Tag: rewards

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.

Success Story: I Didn’t Say “Good Work”

Didn'tSayGoodWorkMy 3 year old son was struggling with a Buzz Lightyear puzzle.  It was one that didn’t stay together well and putting in one piece would dislodge another.  He’d get frustrated, but I had just read a Love and Logic article about the gift of giving our kids a chance to struggle.

I said “Keep at it.”

He worked for several more minutes and succeeded.

“Mom,” he proudly said, “I did it!

Instead of saying my normal, “good work,”  I used what Love and Logic suggested and asked him “Why do you think you did so well?”

He looked at me confused and I said, “Well, did you work hard, keep practicing, or keep trying?”

He said, “I kept trying and I did it!”

–Jeni

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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How Many Ways I Can Be Naughty at Bedtime?

Putting Toddler to Bed

Three year old Wes used to play his favorite game at bedtime. It was called, “See how many ways I can be naughty.”

He was the only one enjoying the game. His single, working dad certainly did not. Wes was very creative in how he played the game: he ran away when it was time to put on his pj’s. He clenched his jaw when it was time to brush his teeth. He screamed and threatened to wake up his baby brother. He jumped on the bed when it was time for tuck in. Sound familiar? It’s a very popular game amongst the little people. It’s a game though, that doesn’t usually end well for either the child or the parent.

Wes’s game ruled until Daddy came up with a better game called “Earn a Minute.” This game starts at the beginning of bedtime when Daddy whispers to Wes, “For every step of bedtime that you do cooperatively, you earn a minute of You-n-Me time. If you get enough, we might be able to read a whole extra book!” “Game on” for little Wes. He might as well wear a sign that says, “Will Cooperate For You-N-Me Time.”

Here’s how the scoring works
Brush teeth: earn a minute.
Go potty: earn a minute.
Wash hands: earn a minute.
Get undressed: earn a minute.
Get in the bath: earn a minute.
Cooperate with being washed: earn a minute.
Get out of the bath first time you’re told: earn a minute.
Hold still while being dried: earn a minute.
Put on PJs: earn a minute.
Climb into bed: earn a minute.

Wes has mastered this “game” and he savors his ten minutes of special Daddy-time before going to sleep. Dad is happy because the extra story time takes less time than all the hassling did, and father and son both get happy snuggle time instead of exasperation and negative attention.

Every now and then, Daddy mixes things up and says, “We’re not playing tonight, so you might as well be a rascal.” Well now, when Daddy invites Wes to misbehave, it’s not as much fun for Wes and the power struggle is over.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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This is Not a Dress Rehearsal


On my kids’ first day of school this year, I first dropped off my high schooler.

Gasp. How can I have a kid that old?

I always thought being the parent of a high schooler was for grownups! Heck, I remember when I thought that having a child in elementary school was for grownups. As I sent off my son to fend for himself in the big new world of public high school, I thought about how it seemed like just yesterday that he was a babe in my arms.

After dropping off my middle schooler, I was off to the elementary school for my 3rd grader’s first day of school. I stood there, looking at the sea of little kids milling around, and thought “oh my goodness, there are still so many active years of parenting left.”

How do we navigate this push-pull, zoom-plod through this chapter of our adult lives? On one hand, it seems like time flies by… and that’s what all the “older” people tell us. On the other hand, some days of parenting can last forever and find us counting the hours until bedtime stories are over and lights are turned out.

Perhaps the best we can do is to create snippets of time where we are fully present in the moment. Right here, right now with our kids. Two things that I’ve found help me savor the here and now with my kids and have left me with sweet memories of being fully present:

1. Say Cheese!

It can make such a difference if we just stop and be intentional about looking our children in the eyes and smiling at them throughout the day. In my family, if the kids start to leave without eye contact, I will say, “Eyeballs!” That is their reminder to stop and look me in the eyes. It’s my reminder, as well, to look at them. In our times of zoom, zoom, zoom, it can feel so good to stop and look in the eyes of the most precious little people in our world.

2. Stop and Feel the Love

Parenting involves so much giving, caring and work. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in all the tasks of parenting that we forget to really feel the love in our hearts for our beloved children. We can get grumpy when we forget to do that. A woman whose parenting advice I respect, Joyce Vissell, once suggested that each day, just for a few minutes, we close our eyes and picture our child at his/her sweetest. Then take a moment to see and feel all the love we feel for that child pouring from our heart to his/hers.

