Chapter 2- Next, Get Yourself in Control- The Silent Week

DSC_0161Don’t scream, threaten or plead.  None of these behaviors is effective in shaping behavior.  This is a lesson that I have had to learn over and over again, but the clearest lesson came during my pregnancy with baby number four.

With each pregnancy I spent between two and three months in bed with extreme “morning sickness,” but this one was the worse.  Even when I felt good enough to get up and around I was still nauseated much of the time.  As the nausea slowly subsided I became so large and uncomfortable that I didn’t want to do much.  The kids seemed to do okay with Mr. Mom, Dad, pitching in around the house and some friends and relatives took the girls part of the time, but as summer approached and the kids were home all day I realized that there was a problem; I had lost control.  My children had become used to a lump in a bed that barely had the strength to speak to them, let alone discipline them.  As I slowly became their mother again they did what any healthy child does, they challenged my authority!  I didn’t have the strength to get up and enforce my requests, or demands, so I did what most moms would do in the same situation; I screamed.  When yelling didn’t work I threatened, and when threatening didn’t work, I yelled louder.  The more I yelled, the less they listened.  How could they do this to me?  I’d been sick, and I was still weak, I was fat and uncomfortable, I didn’t want to move.  If they really loved me wouldn’t they feel compassion and help me?

One day I woke up with a scratchy throat and a hoarse voice.  As I went about my usual yelling, and screaming my voice quickly disappeared.  I had enough trouble getting my kids to listen before.  How could I ever get them to obey me with no voice at all?  My voice was gone for a week, and that week changed everything.  Instead of the mayhem I expected my house was now calm and relaxed.  My children were in control, and seemed much happier.  What was the secret?  The answer was so simple and it had worked in the past, I don’t know why I missed it.  The answer was silence.  When I stopped yelling so did my children.  When I whispered, they listened.  “Who was this quiet woman, and what is so important that it must be said in a secret?” they seemed to be thinking.  I learned some important lessons during that week.  None of them were new or revolutionary, but they do work.  I think many of us, in our hurried and hectic lives, lose sight, for a time, of our goal in raising our children.  If our goal is to produce well adjusted, productive adults, yelling and threatening never accomplishes the goal.  The suggestions below are a step closer to that goal, and some important tools to help you keep your cool.  Your children will never really be in control until you are in control.  These steps will help you be in control.  A parent that is in control will always remember to not get mad, and just get busy!


Psst!  Come here!- Children are more responsive to a quiet, interesting request than yelling.  It is easier to tune out a loud sound, and the louder you are, the louder they need to be to drown you out!


Get UP!- You can’t be an effective “armchair parent” any more than you can be an armchair quarterback.  As hard as it was for me to get up when I was pregnant, in the long run it was easier.


Don’t Threaten “I’m gonna break your arm if you don’t stop that!” I knew a woman who often threatened “bodily harm” to children in her care.  She knew she wouldn’t hurt them, and so did the kids, so why say it?  Even seemingly innocent threats can often backfire.  If you threaten to not take a child on a family outing if they don’t behave, and then they don’t, what do you do?  Keep the whole family home?  Try and find a babysitter at the last minute?  And if you take the child anyway what does that tell him?  You don’t want to leave him home, you just want him to behave.  Try a quick, short term consequence, “If you poke your sister again, I will take the pencil away.”  Or, better yet, just take it away, and give it back when better behavior is demonstrated.


Count to 3- This can be controversial, but I find counting works.  “Come in the house by the count of three,” gives a definite deadline as to when it must be accomplished.  “Let’s see if you can put all the blocks away before I count to 10,” gives a sense of urgency.  If you find they’re stalling, count faster, and be sure to follow through if your child does not respond appropriately.


