I picked up this book because recently, I have found myself caught in a bad cycle of shaming, blaming and punishing with my kids and wanted to get out of it. Punishment, I’ve found, is not a effective parenting tool when it’s overused. Plus, I hate using a negative approach and the feelings it brings out in both me and the kids.
If you’re unconvinced that punishments are ineffective (especially when overused), this book does a good job of proving that relying on punishment too much does indeed backfire. The author calls on decades of psychology study to demonstrate that.
At the heart of the Kazdin method is the use of praise and rewards. While many parents who endeavor to use gentle discipline eschew the use of praise and rewards, I find that both are great tools when used the RIGHT way. I don’t know about you, but when I hear moms at the playground shouting “Good job!” at their kids every 5 seconds, I want to puke. That approach is insincere and dare I say it – a touch manipulative.
Rewards are also controversial, but again – I think it’s a very natural thing to reward others when they behave well, we do it all the time without even trying. We smile at, hug and thank people when they do something we like. We reward our peers with money, praise, help, and in many other ways. The reward system that the book encourages you to set up is easy enough to do and won’t break the bank either. The point is to create new habits and behaviors in your child that are the “positive opposite” of the negative behavior they’re doing now.
Here is a quick example. I was having an issue with my almost ten year old son using potty language at meal time. It was like a switch would flip in his mouth each time we sat down to eat and all the bathroom talk he could come up with would spill out. I tried ignoring it and giving him attention when he spoke about other topics. I tried punishments – removing privileges, having him leave the table and eat alone. Nothing worked and it was escalating. I knew he was doing it to get attention, but it was annoying to me because he’s an intelligent kid who can carry on conversation without relying on gutter talk, plus his siblings were starting to copy him and I didn’t appreciate him taking center stage at the dinner table. The negative reinforcements were still that – reinforcements!
So I made up a chart with that and one other behavior I wanted to address with him. I explained what I was trying to do, and what his rewards were. He earned two points each time he used proper speech at the table. When he got to 20 points, it was a Starbucks Frappucino for him (something he doesn’t usually get but always wants!). At 50 points, a trip to the bowling alley with his friends. It took him a week to get 20 points but since then the behavior has curtailed *dramatically* – after a year of nothing else working.
The point of the system is to make the new habit ingrained so that the system is no longer necessary. It isn’t meant to be forever.
Personally, I’ve found that using systems for things – even parenting – rather than winging it all the time brings about such a sense of relief. Instead of having to decide on the spot all the time, which creates stress and fatigue, you have a plan ahead of time. So I’m really enjoying the lessons in this book.
I’ve been able to improve a couple of other behaviors with the younger kids too. My 5 year old was in a bad habit of pitching a little mini fit whenever I said no to her. While I could overlook this in a 2 year old, I thought she should have the internal reserves by now to hear No and deal with it. I’m not talking about tantrums or flailing about on the floor, just a whiny crying type of response that was really getting on my nerves several times a day.
So, with her I sat down and explained the system. I told her that first we were going to practice me saying no and her responding “like a big girl”. She LOVED this part and would ask me again and again to practice. (I would get really excited and hug and praise her enthusiastically when she did it right, and she earned a point just for practice.) She got her reward after 20 points too, and again – the behavior has gotten much, much better.
This is a simplistic overview of the book, but if you’re having any discipline difficulties I highly recommend you read it. Especially if you’re into positive parenting and want to minimize punishment (especially physical), this book will give you a system that works.
It also comes with a DVD which was helpful to sound down the principles. Truly, the book’s title isn’t quite accurate because I think this is a book for parents of ALL kids, whether they would define them as defiant or not.The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child: With No Pills, No Therapy, No Contest of Wills