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Friday, February 20, 2015

book - You're Not the Boss of Me

You're Not the Boss of Me 
- Brat-Proofing Your 4-to-12 -Year -Old Child 
by Betsy Brown Braun

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This was a fantastic read!
I highly recommend this book to all parents, but especially those with 3+ year olds. I admit when I read the title I wasn't fond of the "brat-proofing" idea, feeling that sounded a bit harsh... but as I read even the first few pages of the book I was hooked and realized the author wasn't meaning to make it so simple with the term "brat." She is really offering great suggestions on how to raise a great kid. All parents would benefit from reading this book.

What is a brat? Why do kids act like brats? 
The author first explains what being a brat is so that we all know what we're aiming to avoid with our kids. "The truth is, most kids behave in bratty ways at one time or another in the course of growing up," (introduction). The author suggests it's sometimes normal for kids to act this way as they are separating from parents and becoming a little more independent - which is a good thing in the end. "Being bratty can also be a temporary condition in response to an environmental change such as a new baby, a parent who is working out of town, a relative who has been visiting for too long, a move to a new house," Brown Braun wrote (introduction). She also stated it can be a cry for help in response to things not going well at daycare, preschool, issues with friends or brothers or sisters.

She explained

"...what every parent needs to know is that the brat is a child who doesn't feel significant, who doesn't feel as if he plays a meaningful role, and who needs to feel that he has a purpose in the life of the family." 

She said sometimes it appears the opposite is true- the world revolves around him, but it's his way of trying to find where he fits in the family.

Be a good role model
Brown Braun stresses a lot in this book that parents are role models, the most important role models for kids. She says they are always looking, watching, observing, listening, and paying attention to what we do. She admits that's a lot of responsibility. "It is really hard to be the person you want your child to be. In fact, it's really hard to be the person each of us wants to be. Life gets in the way. You are tired, hungry, irritated, stressed, and any number of other normal states that result just from getting  through each day," she wrote on page xxi.

She suggests that starting early with teaching your child to avoid bratty behavior is key, but if you've gotten too far ahead and didn't instill good behaviors it's not too late. She says her techniques work with kids up through age 11. (page xxi)

Listen up!
Chapter one is all about how to talk so the kids listen. This is a big thing with especially preschool age when they are interested in doing their own thing all the time.

What I loved most about this book was that it was so simple and easy to read. She puts things in bold to make the most important points easy to find. You can easily read this book one chapter at a time, when you have a few moments, and still benefit greatly from it.

Some tips for helping your child listen to you:

  • Get down on their level, make eye contact, touch their shoulder 
  • Don't demand eye contact though - it's uncomfortable especially for older kids. 
  • Don't talk across rooms- get closer. 
I am also a school counselor so I tell parents this idea all the time- if you don't listen to the little (boring, mundane, silly) things that your kids tell you at young ages, they won't come to you later when it's important, when things are at stake like their well being and health. So listen... even to the little things that make no sense. They are important to your kids. 

Brown Braun agrees with this notion that you need to listen to your kids early on. (page 7)

"Your days are numbered. Sad though it is, there will come a time when your child will prefer  communicating (texting, IMing, posting on Facebook or tweeting, etc.) with his friends more than talking with you. Somewhere between the ages of eleven and seventeen, it will happen. The communications you have with your child are a gift, so honor them. When your child talks to you, take the time to listen." 

She suggested if you can stop, turn your body toward your child and stop whatever you are doing, focus. If you can't stop what you're doing - which sometimes we can't - stop for one second to say "I really want to hear your story, let me finish up with this and then let's talk," and make sure you go back to your child. 

I loved Brown Braun's idea about not forcing your child to talk either. She suggested at the end of your child's day, don't bug them about how their day went. Do it later. Give him some time to decompress first. I know all parents - myself included - are prone to do this, the second they get in the car, "How was your day? What did you do? Tell me everything, now." But this doesn't work for kids, especially older ones. This is because of a few reasons, sometimes they don't want to share with you- and that's developmentally normal. Sometimes it just takes a while to process what happened in the day, they don't remember in that moment. She suggests talking about your own day, sometimes that sparks your child into remembering other things. (page 9)

Positive Character Traits 
The book is set up into chapters of characteristic traits you want your child to have and that you must teach them in order for them to avoid being a brat and acting negatively. I love these ideas, especially as a counselor, I see how important all of these things are.

  1. Empathy - Caring about others, not being selfish, helping others, knowing and responding to feelings. 
    1. Teach them feelings, how to identify them in themselves and others. What to do with feelings. 
    2. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
    3. Talk about similarities and differences with others. 
  2. Independence - Doing things for themselves, taking care of themselves, being responsible, sorting through conflict. 
    1. With babies, leave them alone for a little bit, start early, let them figure things out. 
    2. Don't rush in and answer. Let kids problem solve. 
    3. Expect your child to do things like little chores (setting the table, putting shoes away, hanging up coat, etc.). Don't do it all for them. 
    4. Give your child choices. 
  3. Responsibility -(page 61) Teaching them to live as they say they will, think for themselves, etc. 
    1. Keep your promises- this teaches them to do the same. 
    2. "Never do for your child what she can do for herself... or at least make a genuine attempt," (page 66). Let them work through it. 
    3. Teach her how when she meets her responsibilities, how it helps you. Comment on the specific thing she did that helped you, "Thanks for picking up your toys, I almost tripped on them so I'm glad they are picked up now." 
    4. Be specific in your praise (page 73) , don't just say "good job." She lists in the back of the book 100 Ways to Say Good Job! LOVED this list. 
    5. Give them chores. It helps them feel a part of the family and teaches responsibility. Kids as young as one year old should be introduced to chores - starting it out as a game. Start by doing your own chores and talking to your kids about what you're doing.
The author explains a lot about using allowances for chores done by kids. She says it's a good way to teach kids about when you do work, you are rewarded. 