When it comes to parenting, “The days can last forever, but the years fly by.” I hope we’ll have fewer regrets when we look back if we make sure to live some of those moments to the fullest… as though this life is the real thing and not just a dress rehearsal.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Quick Tips for Dads

1.  Speak Your Family’s Love Language

Read The Five Love Languages of Children, a quick, interesting book to improve how you express love to your family. Want to know the secret to making sure your child feels loved? Kids desperately need to know how much you love them. But if you don’t know their special “love languages” you might as well be speaking gibberish. Every child (like every adult) expresses and receives love best through one of five communication styles. Find out which one of these your child speaks: QUALITY TIME, WORDS OF AFFIRMATION, GIFTS, ACTS OF SERVICE, PHYSICAL TOUCH. Click here to view book info.

2.  Keep the Fire Burning by Getting Down and Dirty

Men who want a more active sex life need to get down and dirty, according to new research – by doing more housework. “Therapists say there’s a direct correlation between men doing more housework and the frequency of sex, and wives reported greater feelings of sexual interest and affection for husbands who participated in housework.”  To read more about this, click here.

3. Spend “Alone Time”

Spend some time every day with each child with the motto: “No questions, no commands.” This is not the time to ask if they’ve done their chores or to tell them how they can improve themselves. Just be with your child.

4. The Little Things are Huge

Smile at your wife.  Smile at the kids.   Implement the “Good neighbor policy” where you don’t speak to anyone in your family in a manner that you wouldn’t use with a good neighbor.  Be conscious of having eye contact with your family.

5. Two Ears, One Mouth

Just listen to your wife and kids.  Don’t try to fix “the problem,” especially if it’s emotionally based.  “There’s no place in heaven for people who give unasked for advice.” (Jim Fay, co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute)

6. Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate

Look for the good.  Notice, thank, and acknowledge at least three things each day that your family members do. You don’t need to judge or label, just notice….  “I see you really worked hard on that.”

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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Blessings Box

Ten years ago, when my children were young, we began a ritual that the whole family still enjoys today.

It all started because I wanted to teach Joshua, then age five, and Joel, then age two, about thankfulness in a way that was more fun and tangible than simply lecturing, “Be thankful.”
The idea took shape one day when Joshua charged into the room, held up a dime, and said “Mommy, will you take down my piggy bank so I can put this in?”  Stretching that concept a bit, I wondered if the boys would go for a special bank that, instead of saving money, saved their blessings – those big and small events that bring happiness.

I rummaged around for just the right container… I then rounded up the boys and plopped a small gift box on the kitchen counter and asked, “Do you know what this is going to be?”  Puzzled, they shook their heads.  “Well,” I said, “when something really good or exciting happens in our family, such as when you lose a tooth or you’re kind to someone, we’ll write it down on a piece of paper.  You can slide in the papers, kind of like a piggy bank.  We’ll call it our Blessing Box.” 

“We’ll keep the Blessing Box on top of the refrigerator, and when we want to add something we’re thankful for, we’ll bring the box to the dinner table to take special time to write a note and put it in the box.  Then on Thanksgiving, we’ll open the box and read everything so we can remember and celebrate all of our blessings.”

Since the kids were young, we discussed their ideas and my husband and I wrote notes for them.  They suggested events such as “Joel no longer gets up and eats a banana in the middle of the night” and “Joshua was kind to Joel even when Joel hit him.”  It turned out that in addition to inspiring thankfulness, the box often provided an extra bit of recognition for a good deed or good behavior.  And then there was the fun of sliding the notes into the “bank,” which the children particularly enjoyed when they were little.

As their reading and writing abilities evolved over the years, the kids were able to write notes themselves.  As parents, Kevin and I found it enlightening to see what each child counted as important: losing a tooth, acquiring our dog, winning a basketball game, or Dad’s return from a business trip. The kids learned that even the tiniest events or accomplishments were fair game.
Some years, we added notes only every two or three months.  Now that the kids are older, we have a more regular schedule.  At the end of each month, on a night when we’re all home for dinner, our son sets the table with paper and pen by each plate.  Then, while we dish up food or butter the rolls, we share our thoughts and write them down.

Although everyone enjoys these monthly thankfulness feasts, we really look forward to our annual grand finale on Thanksgiving morning.  We open the Blessing Box, pass it around, and randomly pull out slips of paper to read.  It definitely starts off the day on a positive and thankful note.  After breakfast, I gather the pieces of paper into an envelope that I date and file.  With ten envelopes tucked away, I know the Blessing Box helps our kids practice thankfulness year-round.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 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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How Do I Get My Kids To Cooperate?

How can you use the Love and Logic skill of enforceable statements to get kids to cooperate?

When kids hear “No,” they hear fighting words. Their defenses come up and the battle starts. So instead of saying “No,” say “Yes” to something else. Say what you’ll do, what you’ll allow, or what you have control over.

