Project LAUNCH employee discusses curriculum for child discipline
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — “One of the biggest stigmas I think we’ve come across in teaching parenting classes is, a lot of parents are like, ‘I don’t need parenting classes, I know how to be a parent.’ ”
Natalie Russell, coordinator for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation ‘Project LAUNCH Youth Child Wellness’, said it is not the goal of the program to tell parents what to do.
“And when they come in and they learn the new skills we tell them, ‘take what you’ve learned and make it your own. Use these skills; pair it with what you already know and make it your own,’ ” she said.
The program offered training earlier in the year but Russell went over some of the basics on a past ‘Mvskoke Radio’ episode with host Gary Fife.
According the website for 1-2-3 Magic used by Russell’s program, the training was developed by Dr. Tom Phelan to offer all involved in rearing a child, ‘a simple and gentle-but-firm approach to managing the behavior of 2 to 12-year-olds.’
“And it’s really hard as a parent because we’re faced with that testing and manipulation and it’s not always easy to handle,” Russell said. “We get emotional, we get frustrated and so part of what 1-2-3 Magic does is gives us the six basic testing tactics that kiddos use and then it give us practical ways to handle it so that we’re in control and the kids are not.”
Russell listed the tactics:
Showing their temper.
“It can be an aggressive attack or emotional outburst.”
“ ‘Mom, mom, please, please. But why? Just this one time.’ ”
“ ‘I’m gonna run away. I’ll never speak to you again.’ ”
“ ‘Nobody loves me. You never let me have my way. You never let me have anything.’ ”
Buttering you up.
“Telling you ‘oh, your eyes are so pretty,’ and then asking for what they want.”
Russell said the last one, physical, is perhaps the worst but usually found in smaller kids.
“And that’s when you have a frustrated child physically attack the adult or break something,” she said.
Russell said one of the recommended ways to address undesired behaviors is not too far off from a fairly conventional approach.
“You count the behaviors and it’s similar to, well have you ever heard a parent out in public, ‘One, two, three,’ and then they get a consequence? It’s similar to that except we count these specific behaviors,” she said.
She said the process starts basically the same, with a count of one for the first violation.
“You pause for a second, give them an opportunity to kind of register, ‘OK, I’ve been warned.’ And they can at that point, walk away from the situation or continue. ‘That’s two,’ and then the third time they do receive a consequence,” Russell said.
Russell recommended a wholly conventional approach for the consequence, a timeout. She said one minute is suggested for every year of age.
“So if it’s five-years-old, they’ll get a five-minute timeout and then if they’re throwing a fit, you let them throw that fit, let them throw that tantrum and their timeout starts when that tantrum is over,” she said.
She said responding to a child who threatens to run away by telling them to proceed is an example of teaching natural consequence.
“But that’s only going to work when they’re old enough and able to reason,” Russell said.
Russell said providing incentive for good behavior through ‘charting’ works well for younger children.
“So every morning when they get up and brush their teeth, they get a sticker,” she said. “So they get to see their progress and they get an immediate reward…”
Russell suggested a similar approach through positive reinforcement, which compliments desired behaviors and also keeping requests simple and short.
“There’s a fine line between bribing and reinforcement. When we bribe, we say, ‘I’ll give you this if you do that.’ When we are offering rewards, we make them work for it and we let them know that ahead of time,” she said.
Another key part of the curriculum she said is building positive relationships to balance authority.
“They kind of teach parents to strengthen their child by empowering their kids to get realistic self-esteem,” Russell said. “Teaches them to avoid over-parenting. Teaches them to avoid the nagging and engage in active listening versus kind of preaching until we talk about the affection and the praise.”
Russell said despite the stigma of parenting instruction, a lot of her participants realize the value of this approach in the process of learning it.
“They’re like, ‘OK, this is why this doesn’t work’ or ‘this is what my parents did wrong’ or ‘OK, I can do that; this makes sense,’ ” she said.
She said others may have difficulty at first, but being consistent will get results.
“And that’s the whole reason they call it ‘magic’ because a lot of the parents will come back and say, ‘this works like magic,’ ” she said.
Project LAUNCH, a grant-funded program of MCN Behavioral Health can be reached at: 918-224-9307.