"Children in whom responsibility is cultivated at the earliest ages, who are allowed plenty of time and opportunities to become responsible, are not brats. They see the connection between their actions  and the consequences of their behavior, both positive and negative, and they learn to be accountable for the same. Children who are taught responsibility know how to think about the particular situations with which they are confronted. They develop into the people who know how to organize and complete tasks, to set goals and work toward them. Responsible people are trustworthy people. They are on their way to being self-reliant and independent adults." 

Luckily, my son LOVES doing chores like shoveling! 

4. Respect- "thinking of someone else, considering his needs, desires, and position. It is an acknowledgement." (page 86)
  • Don't take your child's possessions / toys away as a form of punishment. It doesn't match the issue. It also is disrespectful to their things. 
  • Respect your child, talk to them like you would talk to a friend. 
  • Teach privacy, knock before entering doors, etc. 
  • Only give away items or clean things out with your 5-year-old + permission, don't do it behind his back, that's disrespectful to his things.
  • State your expectations before going into places like stores, restaurants, etc. and then follow through on consequences.
5. Honesty- Teaching integrity, telling the truth, taking responsibility for actions, following rules, etc. 
  • "Create an environment where it is safe to make mistakes and to tell the truth about them." (page 120) 
  • Communicate. 
  • Praise truth-telling.
  • Don't ask "Are you telling me the truth?" It doesn't encourage truth-telling, it makes 4-5 year olds think "well, if you think I'm lying, then I will lie." (page 123) 
  • When they apologize, move on.
  • With stealing, "Recognize that stealing is a sign that your child needs something." (page 128) Figure out what that might be and talk about it.  Don't tell your child he'll go to jail, it's "not true and fear is not the best teacher."  (page 129)
6. Self-Reliance aka, NOT bored - Don't tell them what to do, let them figure it out themselves, help them to learn by themselves and be independent. 
  • Have rituals daily that don't change, that helps kids become more self-reliant. 
  • Teach him to make choices, give him choices. 
  • Let her experience the world, don't be worried about every possible thing that could happen. 
  • Leave her alone to explore a little bit. 
7. Gratitude - Appreciative, grateful, thankful, happy. 
  • Allow him to not get something and experience what that feels like.
  • Give him less sometimes. 
  • Allow her to work toward earning something.
  • Teach them to say thank you, to appreciate little things.
  • Model to them saying thank you for things they do so they learn to do the same to you.
8. Eliminating Spoilage aka talking money - Teaching values, showing what money is worth, teaching chores, etc. 
  • Teach your child to feel, touch, sort money.
  • Have some cash on you! Most kids these days only see credit and debit cards, barely even see check-writing. Get in the practice of using real money so they see what it's worth.
  • "Include your child in your bill paying beginning when he is 7 years old." (page 189) 
  • Open a bank account for your child as young as six years old. 
  • Allowances and wages are options.
  • Don't bribe them with money "I'll give you $10 for every A you receive," because "Bribery makes it difficult for a child to cultivate intrinsic motivation or even to make the 'right' decisions in the absence of external direction. It also teaches a child to associate achievement with getting paid as opposed to self-satisfaction." (page 197)
  • Don't give a lot of "freebies," like if you're on a work trip, don't always bring something back. Don't set them up to expect things. 
  • Donate and give to others as a family. 
9. Humor! - Lighten up, make it funny, tell jokes, be silly together. 
  • Play! 
  • At dinner, ask your child what made him laugh that day (page 211). 

My favorite part of the book was in the back on page 227, the list of 100 Ways to Say "Good Job!" Here are a few suggestions:
  • You're working so hard.
  • What an imagination!
  • Keep it up.
  • You're really improving.
  • You must be so proud of yourself.
  • You're so kind, thoughtful, helpful, patient...
  • What a genius!
  • You tried really hard.
  • Clever!
  • You're amazing!
  • Thumbs up!
  • Way to go!
  • Great remembering, listening, practicing.
  • Well, look at you! 
Overall, an awesome book. There was too much to share with you here, you have to read this one for yourself. I love these ideas, they are things that all parents dream of when they imagine how their child will turn out. The author of this book gives you specific how-tos that are easy to add to your busy days. It's never too soon to start thinking of the adult our babies will turn into someday, and I believe this book gives us tools and resources for how to help shape our kids into those awesome people we dream of them becoming. 

Happy reading, brat-free parents :) 

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