Time Out- It doesn’t do much good to count if there’s no reward or punishment at the end.  Rewards work best.  “We can all have dessert if the toys are picked up by 10,” or an extra ½ hour of TV, or a star on a special chart.  And, it’s amazing what kids will do for a stamp on the hand or a sticker!  But, there are times when punishment is in order, and a “time out” is the best for young children.  Time out can be a very effective tool, but it must be used properly.  The key to an effective time out is that it ends the child’s disruptive behavior, excludes the child from the main activity of the family, and that it be quite brief.  You should tell the child precisely why he she is taking the time out, but refrain from long explanations.  An upset child is in no shape to hear a lecture, and too much time spent with the child can be a reward of more time with you.  Remember, your goal is to exclude the child from your attention.  Many families designate one spot in the house, such as a special chair or the bottom stair of the stair case, as the time out spot, however this is not necessary.  So long as the spot chosen is away from the main activities of the household and does not have other stimulating activities (toys, TV viewing, etc.) it can be effective.  A guideline that is sometimes used to determine the time limit for a time out is one minute for every year of age.  A three-year old, for instance, needs a 3 min. time out. Time out should be more of a time for a child to calm down and regroup than a typical punishment.

Chapter 1- First, Build a Home

DSC_0248Discipline does not work in a vacuum.  Before you can shape and guide your child’s behavior you must first build a home where the child feels safe and you must establish a good parent-child relationship.  There is a basic principle in discipline that states that you cannot effectively discipline a child who does not know you.

As a teacher I spend time each day for the first few weeks of school getting to know and building a relationship with my students.  I teach them my goals for them and my expectations for their behavior.  I also give them a glimpse of my personal life and personality.  By the end of the school year the majority of my students, even ones with severe behavior problems in other classes, genuinely want to behave in my class and please me.  They may not always behave appropriately, but when I need to reprimand them or correct their behavior they understand the consequence and learn from the encounter.

The same cannot be said for the average student I meet on campus who does not know me.  Even if I use the same techniques with a student that I see crossing campus and not obeying the rules, my actions are usually much less effective and short lived.  The same problem occurs when I have a substitute in my class.  The class who is normally polite and productive for me is often rude and non-productive for my sub.  Discipline cannot truly be effective unless there is a long established relationship between the child and the disciplinarian; hence it is essential that you build a good relationship with your child in order to effectively discipline him or her.

Start when your child is young to build a relationship by reading to her, playing games with him and going on family outings together.  Have conversations about what is going on in your life, and encourage your child to tell you about his or her day.  One of the best places to build positive relationships is at the family dinner table.  Don’t let outside activities or the TV set infringe on this valuable time.  Plan your week so the entire family sits down together at least a few times each week and lingers over dinner.  For every negative exchange that you have with your child you should have many more positive exchanges.  These exchanges should be fun and genuine, not stiff, contrived or scheduled.  Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to let your kids really get to know you.

One of the most important principles in building a home is to be sure that your child feels loved.  “But of course I love my child!” you may say.  But does your child know that he is loved?  Even the parent who neglects or abuses their child may loves him, so what you feel is not relevant.  What is relevant is how your child feels.  A child who does not feel loved will not feel safe and secure at home.  But if your feelings and thoughts are not relevant, then how can you know how your child feels?  You can never really be sure of how your child feels, but the following important steps will show your child that you love him or her and build the kind of relationship that will show love and build security.


Give Hugs and Kisses- Most parents hug and kiss their little children.  But as children grow and become less cute and huggable parents become less affectionate.  As a normal part of growing and separating from parents children in turn are also less affectionate.  They may also rebuff parents who try to show their love.  Paradoxically, at about this same point in time children may need more affection, yet they are getting less.  As children begin to grapple with peer pressure, increased stress in school, building more mature relationships outside of the family, and physical changes inherent with growing up, their self-image and security are challenged.  If your child balks at your attempts to show affection, don’t give up.  Be creative and more subtle, but do show affection.  Give your child a peck on the check or top of the head as he passes by, as she sits watching TV or is playing on the computer.  Don’t be afraid to add an, “I love you,” and do be careful around friends.  The goal should be to convey love to your child, not to grandstand in front of the friends or to embarrass.


