Kids on the Porch – My lastest idea to stop the fighting

September 27, 2011

We have had an epidemic of bickering, fighting, and condescending ‘You’ve got to me the stupidest creature on earth” voices in our house the last few months, and it’s driving me crazy.  At least until I came up with a simple idea to fix it all, with a little help.

I’ve always enjoyed the theory behind the Love and Logic books and would love to be the calm, empathetic parent when my kids misbehave . . . instead of the parent who finally loses it at the 452nd whining, bickering, complaining episode of the day.  “The straw that breaks the camel’s back” is a perfect synopsis of how I lose my temper.

So, in an effort to minimize my camel-back-breaking episodes, I’ve been reading, “Parenting Teens with Love and Logic” (the ‘teen’ part because of the ‘ah-hah’ moments about my 9-year-old girl’s frequent bawling episodes and my 11-year-old’s moodiness.)

So, my husband and I were discussing our frustration with the epidemic of nastiness we’ve had in the house lately.  I said I needed a simple consequence.  It had to be easy to give and not require thinking too hard.  (hey, that’s important at the end of the day.)

I had tried small chores, which resulted in slamming cupboards or other performances that I had a hard time staying calm through.  “Up to the room” usually just moved the fight to the hallway upstairs and I’d end up still having to break it up with an extra flight of stairs thrown in.

Then I had it:  OUTSIDE.

I could just escort the offenders to the front door and shut it behind them while saying in a sad voice, “Oh, what a bummer.  Fighting’s not allowed in this house.  We don’t talk to each other that way in our house.  Kicking your mother is not allowed in this house.  Speaking with that mean tone of voice isn’t allowed in our house.”  The possibilities were endless.

And there’s no time limit.  No forcing them to sit out there.  They’re welcome to come in any time they want to change their behavior.  And the door closing in your face while you’re standing on the front porch is such a powerful object lesson.  Instead of endlessly telling them, I’m showing them:  That kind of behavior isn’t allowed in our house.

How it works:

  • Notice fighting, nasty voice, bickering, disrespect.
  • In an empathetic, sad voice, use the phrase you like.  We use, “Oh, what a bummer.”
  • Identify what they’re doing wrong.  “Speaking in that tone of voice isn’t allowed in our house.”
  • Escort and even carry them out the front or back door and then shut it.
  • They can come in whenever they want, even immediately, if their behavior changes.

So, my husband and I agreed to start the next morning and to my delight I heard a shrieking battle Saturday morning, a calm voice speaking, and then the front door opening and shutting.  After that?  Amazing silence that continued most of the morning.

Is it wrong that I really enjoyed the surprise and shock on their faces?  And we didn’t tell them when they could come back in.  We trusted that they could figure it out.  So, after a few days of this, they either stay outside to rant and rave where I can’t see the show and respond to it, or they pop right back in the house, minus their bad behavior.  I’m loving it.

Combined with this summer’s easy idea to encourage good behavior, we’re making great progress towards a more peaceful home.

If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it works.  Or if you have things that work for you, please share.

. . . and I was just thinking . . . winter is just around the corner.  I wonder how cold it gets on the porch?

Posted under Parenting

Today’s Secret to Five Happy, Obedient, Eager-to-Please Homeschooled Children

July 6, 2011

A reluctant grouchy attitude has been filling our home for the last few weeks.  Then, yesterday I had a flash of brilliant parenting insight.  Yes, I know, it seems that every wonderful parenting idea only keeps the kids’ interest for a week or two, a month if you’re lucky.  So, I’m always thinking of new ideas.

So, here’s my latest:

Everyone usually agrees that rewards work better than punishments, but as parents we usually tend to notice the five bowls of goopy oatmeal left at the table than the one bowl that is rinsed and put away in the dishwasher.

So, I need a way to notice the good more frequently.

Plus, if I’m going to do rewards, it has to be easy, easy, easy – something I can give on the spot without having to think or even take a step.

Well, have you ever been to a whale or dolphin show?  Have you ever watched a puppy training session?  How do the trainers get the animals to do exactly what they want?  Treats!  Immediate, small, yummy treats.

Now, I’ve used bribes before, but they usually involve some complicated sticker or point system and are often more work than they’re worth.  So, my brilliant idea was to duplicate the animal trainers exactly.  I tromped down to the basement, filled a pocket with M & M’s (yes, it’s summer and we’ll be switching to Skittles as soon as I get to the store), and went looking for kids to train.

I started out by checking on all the kids and anyone doing something in the least bit positive was given one M & M, along with a comment, “Good job on doing your math on your own” or “Nice way to play with your brother.”  I walked through the house leaving wide-eyed and ecstatic kids in my wake.  Then, I started calling the kids, and when they came, I would plop a treat in their hand and say, “Thanks for coming when I called.”  The transformation was amazing.

