Thursday, March 18, 2021

Rewarding kids for moving closer to the goal can jump start their learning

When we are talking about parenting, we often talk about natural and logical consequences for poor behavior. That's important, and I also want to talk about the pairing of consequences with rewards for learning more positive and desired behavior.

This style is often more motivating for younger children and for those who have become immune to consequences: reward. 

Some parents feel this is bribing heir kids to do what they should already do, although this assumes children automatically see intrinsic value in doing chores, which if you think about it, makes no sense. Valuing abstract concepts like a clean room resulting in a sense of peace and creativity are a result of maturation as well as learning first to clean up as it is what the family does - they care for their space. Most kids are interested in playing, not working and most adults could do with more playing and less working. 

So part of teaching and training is making chores an enjoyable experience instead of expecting kids to do what makes no sense to them. Have you ever seen Barney, the "clean up" song - annoying, but was an easy way to get my kids cleaning up at a young age - they wanted to because we did it together and we sang a fun song just like the kids on tv. Even today sometimes when they are cleaning I will sing the song and they laugh!. 

The alternative is simply to punish for disobedience, which can be a good tool for dangerous situations (putting a fork into the light switch or running into the street) but if we want to have close relationships with our kids, parenting with firm kindness seems a better choice these days. In any case, to be effective, punishment is best used with emotional restraint, never done in anger or as a way to get even, and only after the punishment was explained in advance and expected by the child. Too often parents spank or physically punish when they have lost control and this leads to a breakdown in the relationship that may last, as well as turn abusive.

If it helps, I will suggest some differences.  A bribe induces someone to violate their conscience or what is accepted as wrong. Sometimes kids extort money or privileges from their parents by manipulating their emotions, but this only works because it is easier for the parents to "give in" so their kids act "happy" and seem to "like them" but this actually erodes a child's self-esteem and respect for parents and those in authority. An incentive, on the other hand, inspires positive action. Bribes are secret, but incentives or rewards are done openly and offered to all who meet the requirement. 

Say you have a chore chart for your child, so they understand with pictures or a brief description of what is expected, an appropriate consequence for not doing the chore. You could instead of having a consequence for disobedience, which some kids might find worth it as the price of getting out of the chore, add a reward for doing it. A reward for chores done is a great way for kids to want to do chores, sure initially for the reward, but it is about learning first to do what is required. Pair the reward with praise so over time associate praise with doing the chore, more than they will the reward. Ultimately, kids want to know they are good enough, and they partly learn this by their jobs being done "well enough" and appropriately for their age level. 

Speaking of which, sometimes - especially in the beginning of learning at younger ages, we need to let the job stand, even if it is not up to our standards. I notice I cut myself slack on chores, sometimes saying, "good enough" but I would not have allowed a child to "get away with that and they know it. We want to move them into greater proficiency over times, just like in any job we are hired to do, it is expected that learning involves some mistakes and over time we will improve. 

This is called shaping, meaning the first goal is to teach a child how to do a job, not how to do it perfectly, and reward their efforts so they are more likely to want to do it again. May be the next time you say, "oops there's a spot" and praise their cleaning of the spot without pointing out all the others. You gradually shape their behavior with praise so that they begin to value doing doing the job as well as doing an increasingly more thorough job. This is also a good incentives for the older kids for doing it on their own without a prompt of, "It's time for chores."

When my daughter asked to get driver’s training, I told her she needed to demonstrate more maturity to me by getting herself up for work on her own, being polite to me (being the driver of her going to work), getting one chore done before we left without being asked, and getting herself out the door on time for church. Those were the milestones meaningful to me and I felt they weren't burdensome. From then on I didn't bring it up, other than if she wanted me to drive her, I would take a look and if she hadn't done her work, I simply and matter of factly said, "Once the chores are done." If that made us late, then I guess she chose to be late that day and was able to get a natural consequence to not being ready to go on time.

And when she was rude to me, I reminded her she had one chance to change her behavior (not her feelings) or I would not drive her, etc. Now, when I noticed her being kind to me or otherwise meeting my requirements,  I tried to make sure to comment on it and praise her or think her, to say I appreciated it or was proud of her. Kids need to see we notice them trying to change. 

What we focus on, we get more of. 

Setting a timeline is a good idea such as the time it takes to break a bad habit, about 30-90 days,  with the condition that she could have access to her permit and drive only on days she was behaving in an overall considerate manner. This wasn't about perfection or not allowing her to have moods, it was about words of respect and consideration.