Plan Fun Together- As children get older and start to develop outside interests and participate in more activities with their friends, parents often have less time to spend with their children just having fun.  Sometimes with older children and teenagers it seems that all of your time with them is spent in giving instruction and reprimands.  It is therefore important to plan time to have fun together, and it becomes even more important as children grow.  Eat dinners as a family at least a few nights a week and make a rule that conversations are to be kept to light topics.  Plan one evening a week for a family activity.  Plan dates with your kids one-on-one and let him or her pick the place to go.  Use this time to let your child talk, and ask open-ended questions to get the conversation going.  Listen more than you talk.  Take family vacations, even if the trip is just a campout in the backyard with no phones or video games allowed.


Communicate When your children are tiny it is hard to imagine that you will ever not feel close to them.  But somehow, between babyhood and the teen years, communication is often hampered and that little girl who told you every thought and feeling that she had refuses to speak.  Planning family fun can go a long way to help keep the lines of communication open.  Often a child who will not speak to you at home or under a stressful situation will open up and be himself at his favorite restaurant.  Be sure that you continue to communicate openly with your child, even if he or she shuts down.  Talk about your goals and aspirations and everyday happenings.  Just as you plan a time to have fun, plan a time to talk.  Talk over dinner, or plan a time just for communication.  Some families have regular parent child interviews.  The main goal of the interview should be for your child to share and look at goals.  Try writing down important things during the interview such as a list of your child’s friends, teachers names, interests, dreams and future goals.  You can write important facts about your child in a journal or notebook kept specifically for this purpose.  You can use some of the interview time to share ideas or concerns with your child, but this should not be the focus.  Be sure that your child is able to fully communicate their thoughts and feelings, and give your child time to air grievances or complaints about you.  Listen openly, not defensibly, and talk about possible solutions to problems.


Show increased love after discipline- No matter the age of the child it is sometimes hard for them to separate the discipline from the person administering the consequence.  It is important that children realize that parents discipline because they love their children, not because of a lack of love.  After you discipline a child always show an increase of love.  Not only do they need the extra attention to shape their proper behavior, they also need to know that you are not the enemy.

What is discipline?

DSC_0039When we think of discipline we usually think of punishment.  How many of our parents or grandparents exclusively used a “whipping” as a way to punish their children?  Child care experts now advise that physical punishment is not the best mode of discipline, but few of us have really been trained to use effective alternative methods.  Although punishment is often used in disciplining children, it is actually a very small part.  Good discipline will not just offer rewards and punishments for behavior, it will actually shape behavior.

There are many books available that talk about discipline and behavior modification techniques.  This book is not meant to replace any of those books, methods or theories.  This book is meant to be a companion piece to whatever method you choose to adopt.  I found as I read books and articles on parenting and discipline methods they advised over and over to set down ground rules, be firm and consistent, yet loving.  But with each book and article I was left with developing the actual, “how to” implement them with my family.  There were a lot of wonderful ideas out there, but none of them that I could just pull off the shelf and use.  I also found that there were charts and guides that had been developed and offered for sale, but none of them quite fit my needs.  This book, and the forms available to readers at the website, put at your disposal a large array of useful, tested practices that are easily adapted to your family and their needs.

Please note that I have done several things in the wording of this book simply to make my job as author easier.  First of all, you will notice that I have used gender words interchangeably.  I may use him one time, her the next and his or hers the time after that.  This is simply to ease the flow of the book and to add variety.  I am well aware that children and parents come in two genders, so please be aware that these methods will work for both genders, regardless of the wording in each particular part.

Next, I have written this book as if each child were being parented by a traditional two parent married couple.  Once again, this has been done only for ease of writing.  I am well aware that many children grow up quite successfully in a variety of different family configurations.  If your family is not headed by a traditional two parent married couple, please be aware that these methods will be just as effective.  Some of the recommendations may need to be adjusted to fit your particular situation; however all should be applicable for all who want to parent a child.

Raising kids is a lot of work!

Book cover FinalRaising kids was going to be a piece of cake.  I was the oldest of 4 children and spent most of my older childhood and teen years helping with my siblings and babysitting all of the neighborhood children.  My sister and I would watch several families of children at one time and take them on fun outings to the park or the ice cream store.  I studied child development in both high school and college and spent 5 years working as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.  I was also in charge of the after school childcare program at the school where I worked and was viewed by my co-workers as the best at handling the children that no one else could.  Yes, after handling a classroom full of children raising a family would be easy for me.  My husband, who loved kids and was the oldest of a large family, and I determined that we would have 12.  Well, maybe not 12, but at least as many as we could afford and handle.  We would be great parents!

