Thursday, 8 October 2015

Professional development Part 1 - Positive parenting program

Now that I've committed to being a stay at home mum, I thought I'd give myself some professional development. I've completed two courses. The first was the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P). It's apparently one of the few parenting programs in the world with evidence to show it works.

I by no means think that you can read a book and solve your parenting problems but when it comes to managing behaviour, I'll take any advice I can get. Thankfully the boys aren't yet at an age where I have to deal with behaviour. Miss 3 certainly knows how to push the boundaries and I'm just fumbling through, learning as we go. Dealing with behaviour issues is by far the most difficult thing I've experienced in my 3.5 year parenting career. When I had one little baby, I had no idea how much more challenging one three year old would be. Throw in a couple of extra babies and I'm in struggle town. I can't even think about teenage years. That's a job for future Julia. Let's hope she's amazing.

Normally at 7.15pm I prefer to collapse in front of the tv but for three Wednesdays in a row I gathered my strength to log on to a webinar. I'm glad I did. At first I was a bit skeptical, thinking that it might be a bit too general and vague but it was designed so that you ended up with a toolkit of ideas that you might like to try. 

I'll share with you some of my takeaways.

1. Some misbehaviour is normal. Obviously I know this right now as I calmly type away and my children are asleep but I definitely am prone to forgetting this when I'm tired, the twins are whinging and Miss 3 decides to behave like a monster. It was reassuring to hear it stated by a professional. Some misbehaviour is normal. Got it.

2. Time out, quiet corner, whatever you want to call it. I had never been able to make this work. Many of my friends swear by it but each time I had tried in the past it has just ended in tears and general confusion by both myself and Miss 3. Am I cross with her because she squashed her brother or because she didn't listen when I told her not to or because I have no idea how to deal with her when she misbehaves? All of the above.

What I learnt from Triple P is to try to explain to her what's going to happen if she misbehaves prior to the misbehaviour occurring. Not in the heat of the moment. So this is exactly what I did. We even had a trial run which she strangely seemed to quite enjoy. She now knows that if she doesn't stop when I say stop she has to have a break and sit somewhere nearby me. If she refuses or continues to do the same thing then she has to go and sit by our front door by herself until I say so, which is usually less than a minute but depends on how long it takes her (or me) to calm down.

Having a system that we both understand has worked really well.

3. Children like rules. It had never occurred to me to actually tell Miss 3 that something was a rule but now I know that she really likes rules and really likes telling her brothers what the rules are. I even wrote down our dinner table rules to make them seem more official, even though no one can read them. Now rather than telling her off for not eating properly, I say something like, "what's our rule about eating the food on our plates" and she says "we try all the different food on our plate." It's win win because she gets to think she's really clever for knowing the rule and I get to think I'm really clever for getting her to try all the food on her plate.

4. Only give instructions once or twice. We are yet to nail this but I really want it to work so I'm trying hard. I used to do things like ask her to put her shoes away and then I'd go and do something else and get frustrated when I came back and the shoes were still out, ask again and again and eventually lose my temper or just put them away myself. Now I'm trying a new approach where if I think she's likely to be uncooperative I ask once, stay with her, then calmly ask again and if she still doesn't do it I say there will be some kind of consequence. The problem with this is if I have to stay and watch her I feel as though I may as well just do the task myself. It's taking a lot of patience on my behalf to persevere with this strategy but if it makes for greater cooperation in the future, I'm prepared to keep trying.

There were plenty of other things I learned and lots of reinforcement that you don't have to be perfect. It was really nice to hear that everyone finds managing behaviour difficult. I do genuinely fear for how I'm going to cope when the twins start pushing my buttons. Maybe by then I'll have miraculously develop some kind of saintly patience or at least I'll have a few strategies in place.

I was fortunate to be offered this course through the multiple births association but I just googled and there are heaps of different ways of accessing Triple P courses in all different formats and levels. I would recommend it if you get the chance.

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