Sunday, April 23, 2017

Parenting with Choices and Logical Consequences

Raising kids is hard work. Of course there are wonderful moments of parenting that remind you of all the beauty in having children but in between those there can be some really tough moments. Here are a few tips to help navigate the challenges of managing difficult behaviors in your children.
When dealing with a difficult behavior or defiance start with offering choices instead of moving right to consequences. The choices that you offer the child will both have desirable results but will give the child a sense of autonomy. For example if your child is refusing to go to bed you may offer the choices, “Would you like to read a book or listen to quiet music when you get in bed?” You could also offer, “Would you like mom or dad to read you a story once you get in bed?” If your child is refusing to do their homework you may offer the choices, “would you like to do your homework at the kitchen table or in your room?” You may also try, “Would you like to listen to music on the radio or with your headphones while you do your homework?” There are endless choices that you can offer but regardless of what they choose the end result will be positive. This can help to reduce power struggles as it allows the child to feel they have some choice in the situation.
If after offering choices a child is still not able to follow through with completing a task or discontinuing a certain behavior you can put in a place a logical consequence. A logical consequence is one that is connected to undesirable behavior. For example if a child is using hurtful words towards another person they could be asked to say or write 5 nice things about that person. At times when a child may hurt another person they are then asked to do a kind act for that person as a logical consequence. For teens a typical issue may be coming home late, so a logical consequence would be earlier curfew the next time they are out. These consequences are directly connected to the behavior and help the child make the connection between their behavior and the consequence while also encouraging positive behavior. This is a different approach than taking something away such as a toy or screen time as those would be unrelated to these behaviors. Also, with young children the consequence should very closely follow the behavior. If too much time passes between the behavior and consequence young children may fail to make the connection to their behavior.
A different type of consequence is the natural consequence. These consequences occur naturally as a result of the child’s behavior. For example, if a teen refuses to pick their clothes up to be washed and then they don’t have the clean clothes they want to wear for school that is a natural consequence for their choices. Natural consequences can be a helpful tool to help parents not engage in power struggles. In this example not engaging in the power struggle of getting your teen to clean their clothes up in their room because as a result they may not have certain clothes clean when they want to wear them. This will be a way for the teen to recognize the power and responsibility they have in their own lives and reduce arguments with parents.
In all of these scenarios the most important piece is consistency and follow through. If you deem a certain behavior unacceptable then you must be consistent with that and give a consequence each time that behavior occurs. The same goes for follow through, if you tell a child there will be a consequence for a particular behavior then you must follow through when that behavior occurs. Without consistency and follow through behavior change will not occur.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to highlight the positives in your children. They will make mistakes from time to time but help them to understand this does not make them a “bad kid”. Help them to separate their choices from who they are. Making a poor choice does not make them a bad kid. Recognize when they do things well and reward positive behavior. You are their greatest support and their biggest fan, your approval and love is often their most desired reward. 

Kaitlyn Gitter is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling and Consulting in Neenah, WI. Kaitlyn believes that human connection and growth are the keys to emotional wellness. She is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable, and peaceful experience to explore your life story.  Kaitlyn works with children, adolescents, families, and couples and has a special interest in working with individuals who have an eating disorder.  To schedule an appointment with Kaitlyn now, please go to

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Fresh Perspective

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to spend 17 days in Malaysia. While we were able to spend a couple of glorious days relaxing on the beach, we spent most of our time in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur volunteering at various sites for at-risk youth.

Our first day as volunteers was also the kids’ first day of a new school year. We learned that the school served teens who were legally unable to attend government schools because, for one reason or another, they did not have the required papers. The 6 of us at that site listened incredulously as students and teachers alike flipped effortlessly between Malay and English, sometimes even falling into what is known as “Manglish,” where each word in a sentence is a different language.

Throughout our time in Malaysia, we also did various tours, cultural experiences, and even a Buddhist wellness retreat. All the while, it repeatedly struck me just how little I had understood about this part of the world, and how Malaysian culture somehow both stood in stark contrast to and was similar to American culture. Examining this further helped me leave with some amazing lessons and new perspectives. Here are 5 things I brought back with me:

Stop hurrying
Our culture constantly has us in a hurry, our schedules filled to the brim with every possible commitment. We tend to think that if we aren't exhausted at the end of every day, we haven't done enough. In Malaysia, there is none of that “shoulding” or “not enough”. People do what they can, when they can. Businesses don’t open if employees are sick. Buses get where they are going eventually. The traffic is worse than New York City, but no one honks. There is simply a sense of calm that pervades the atmosphere. With such different expectations came less anxiety and stress. Why wouldn't we want to feel that way?

Goodbyes don’t have to be forever
Before we left, my professor told me, “when you make a friend in Malaysia, you make a friend for life.” Sure, I thought, until we are back in our respective countries, in our busy lives. I can barely keep up with all of my friends and family here, how in the world is that even possible? Then we got there, and we built incredible friendships with everyone from the kids to the bus drivers, even the hotel manager. On our last day, not a single person said “goodbye” to us. Each of them looked us in the eyes and said “see you later,” and meant it. In Malaysian culture, there is no such thing as goodbye. Everyone you meet was meant to be in your life, and you will see them again someday. Some of this has to do with faith and various beliefs about life after death, but it is a beautiful notion that no goodbye is ever forever.

You don’t have to have much to help others
Malaysians do not live in a culture of lack, like America often tends to be. We are always striving for the best, the newest, the most expensive thing, and when we fall short, we blame. We blame ourselves, we blame others, and we blame our circumstances. Somehow, who we are and what we have is never enough. The Malaysian people I met live in a culture of abundance, despite the material things they don’t have. This allows them to appreciate every little thing they do have, and view the non-essentials as extras to share. One day, we were able to volunteer with the teens in a village outside the capital populated by indigenous families. Many of the families were without money, jobs, electricity, or education. Our new teenage friends spent the day painting, cleaning, and teaching with the children in the village. They saw themselves as the privileged ones. At one point, one of our students said to me, “we want to show them that they are just like us. We know they are human beings and that they deserve everything we have.”

Remember to have gratitude for the little things

Along with a culture of abundance comes gratitude for everything they have. The gratitude my new friends had for a sunny day, a cold water bottle, or a beautiful flower helped me realize all of the things I take for granted. For example, winter has never been my favorite season. I tend to avoid going outside whenever possible, and complain about the weather constantly. However, after spending an hour trying to describe snow to kids who have never seen it and likely never will, I came home to Wisconsin with a new appreciation for our four seasons. Every time it snows, I think of them, and I take a moment to be in awe of the beauty of a fresh snowfall.

Nicki Phillips has been with Esprit as a counseling practicum student this semester through the University of Wisconsin/Oshkosh.  Next semester, she will be doing her internship with us.  She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality.  She has contributed many great ideas, including informative leaflets you will find in our waiting room.