Then my oldest son was born.  He was anything but your typical child.  From the day he was born Baby #1 seemed unhappy with being a baby and wanted to go out and see the world.  He was alert and bright and did everything early.  He rolled over at 3 weeks old, stood in his crib at 5 months and began walking at 6 months, skipping crawling altogether.  By two he had taught himself all of the letters in the alphabet and the sounds they make by watching Sesame Street and by 4 he taught himself to read.  Of course this bright mind and eager body was quite a trial for parents, even parents that were well prepared.  He had endless energy, was always getting into something and seemed to never sleep.  It is a real problem when your child needs less sleep than you do, especially when the child is so busy and energetic that you dare not leave him unattended.  Bedtime was a big problem.  On the average it took our son two hours past when we put him to bed for him to go to sleep.  And this was not a quiet two hours of patiently waiting for sleep to come, this was two hours of getting out of bed, getting into things, running through the house followed by pleadings and threats by my husband and myself for him to stay in bed.

When Baby #1 was two we welcomed Baby #2, a sweet daughter, into our home. Right on her heels Baby #3 came along, when #2 was just 15 months old.  Baby #2 was so different from older brother as a little baby.  She was petite and she actually slept at night and took naps.  She was content to sit in the playpen for part of the day, unlike older brother who wanted to be held constantly.  Not to be outdone by her big brother #2 soon showed that she was not going to be any less of a handful.  She was very busy and had a mind of her own at a very early age.  She seemed to hit the terrible twos at 15 months, just as her sister was born, and she continued to assert her independence and argue with me throughout her life.

After #3’s birth I had to admit I had no idea what parenthood would be like before I actually experienced it.  I thought I could handle it all, but I had no idea what a difference it was to be responsible for your children 24 hours a day, rather than just a few hours.  I couldn’t send these children home to their parents when I had had it; my husband and I were it.  On top of that I had to take care of all the tasks of running a home.  As a teacher I had been responsible for teaching the children.  Here at home I had to cook, clean and do laundry.  In addition to all of that, I had to help my husband support the family financially.  I felt it important to give my children as much of me as possible so I managed to find jobs I could do at home for most of my children’s young years.  With all of the demands on my time the strategies that I had used as a teacher did not apply here because my children were not my only responsibility.

So here I was with a very busy three year old who wanted my attention, a 15 month old who wanted nothing to do with me but wanted to go out and take on the world on her own and a newborn with colic.  Add to that mix three children that I watched to keep my family finances afloat and you can see that to say my life was hectic was an understatement.  I did what anyone would do in a similar situation, I lost my mind.

I knew I was at the breaking point one day when older brother and little sister wanted to play hide-and-go-seek.  The baby was asleep, and I had no extra children at my home, so I decided to take my turn to hide, and I hid in the closet behind the clothes.  It was a really good hiding place and they couldn’t find me.  After sitting there for a while I found I loved the cool, quiet solitude of being in the closet behind those clothes.  I knew the kids were okay because I could hear them looking for me, but they weren’t demanding anything of me.  I was congratulating myself on finding a way to get some peace when they started to cry.  “Where’s Mommy?” they sobbed.  It was then that I realized that parenthood was so much more than enduring our children’s lives, or controlling their behavior.  Parenthood is about loving and nurturing our children into adults.  Sure, this was a whole lot different and more demanding than teaching, but it was also so much more rewarding.  I wasn’t going to get a new class next year, my husband and I were responsible for these children into adulthood, and we would be their parents forever.  I needed to find a way to shape and mold these strong personalities into responsible adults.

