Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full!

Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children by child psychologist Cary S. Chugh is the latest addition to the TCP Book Club.

I have to admit I'm a hard sell when it comes to books on parenting. I'm as wary of quick fixes as I am of laborious, time consuming strategies. So when I received Dr. Chugh's book for review, I knew I would have to read it with pencil in hand.

Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full! begins by challenging readers to reassess how they think about their children's behaviour and their role in correcting it. Chugh clearly states that parents "will never have 100% control over [their] child." That said, the line between reasonable vigilance and neglect is not always obvious and, when the inevitable misbehaviour happens, what then?

Dr. Chugh delves into the temperament of the Difficult Child and other factors that may contribute to chronic behaviour problems like ADHD, giftedness, special medical or developmental needs, and Oppositional Defiant Disorders. Chugh goes on to examine the spectrum of parenting styles and research on their longterm behavioral effects, all before diving into the thick of why many of the most conventional forms of discipline fail.

Yelling, threatening, corporal punishment, removing privileges, time-out, chores, sticker charts and ignoring are the eight forms of behaviour management strategies examined. According to Chugh, each is fatally flawed, though some have more redeeming qualities than others. Chugh examines four essential components of an effective behaviour plan:
  1. clarity
  2. meaningfulness
  3. immediacy and
  4. consistency
Borrowing from chapter four, lets put conventional time-out through the Chugh check-list. Let's say Emma, age eight, punches her sister and earns herself a eight minute time-out, this based on the one-minute-for-every-year-of-age urban myth. Assuming I've taken time to explain, it is clear to Emma why she is being punished and for how long. Does the punishment have meaning for her? Not really. In fact, she is probably becoming more resentful of her sister by the second...and me. Is there an immediate way in which Emma can bring closure to her punishment? No. The punishment ends when the timer goes off. Is there a consistent way the punishment ends? That depends on whether I'm present when the timer goes off. Depending on when and how often this scenario occurs, my consistency may waver.

Chugh's methodology builds upon some basic conventional methods, but changes them enough to return some of the power to the child. Punishments are no longer time-limited, but behaviour-limited; sticker charts are more aptly used as a memory aid than a score card; and restitution or corrective activities are used to increase the chances that the child will make better behaviour choices in the future. To illustrate this, let's put Emma's time-out through a Chugh make-over.

Emma punches her sister and is sent to sit at the kitchen table in time-out. Emma is allowed to return to play only after she can repeatedly demonstrate how she might use her words instead of her fists, in addition to apologizing and comforting her sister. Emma does not have to comply, but cannot play until she does.

I very much like Chugh's method as it allows for clearly delineated negotiation between adult and child. I know how easy it is to inadvertently end up in a power struggle with a pint-sized control freak. Pro-social escape routes from punishment allow kids to practice desirable behaviours and receive positive reinforcement. As there is no strict formula or scores to keep, implementation is simple and flexible. Chugh also includes suggestions on how to modify this plan for toddlers and teens.

While I can't imagine using all the examples the book offers, its underlying philosophy is compelling and will definitely weave its way into my home and classroom.

1 comment:

  1. Yay, I have missed TCP updates! I think I might have been a lesser parent for it. Long live TCP (ok and you too). xx