Some favorite M & M sayings:

“Thanks for turning off the light when you leave the bathroom.”

“Nice way to really pronounce your ‘th’ while reading” – My 5-year-old proceeded to hunt down every ‘th’ and pronounce it loudly and carefully, a chore he normally whines about.

“Good job waiting patiently for your turn to wash your hands.”

“Wow – love how you put the toilet seat down.”

“Look at all these bowls in the dishwasher – everyone who these belong to, come over here for a minute.”

Pretty soon my 9-year-old is washing out pots in the sink and making puppy eyes at me to make sure I notice.  My 11-year-old grabbed a washrag to wipe the dinner table without being asked.  Everyone ran to their chairs when I called that lunch was ready.

And then for fun, when dad got home, I called the younger boys to come three or four times and they raced back and forth to me, wide grins on their faces.  When I quit after three times, my 5-year-old lawyer waited in vain for a fourth summons, and then tried a hopeful, “What?  Did you call me, Mom?”

My theories of why this is working so well right now:

  • It’s a novelty.
  • The reward is immediate.
  • It’s lots and lots of tiny rewards instead of one big one.
  • I’m looking for the good, not the bad.

So, today, I’m off to the store for some non-meltable Skittles to milk this technique for all it’s worth, before I have to come up with a new one.  Hopefully some of the good behavior will stick around as good habits before then.

(And if you’re worried about the non-healthy candy aspect of it – I figured out that each kid got between 10 and 20 M & M’s yesterday – a rather negligible amount of junk food, all things considered.  But you could easily switch to a healthier small snack.)

The rules

  • small treats, so you don’t feel bad about giving away dozens.
  • in your pocket – not the cupboard.  If you have to walk to get it, you won’t hand it out as frequently.
  • wander around frequently to ‘catch’ your children behaving.
  • make a mental list of things you really want your children to work on and look specifically for those good behaviors.
  • don’t eat all the M & M’s yourself. . . ok, a few are ok, but not all of them.  🙂

If you try this out, I’d love to hear some good stories of how it works – just add a comment!


Posted under Parenting

Review the Safe Sunscreens now that Spring is Here!

March 27, 2009


Here’s a quick tip – not so much a homeschool one, but for parents with kids who have been chomping at the bit to get out of the house now that the weather is a bit nicer:

Make sure you’re using a sunscreen that is not only effective, but also safe!

I stumbled on this amazing online Sunscreen Database published by Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research organization.  They are a third party who rates the safety and effectiveness of cosmetic products to give you the information you need.

From their website:  “Our aim was to fill in where companies and the government leave off: companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish, and our government doesn’t require companies to test products for safety before they’re sold. EWG’s scientists built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource, integrating our in-house collection of personal care product ingredient listings with more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases.”

So, grab that bottle of sunscreen from last year, type it in to their “Find Your Sunscreen” page, and see how it rates.  You may be very surprised.  I was!

Posted under Parenting

Household Chores Can be Fun School Projects – We Hope :-)

March 16, 2009


It’s not homeschooling that is so hard, per se, it’s all the extra housework.  My house is being lived in, spilled in, colored in, eaten in, and on and on, all day long, when most other kids are in school.  This means more housework that the average family.

How is all this extra housework a plus?

  • Responsibility:  The kids are tortured blessed with many more opportunities to learn to clean up after themselves and take care of their things than their school-going friends.  Seriously, though, you have to work out a way to share the household responsibilities if you don’t want to dissappear under mountains of laundry.  I think this is valuable life training for the kids that teaches them accountability, how to self-start, and prepares them for that first college dorm or apartment of their own.

Here are some ideas to make it fun:


Don’t waste school time doing sorting worksheets in a math book when you have real life!  When you start looking you’ll be amazed how much of your housework is sorting!

  • Sorting groceries – When you come home from shopping make putting away the groceries a sorting game.  Throw in a timer and if everything is on it’s right shelf before time is up, share a treat or game together.  (Knowing where all the ingredients are comes in handy next time you send someone for a can of something while cooking dinner.)
  • Sorting laundry – Start when their young, and kids actually think playing the “Who’s shirt is this?” game is fun.  A bit of silliness pretending Daddy’s shirt belongs to the baby goes a long way with the 3-year-old crowd.
  • Sorting toys into containers of ‘sets’ like Legos, cars, outdoor toys, etc.
  • Sorting everything off the floor of their room into separate piles:  clothing, toys, trash, books, and bedding.