Think of what you do for your kids and what they want from you. That’s what you have control over. You decide when you give the snack, read the story, take them to the park — after they have picked up toys, finished their dinner, brushed their teeth, etc.

Instead of giving the command: “Brush your teeth”
Say: “I read stories to kids who brush their teeth.”

Instead of saying: “No, you can’t have a snack.  You haven’t picked up your toys yet.”
Say: “I give snacks to kids who’ve picked up their toys.”

Instead of saying: “Stop whining!”
Say: “I listen to kids who use their words.”

Instead of saying: “No, you can’t go to the park. You haven’t taken your nap yet.”
Say:  “Yes, I’ll take you to the park, after your nap.”

You’ll be surprised at how well enforceable statements work to get cooperation from your children.  We’d love to know which one works best for you!

Shelly Moorman
©2009 Shelly Moorman, 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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Kids, Money, Loans

April has been declared National Financial Literacy Month. What a great time to teach your kids about loans! Many parents wonder if it is a good idea to loan money to your children.

The authors of Love and Logic® say yes. If your kids will need to know about loans as adults, they need some practice with small loans.

Jan proudly told her friend that she had just repossessed a $189 camera from her son.

“Oh, that’s terrible. How could you ever do that?” responded her friend.

“My son was really lucky,” said Jan. “We make loans to our son just the same way the bank does it. Now, at age 12, he understands all about collateral and the responsibility of paying back his loans. Compare that to my neighbor’s 21-year-old kid. His parents always let him off the hook for his loans and he had to learn when the price was higher. The finance company just repossessed his $17,000 car. I think my child got a real bargain. Don’t you?”

Keep your eyes out for my new book, co-written by Kristan Leatherman, M.S., available this summer called MILLIONAIRE BABIES OR BANKRUPT BRATS?. In the meantime, check out the special this week on Parenting with Love and Logic.

Thanks for reading.

Jim Fay
©2009 Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.d.& Love and Logic® Institute

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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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Positive Reinforcement: Examples and Cautions

If you’ve followed Love and Logic® for any period of time, you know how strongly we believe in holding youngsters accountable for their mistakes and misdeeds.

As most of us have learned the hard way, the road to wisdom and responsibility is paved with plenty of small mistakes and their consequences.

As we go about shaping the hearts and minds of our children, it’s important to remember that this road is also paved with positives. While it’s unrealistic…and not too healthy…to reward our kids every time they do something good, we’re wise to remember the value of reinforcing good behavior and good deeds.

The healthiest and most powerful types of reinforcement involve time and attention rather than stuff. Examples include:
•  Sitting on the floor with your toddler as you allow them to repeatedly destroy your tower of blocks
•  Noticing something your teen has done well and patting them on the back
•  Saying to your child, “It looks like you really worked hard on that. I bet you’re proud of yourself.”
•  Playing catch
•  Doing a puzzle together

As we provide reinforcement, it’s wise to remember the following:
•  Reinforcement is more powerful when it comes as a surprise to our kids.
•  Reinforcement loses its power when our youngsters come to expect it.
•  Rewards should not be given every time our kids do something good.
•  When our kids beg for or demand rewards, they shouldn’t get them.
•  Avoid saying, “You are so smart.” Focus on your child’s hard work and perseverance.
•  Your love should never be used as a reward or a consequence. Your children should have it all of the time.

The most successful parents always remember that it’s their job to give their kids the most accurate taste of the real world as possible. This means that we help them understand that much of the time hard work and good deeds provide positive results. It also means helping them understand that we do these good things because they’re the right thing to do…rather than because we expect rewards for doing them.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay
©2009 Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.d.& Love and Logic® Institute

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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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Higher Test Scores

In a study mentioned by Daniel Goleman in his classic book Emotional Intelligence, researchers studied two sets of kids.

One group was able to delay gratification, the other satisfied their wants right away.

All of the kids had a choice about a tasty marshmallow set before them. When the experimenter left the room, they could eat the treat if they wanted, but if they waited until the researcher returned, they would get two. Some kids ate the marshmallow almost immediately while others waited. To be sure, waiting was hard and many stared longingly, and some sat on their hands. One kid even licked the table!

These students were studied through high school. One interesting finding was that, as a group, the kids who could wait had significantly lower incidents of drug use and delinquency. Another conclusion was that the ability to delay gratification out-ranked IQ as a predictor of high SAT scores.

Wise parents and teachers can take heart. When kids’ wants, whims, and demands are not simply given in to, they learn they can survive the struggle and that life will be the better for it. Teaching kids to wait is a good lesson for life.

Thanks for reading. If you like this, get your friends on board!


Jim Funk
©2009 Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.d.& Love and Logic® Institute

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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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