So, rewards can be a dollar value given to each chore, but then the chores only get done when the kid needs money, and if that is ok with you, fine, but don't then enable laziness by paying for things the youth could have purchased with their earnings. 

Another say is to grant point marks for each chore done, and if it was done without prompting maybe an additional point. Add the points at the end of the week and take a trip to the dollar store to choose one item or give the equivalent money and help kids practice managing, tithing on, saving or spending their money - just as they will need to be practiced at already by the time they become adults.

I gave a small allowance so they could learn to manage money but didn't pay for chores, which I taught are a part of living in a home.  Other parents use giving allowance after chores to reflect earning a living from our effort, and either is fine, or not using money at all is fine as long as money management is taught in some way.

I don't recommend using food as a means to reward or even as the main element in any celebration (we have all Brain Retrained (TM) addressed learned food addictions in our family thanks to my former focus on food is all of that.

 But things like little prizes, or enough points in a month earning going to a movie or picking a Netflix movie for the family, or a sleepover with friends are all great options. Your kids are the best judges of what is rewarding for them!

You will come up with some great ideas over a family meeting with your kids, after all, you want the rewards to be meaningful to them without being so extravagant that it loses meaning or never happens.

Have at it and I wonder what reward ideas this will spark for you? 

God blessings on you! Dr. Karen

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Rewiring relationships with Ephesians prayer moments

 I am reading a great book called "Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer" by Pastor Ken Wilson.

He made a suggestion of taking time throughout the day to "remember loved ones" in prayer as Paul did in Ephesians 1:15-16.

I would like to suggest to each of you to take time out for a few seconds to start, build up to minutes and longer to do the following. 

1. Stop and imagine you are sinking your brain into your heart, imagine you are going into your heart inside your body, literally feeling your heart as if you are inside of it.

Paul said:  I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination (also translated heart or innermost) flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling (to you, to which he is calling you)...  I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! Ephesians 1:18-20

2. Imagine someone you love, and begin to list for yourself what you do love about them (if you are angry you can still remember times you felt loved by them or felt they were doing a loving thing. We MUST stop discounting the loving moments because there are ugly moments. Separate them for now.) Your brain is always in a state of now, when you remember, your brain re-experiences the event - not like a photo or video, but in the way you imagine it with the feelings you associated with it. Your brain releases chemical messengers that bathe the cells of your entire body with that information: love in the now. Areas of your brain are activated that amplify and reinforce the experience of love. 

3. Accept and believe that the Holy Spirit (who is in constant contact with God the Father and Jesus the Son) is also in residence in your heart. 

 If you really love me, you will keep the commandments I have given you and I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you (within you) always. I mean the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, for it can neither see nor recognize that Spirit. But you recognize him, for he is with you now and will be in your heartsJohn 14:16 

4. Focus on the "memory" of your loved one and pair it with the emotion of love for as long as you can. Resist the devil's temptation to move your attention to condemning them before God - thinking of their failings and wrongdoings. Remember the PURPOSE - which is to rewire your brains to focus on love regarding this person, and as a result become more loving yourself.

5. If you catch yourself listing their wrongs, immediately choose to forgive them, ask the Lord to help them change, then ask yourself what ways you do the same thing, are the same way (it doesn't matter if you think you are not that way - trust me, this helps) and in faith that there just might be some way you are guilty of the same behavior in some form, just repent of it yourself.

6. Go back to loving your spouse while pretending/imagining/feeling you are inside your own heart.

7. Go on to the next person you want to experience in a more loving way. 

Remember, this is not about them, this is not for them, this is for you.

ALSO - set standards of behavior for yourself and commit them to God. Choose how you would like to behave even in anger and ask God to renew your mind in this area. Romans 12:2. Instead of focusing on what you don't want (what we focus on we increase), focus on what you do want. Read the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4 and ask God what that would look like for you, in your circumstance. Simply ask the question, knowing the answer will come, may be in a dream, may be in the morning, maybe over the course of a few days, may be in a sermon, or some other means. Have faith - choose to expect an answer because I always say, what we expect we experience. 

There was a time when I noticed that when I really began praying daily for a certain change, and I also believed God would bring it about and I would pray daily for as long as it took, that it was taking about 30 days for me to see change.

It took 21 days for the angel of the Lord to break through the demonic army that was trying to prevent him from reaching Daniel with a message from the Lord. And Daniel was very practiced at prayer and Faith. 

Why do we expect we are going to get breakthrough immediately or else we are giving up?

Now, I see change much quicker because I have much less unconscious and conscious resistance and barriers to change and to God's way. For more understanding of how we block God from evidencing Himself in our awareness, go to my website