Step Penalize Put Downs

If you've consistently tried other strategies and you're still hearing a steady blast ofjudgmental comments coming from your kid's mouth, it is time to take matters up a notch. She needs to know that a judgmental attitude can hurt. Here are three consequences appropriate for varying ages. Choose one consequence, and then consistently enforce it. Your kid must know you mean business:

• Turn negatives into positives. A great rule to combat negativity is called:"One negative = One positive." Whenever a family member says a negative comment, the sender must turn it into something positive. If your kid says,"This is stu-pid.Why do we have to do this?", encourage him to turn the statement into something positive:"Okay, if I clean my closet, I'll have some room." Enforcing the rule gradually diminishes negative statements—but you must be consistent.

• Issue a sincere apology. Enforce a household rule: anytime you say a hurtful, put-down comment, you must sincerely apologize to the recipient.The apology must state (1) why you are sorry, (2) how you think the recipient feels, and (3) what you will do to make amends. An example is: "I'm sorry I said you were stupid. I know it made you feel bad. I'll try not to say it again, but if I slip, I'll do your chores for a day." The apology may also be written, or young kids can draw it.

• Use a put-down jar. Create a new house rule: "Any family member who says a put-down comment must put twenty-five cents of his or her money in the jar for each offense— parents included! If you're short of money, you must work it off." Then set aside a jar and post a list of twenty-five-cent chores.When the jar fills up, the family brings it to their favorite charity.

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