When children don’t behave our first reaction is to get mad.  But getting mad doesn’t help.  Years ago parents knew how to handle their children.  The prevailing wisdom was that if you spare the rod you would spoil the child.  So when many of today’s grandparents were children they felt the swift and firm consequence of their behavior with physical punishment.  Most experts now agree that strong physical punishment is neither advisable nor effective.  The problem is that today’s parents have not been given tools that are as swift, firm, speedy and as easy to execute, as a whipping was.  We have been told to use time out or to ground our children, but many parents have found time-out to be less than effective and have found that when they ground their child they ground themselves as well.

After that day in the closet I set out to come up with concrete systems that I could use to shape my children’s behavior with love, but firmness.  I used my experience as a teacher and knowledge of child development and human behavior, as well as trial and error, to develop positive and negative reward systems and record keeping charts to help and guide me.  Many of the systems I developed were developed with the needs of a specific child in mind, but I found that they often worked for everyone.

Nearly 20 years have passed since that day in the closet, and a lot has taken place.  Baby #1 grew into a wonderful boy and young man, and is now a father himself, with an outstanding mind, but with many obstacles to overcome.  He was diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder, dysgraphia (a writing handicap) and a visual processing disorder, which brought many years of struggle through school.  One daughter was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (which I describe as acting like a teenage for life, and yes, it is a real disorder) and being at risk for depression.  As she grew she was a master at making trouble with her best friend and sister and really had trouble being successful in school.  But now she is a beautiful college graduate with many talents and a knack for doing anything she puts her mind to.  Baby #3’s colic lasted for 6 months, even though all the baby books claimed it only lasted for 4, but when she quit crying we found that she was a happy, delightful, bright little girl.  She is, however, extremely demanding and driven.  She is the princess and I often thought she would have made a good only child, but somehow she was placed in the middle of 5 kids.  She seemed to resent all the extra time I had to spend helping her older siblings get through school and raising her little brother and sister, but she continues to be bright and bubbly and is an outstanding, driven and successful teacher and college student.

After 3 kids in 3 ½ years we took a four year break before bringing #4 and #5 into the world.  They proved to be surprisingly “normal”, although they, as do all children, have had their trials.  I found that many of the strategies that I had developed for my difficult children worked very well with them.  I also have had an opportunity to further use and refine many of the techniques in my job as a middle school teacher.  As I raised my children I had several opportunities to continue my work as a preschool teacher both through a home child care program and employed at various schools that allowed me to bring one or more of my children with me.  When my youngest went to school full time I was able to continue my education and seek employment in public education.  I now work as a Resource Specialist and work with middle school-aged children with disabilities of all types and severities.  Many of the techniques and charts I developed for my own children I have been able to adapt for use in the classroom and I have shared with parents.  These techniques have proven to be useful to help children with various disabilities control their behavior both in the classroom and in their homes.

Some people say my husband and I are nuts to have 5 children.  We may be because it is the hardest thing I have ever done, but raising them has brought me more joy and satisfaction than anything else.  Whether you have one child or ten it is a lot of work to raise children.  Kids may do things that will make you feel extremely mad, but getting mad will not shape and guide your children correctly.  Good hard work, a plan on how to proceed and some good tools will.  So look through the suggestions and guidelines in this book then try out some of the tools and choose the ones that will work for you.  Then, don’t get mad, get busy!

When Tragedy Strikes- Are we handling this right?

DSC_0269We are over reacting, we are not taking this seriously enough; when it warms up the virus will diminish, sunshine will not lessen the spread of the virus; stock up on supplies, don’t wipe out the markets; this will blow over in no time, it will take years to recover; this will wreck our economy, we have lots of support in place so we will be fine; our leaders are doing a good job of keeping us safe, our leaders are nuts, just what are they thinking? 

Likely you have heard all of this, and more, over the last few days. Truly, we are all in awe over the events of the last week or so. Last week, as I was finishing up some missing work with one of my 6th graders in my classroom on the last day of the trimester, and the last day of school until who knows, he and I talked. He had some questions about the virus, school and what was going to happen. I had to tell him I just didn’t know. He was shocked to find out that we haven’t had a pandemic of this caliber in modern times. This is new territory; none of us really know how to act, what to do or what is needed. Truly, our leaders, our communities, our churches, our work places and yes, even our doctors, don’t really know for sure what is the best course of action.  In truth, we may have some ideas and educated guesses, but really, we are all just making it up as we go along.