“I can do it myself.” 

Kid’s may stop saying this after age 2, but I don’t believe they stop thinking it.  I think kids of all ages long to feel appreciated for their work and have confidence that they can do a challenging task well.  Here are a few ideas to share the household work at the same time you help your children to learn:

  • Picking out clothes to wear – Get over your fashion sense and let your kids wear what they can pick out and put on themselves.  If there are some particularly horrendous choices, you may want to do a clothing class about plaids, patterns, and colors and which ones go together the best – but at a different time than when they are dressing.
  • Cooking, plus how to use the stove and a sharp knife – These are great skills and confidence builders for the ‘Tween’ crowd.  Plus, food preparation takes a huge chunk of a busy mom’s time.  Share the duties as soon as your kids are able.  Check out this article about the lessons kids learn in the kitchen.
  • Encourage older kids to help out younger siblings:  Reading stories, with their ‘chores’ like cleaning up toys, getting dressed, playing games with them, etc.  They develop confidence and responsibility, plus it helps develop close relationships between siblings.
  • Event planning:  Put the kids in charge of planning their own birthday party, a playdate, parts of a vacation.  It may be extra work teaching them how to do it the first few times, but it will pay off in less work later and again, more confidence building life skills for your kids.

Basically, homeschooling is life and life is homeschooling.  If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to get done, stop doing it by yourself.  Look at your kids, involve them in your life, your work, your chores.  You are a family making a home and learning about life together, not by yourself.  And, amazingly, you’ll find that common household tasks have a lot to teach your children.  Here are some from our house:


Making herbal ointment 


Picking garden veggies.


Pounding bread is a favorite at our house!  Check out the following video:

Posted under Homeschool Activities, Parenting

Learn How to Protect Your Children, Feel Safe, and Stop Worrying

February 26, 2009

With 5 kids, you better believe I’ve spent time worrying about how to keep my kids safe.  Plus, I have a 4th degree black belt, so I my kids should learn to foil kidnappers with perfect groin shots.  Hardly realistic, I knew, so I ended up like most of you:

  • I told my children, “Don’t talk to strangers”
  • I tried to ignore media stories about kidnapped kids.
  • I had one or two of those ‘fun’ discussions about what constitutes a ‘private part’ with instructions to come right away and tell me if anyone tried to touch them.
  • I basically knew I needed to teach my kids effective techniques to stay safe, but wasn’t sure how.  (Other than the groin kicks – I had those down 🙂

A few years back I found some much better advice by reading Gavin De Becker’s book, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers SafeGavin De Becker is a man with a lot of personal experience with threats and violence coming from a very difficult childhood.  But, he turned that into a skill and is now a well-known expert in teaching others how to recognize specific danger signs that precede real threats.

Here are a few things I thought were very valuable in the book:

  • “Don’t talk to strangers” makes a lost kid afraid to talk to anyone, perfect bait for any bad guys around.  Instead?  Tell your child to walk up to a woman who looks like a mommy and say, “I’m lost.  Can you help me find my mommy?”  Since 90-something percent of perpetrators against children are men, just by choosing a woman, the odds of staying safe are upped considerably.  And by choosing a ‘mommy’ your child is likely to get quick help in finding you again.
  • “Violence almost always has detectable pre-incident indicators that we recognize intuitively.” (pg. 6)  Learn the 7 Survival Signals.  Learning to recognize these danger signs decreases my and my kids’ worry and fear.  I learn what to look for.  I teach it to my kids, and we are both more confident and safe.  
  • The test of 12 things your children should know to be assertive and not a victim, including that it’s ok to rebuff and defy adults if they feel afraid. 
  • Five “Signals of Denial” when we’re afraid to even think about specific dangers and instead spend all our time worrying and afraid.
  • Reassure yourself by remembering child abductions are covered intensely in the news and there are a lot fewer than it seems.
  • On the other hand, be eagle-eyed for any signs of child sexual abuse even and especially among family, friends, and other acquaintances.  Don’t dismiss anything your child mentions and work to make sure they are comfortable talking to you about it, even if it is a close relation or friend.  It is the opposite = very underreported and very common (90% of perpetrators are known to the child, almost always heterosexual males and the most common age abuse begins is 3!) .
  • I loved the clear and concise list to teach kids what is inappropriate behaviour they would need to tell you about right away.  (Instead of vague conversations about ‘IT’)
  • How to keep kids safe with babysitters, at school, with friends, when they are teenagers, etc., etc. 

I can’t recommend this book enough to parents everywhere.  Not only is it stuffed with great information, there are example stories all through the book which make it an engaging read.

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Posted under Books to Read, Parenting