This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Parenting for Peace

3 Parenting StrategiesNo matter how much experience we have a parents, we all need strategies for more peace and calm in our lives.

Last week in Part 1 of this Parenting Strategies to Bring Peace post, I wrote about how creating a Special Spot (feel free to come up with a more creative name) for each child helps greatly with transitions throughout the day, such as before and after leaving the house, busy times, times when you are helping one child — those times when we are busy and kids intuitively stir up chaos.

Today we are looking at a second strategy that has helped our family greatly in the last year as we have been parenting our children with significant behavioral and emotional needs.

Do your children need improvement with:

  • sitting quietly in church?
  • not interrupting while you are speaking with other adults?
  • working on school work for longer periods of time?
  • sitting still at the dinner table?
  • improving attention span?
  • structure and boundaries?

The strategy below will help with all of these.

I need to be honest about this right from the get-go. From our years as foster and adoptive parents, I have parented and am currently parenting kids with a whole alphabet soup of special needs. We have cared for children with ADD, ADHD, brain injuries, prematurity, significant developmental delays, sensory processing disorder, reactive attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and other types of mental and medical health issues.

While I know patience is a HUGE part of the parenting equation, I’ve also been woken up to the fact that at times I’ve simply set my standards too low. My kids — all of them — have been capable of much more than I realized. I used their disabilities as an excuse to let them get away with behaviors. It can be incredibly difficult to know where to draw those lines with typical children, but with kids with special needs, it’s even more difficult.

My general advice is — you might think your kids can’t do it but, they can do it! If you haven’t been using these methods, expect to get some backlash for awhile, especially if your children are used to a lot of screen time. It’s going to be an adjustment.

Now, I have something to say before we get into this method, and it’s painful for many parents to hear.

We need to cut back on the screen time — TV, computer, and gaming — for our kids.

I’m sooo just as guilty of this as anyone. My kids have watched years of TV and played loads of hours on the computer and ipad. I’ve justified it as being educational (ahem, mostly). It works, yes? They play or watch, they are quiet (ahem, mostly). So you won’t hear any guilt trips from me. I’m right down in the struggle here with you.

The honest truth is if our kids have ANY special needs, if our kids have ANY attention issues, if our kids have ANY behavior issues, we have got to cut back on TV and computer time as much as possible. YES, there is good in computers and technology. Our family is a totally techie family, but when it comes to kids’ brains and attention, I think we all know that fast flashing computer games or TV shows is not the answer to our problems.

We have almost completely eliminated TV and computer games currently for our 2 youngest children. It’s been painful, I totally admit, but in some ways almost easier than trying to monitor it, and their behavior is certainly better for it.

3 Parenting Strategies That Will Bring Peace to Your Home Within Days: Part 2

2. Quiet Work/Blanket Time

This parenting strategy is an adaptation of toddler blanket time, as described in this article.

This strategy will vary somewhat depending on the age and abilities of your children, but the basic concepts are the same.

Choose an area where your child will work, either a spot on the floor (such as a blanket about the size of a beach towel), or a place at the table or a chair to sit for reading or crafts. Any area needs to have clear boundaries.

Choose a few simple activities to start.

For elementary school children, our activities are:

  • One bucket of simple Legos
  • One small bucket of simple crafts (pipe cleaners, puff balls, glue dots) — just a few items in an empty ice cream bucket
  • 3 simple books or 1 chapter book
  • Zoobs (1 small, simple container)
  • K-nexs (1 small, simple container)
  • Blocks (1  shoebox size container)
  • Matchbox cars and trucks (1 shoebox size container)
  • Coloring & drawing at the table

Have the child sit on the blanket or at the table and give them the activity. The child is to play without talking or making any noise — not even one peep. The goal is for the child to work up to playing quietly for 15-20 minutes, and eventually as much as 30 minutes or more.

Blanket Time

Update! We found these really amazing Lay-N-Go bags for our kids Legos and we are loving them!

Large Lay-n-Go Large Lay-n-Go Large Lay-n-Go

small lay-n-goThe small size Lay-n-Go is great for a small amount of Legos, and the large is holds a bunch and even is its own backpack.

CPbkhp77ztvC3aFZ.jpg

Explain to the child the 2 rules: 1. He/She is to stay on the blanket and not leave the boundary or let any toys leave the boundary. 2. He/She is not to make any noise.

If the child makes any noise at all, say, “Okay, all done,” and help them clean up. It’s not a problem or a punishment, just finished.

If they child finishes when YOU say, “All done,” then that is great! Move on to something fun to do together, such as reading a book together, having a yummy snack, or something enjoyable. If the child finishes earlier than you had wanted because they got up, made noise, or a toy left the boundary, then the next activity needs to be an activity they would not prefer, such as completing a chore. This isn’t a punishment, but it’s a consequence. Life is more fun when we stay within the set boundaries.

Don’t feel like you need to say anything or spend any time explaining this at all. Trust me, your kids will catch on.

The first day I tried this, my boys each spent about 10 seconds on each of their blankets with their legos. I said, “Okay, no problem,” and helped them clean up. Then we moved on to chore time. The next time they did a little better and spent a longer period of time — about 10 minutes.

Then they figured out this could be a game of control. When they wanted to be done they would just talk to me to be finished. It didn’t take them long to figure out, though, that if they talked, they had to do a chore, while they watched their brother, who didn’t talk, read a book with mom instead!

Since implementing this, we have seen a vast improvement in the boys behavior at worship services, an area that has been one of my stress spots for years. I used to bring fruit snacks, gum, toys, and all sorts of things to keep them entertained, and still I would spend the whole service back and forth to the bathroom, shushing, and come out of church a sweaty mess of mom exhaustion.

We are still a work in progress, but the last few Sundays, on the way to church I’ve stressed to them that worship time is the same as “blanket time” and they fully know my expectations. They have done a great job! I allow them to color on the kids’ coloring sheets at church and that’s it. No more toys or snacks or any of that extra stuff which just provides too much distraction.

When we first started this strategy, I thought it seemed a little too harsh. After all, why can’t they just make some noise with their cars? What’s wrong with talking to me while they are playing? I quickly realized, at least for our family, the need for strictness. Talking to me soon became yelling into the next room. Each boundary got pushed a little further. The goal of this activity is to prepare our children for future situations — how to concentrate for a test or homework. How to wait patiently and not interrupt. These are excellent life skills. At other times throughout the day they are encouraged to play loudly, talk, and interact with me lots!

Quiet play time is a gift to our children. There is so little quiet in our busy world.

This is a parenting strategy that takes some dedication on the part of us as parents, but it’s worth it. Within a couple days, you will see a huge difference. If you give this a try, let me know in the comments or on Facebook. I would love to hear how it’s going for you!

Check back next week for #3 in this post, from 3 Parenting Strategies That Will Bring Peace to your Home. In that post we’ll explore teaching kids how to respond to adults’ directions with respect.3 Parenting Strategies

These are some of the resources we are using for our parenting techniques:

Nancy Thomas, When Love is Not Enough

Nancy Thomas, Healing Trust: Rebuilding the Broken Bond

Bruce Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

FREE Parenting Hacks!

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*FREE Smart Parenting Hacks Printables

*10 Printables: House Rules, Lunch Box Notes, Chores, Family Technology Agreement, Clean Eating for Kids.

*Calmer Kids = Happier You!

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