Dad: Kerry, I’m a single dad and wondering how I can gracefully back out from having overreacted and given my son a harsher consequence than I should have?

    Clever kidHe’s 4 and was throwing water out of the bathtub. I got mad and told him he had to go straight to bed with no stories. I cooled down a few minutes later and realized I had overreacted. I told him I was sorry that I’d gotten so irritated and I had reconsidered and that he didn’t have to go to bed yet. But now I’m worried that I’ve lost credibility with him. Was there a better way to handle that?

    Kerry: Chris, I think the way you handled it was completely appropriate. It’s ok to teach your kids that sometimes we adults re-think things and change our minds. It’s also ok to model that a normal part of being a grown-up is making mistakes and then fixing them.

    If you want to bring a little more playfulness into your parenting, you can try a “re-do.” That’s where you tell your son that you didn’t like the way you handled the bathtub scene and that you would like to re-do it. You playfully back out of the bathroom and pretend you are talking backwards. Then you stick your head back in and ask if he’s ready for you to do that scene over. You can say, “Bathtub Scene, Take Two.” You might even ask him to splash the water again! (That’s optional.) Then you go in and handle the situation the way you wished you had done it in the first place.
    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and
    Family Therapist
    and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps
    parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    One, Two, Boom! Connecting with Your Shared-Custody Child

    Do you share custody of your children with their other parent and feel excluded from the other half of their lives?

    OneTwoBoomA single dad told me how he didn’t like that he doesn’t know about a full half of his kids’ lives because they are at their mom’s house 50% of the time.  This innovative dad came up with a game to encourage more sharing.  He plays “rock, paper, scissors,” (renamed “one, two, boom” by him) and whoever loses tells the other something that he doesn’t know about the other.  Dad enjoys learning more about his son’s world and the son loves to hear his dad tell stories about himself as a boy or things that happened during his day.  The seven-year old boy now asks to play the game every time he gets in the car with his dad.

     
    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and
    Family Therapist
    and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps
    parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    Does That Mean “NO”?

    DoesThatMeanNO
    Here is a story of a mom in my class who learned a new skill to not engage in a battle with kids when they’re protesting a limit.

    That skill is called going “brain dead.”

    This works with kids of all ages. See what happens when she uses it to neutralize the “buy it for me” battle.

    My 9 year old daughter and I were at Walmart In the middle of the afternoon rush when she asked for a bouncy ball (regression anyone?) I said “no.” She protested, fussed and whined. I got to whip out my “brain dead” phrase for the first time, “Love you too much to argue.”

    She looked at me with an expression of shock and confusion. He then asked me incredulously, “Does that mean no?”

    The element of surprise using a new phrase was great! She accepted the “No” without further protest and we moved on. I had to laugh to myself when in the car driving home she said, “Mom, don’t say that again.







    Shelly Moorman
    ©2013 Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    Desperate Situations Require Desperate Measures

    Give Kids Candy for Dinner!

    A dad I work with had to take his three young sons to a long, boring meeting in an attorney’s office. He was sweating it because his boys were likely to act up.

    To inspire them to great behavior, he offered the reward of “Candy for dinner and movies till you fall asleep!”

    Now THAT was motivation to these three! (Not to mention a desperate parent.) On the way there, he upped the odds of their success by playing “What If” and asking what things might keep them from earning their reward. The oldest brother speculated that the middle brother might “make me mad.” They talked through how the oldest could manage that. They went through a variety of scenarios so that the boys would know how to handle themselves.

    Once in the office, he broke the hour and half into six chunks of 15 minutes each. For each 15 minutes that they went with good behavior, they earned a point. Four points earned them the dinner of their dreams… candy. Those boys may not have been able to get through 90 minutes perfectly, but they were angels for almost every one of those 15-minute chunks and they got their reward. Don’t worry, dad had to pay the next day with grumpy, tired boys… but he got through the meeting intact.


    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    Close the Refrigerator Door!

    Getting Your Child to Remember the Little Things

    After tucking in his three young boys, a single dad walked into the kitchen to find the fridge and freezer doors both wide open with a chair in front of the shelves.

    It had been his 3 year old in search of an apple an hour earlier. In our parent coaching session the next day, the dad asked me whether or not it was too late to address the issue a day later. I said that kids can remember consequences for about as long as they can remember a promise.

    The dad went home and politely explained to his son the importance of closing the refrigerator door. To make sure the lesson stuck, he had his son “practice” closing the refrigerator door. To keep it fun, the 3 year old had to do it differently each time, so he did it backwards and on his tippy toes and like a ballerina and like a bulldozer. He did it with his eyes closed and he did after spinning in circles.

    Think about what this dad did… the next time that boy opens the fridge door, he’ll remember to close it AND he’ll remember the fun and playfulness he had with his dad. That refrigerator will probably be closed with love and happiness for the rest of this boy’s life.


    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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