Wow, Mrs. Dimick,” said the 6th grader when I explained we don’t really know what we are doing, “this is really serious.” Yeah buddy, it is. In a world with so much information at our literal fingertips, it is pretty unusual these days to have a world-wide event that truly we don’t know exactly what will happen or how to handle it. We are so used to having experts and leaders with the answers and advice that really, we are all feeling just a bit anxious.

Some day in the not too distant future the hope is that we will look back on this event and say, “Remember when?” And we will be able to add, “That was a bit crazy, but we got through it, and we did learn something.” But, what will be learn? What are we learning? What are the lessons that will help us better navigate our world going forward? Well, no one knows for sure, but just from what I have seen so far, here my top 9 lessons.

9- Don’t put it off!  Whether it has to do with stocking up with emergency supplies, attending your house of worship or visiting that friend that you can’t get to now, I think we can all say there is probably something you meant to do before, that you can’t do now.  So when the store restocks and we can freely recirculate once again, grab a few more cans just in case, buy a few extra rolls to have on hand, and put a few more things in the freezer because you never know.

8- Appreciate Technology- Yeah, there is the bad side, but can you imagine all of this without it? I am just amazed how many different emails I got with offers of free things to do, or watch or, experience. All I can say is wow, just wow.

7- It’s Okay to Push the Pause Button on Life- Okay, face it people, we live fast paced, crazy lives. Can you not say that having a slower pace for a bit was not refreshing? Was it such a terrible thing to just have your calendar cleared for once? Would it be so bad to really just make that choice for yourself or your family once in a while?

6- Reach Out to Others- With time to slow down I keep thinking about reaching out to others, visiting others, taking them things. Well, that kind of defeats the purpose of where we are right now, so I had to rethink that plan. But it did get me thinking. We need each other, we need human contact. Do we really take the time to reach out when we can, or do we put if off until it is too late (see #9 above). I know I can do better.

5- Grow a Garden– My granddaughter and I have been working on a garden.  She was ecstatic when she found out food may be scarce because we could eat her vegetables! She was a bit disappointed when she found out that it will be many weeks until we have a harvest, but what a great way to be in the out of doors, spend time with your family and produce food that may come in handy when the next disaster comes along.

4- Learn to Cook– So, it is looking like if everyone has enough food in their house to eat at home for a couple of weeks the stores are empty. I was raised in an era where eating in was normal, eating out was for special occasions. When my kids were young I once had a woman ask me if I cook. I felt like answering, as opposed to, what, starving? I didn’t really get the question, I didn’t know there were people who didn’t, with the expectation of maybe the most rich and famous. Now, with just me and my husband home we eat out a lot, but I do keep a stock of food, and I have the capability to cook meals. This is a life skill people, figure it out, and teach your kids.

3- Some Necessities are not Really Necessary- Here is a news flash, life existed before bottled water, before baby wipes, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer and yes, even before toilet paper. Guess what people, we still have running water, electricity and natural gas available in our homes so we are actually way better off than those who had to live without those items.  Sure, it may be way easier and cleaner to wipe with something we can just toss, but I bet you have plenty of things right in your own home that you could substitute, if you had to.

2- You Are Ultimately Responsible for your Family- It is easy to think the government will take care of us, that the school will teach our kids or that someone will bail us out. But, when it comes right down to it, it is your responsibility. As a middle school teacher I am daily responsible for upwards of 100 kids a day. I take my charge seriously, and I think I do a good job. But guess what, when we had an emergency where did we send those kids? They went right back to their parents. When it is time to get back to basics in life, you are in charge, you have the responsibility to do what it takes to make sure your family is fed, clothed, educated and taught. Treat it like that.

1- Go forward with Faith, not Fear- This may seem religious, but it is actually biological as well. You see, fear does interesting things to us biologically.  There is a fight or flight response that we often have little or no control over when perceived danger is in play. Having faith and hope that things will work out, that you can handle this, that you can do what it takes keeps the involuntary responses turned off, and the brain turned on.  Stay in the game people, we can do this.


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