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The family way
7:00am Saturday 19th May 2012 in NewsXtra
If you have to shout to get your children to do what you ask, Noel Janis-Norton, author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, explains how to transform your kids' behaviour without raising your voice.
By Lisa Salmon.
If shouting, nagging and lecturing the kids is simply a normal part of your parenting life, you're not alone, of course.
But when your children still don't do what you want after you've asked them at least three times, you may long for an easier, less stressful carry-on.
Parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton promises that's possible, and has written the book Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting to describe the strategies she says are necessary to make children aged from three to 13 behave most of the time.
Janis-Norton, a former teacher who runs a parenting centre which helps families improve cooperation and reduce stress, has outlined the techniques she uses at the centre to encourage more parents and children to enjoy each other, without shouting or stress.
She says: "A lot of the time parents are very busy and are just reacting to things and trying to get through the day.
"We want to achieve a child who respects us and is likely to do what we ask the first time, most of the time."
In a nutshell, the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting strategies use a mixture of descriptive praise, planning, talking behaviours through and empathetic listening to make children feel both valued and motivated to cooperate, and parents more in control.
The core strategies are: :: Descriptive Praise, which involves parents noticing and commenting in detail on what a child does that's right or just OK - or even what he/she hasn't done wrong.
"Descriptive praise is much more motivating for children than ordinary praise where we just say, 'Well done' - children love it," says Janis-Norton.
:: Preparing for Success, which is a way of preventing most behaviour problems from happening in the first place, with a focus on planning so that things go right, rather than on reacting when things go wrong.
The strategy includes using techniques such as think-throughs, where a parent chooses a neutral time to ask a child several leading questions about a behaviour they want to see more. In this way, a child says what he/she should do and it's more likely to stick in their mind than if it's just a rule recited by parents, explains Janis-Norton.
:: Reflective Listening, which involves parents listening with empathy when their children are angry, frustrated or anxious, helping the strong emotions that ignite misbehaviour start to melt away.
"We tend to react to our child's misbehaviour," explains Janis-Norton, "instead of realising that we also need to address the feeling that's fuelling the misbehaviour."
:: Never Ask Twice - this is a six-step method for achieving first-time cooperation, which basically involves giving a child a clear instruction, asking him/her to repeat it accurately, and standing and waiting as you descriptively praise every step the child makes toward completing the instruction.
"Parents who follow these common-sense steps can say goodbye to nagging, repeating and reminding," promises Janis-Norton.
:: Rewards and Consequences - these are positive strategies for getting back in charge without threatening, bribing or shouting, and include following through after a child does something good or bad.
"When you're willing to follow through consistently, your children will take what you say seriously," stresses Janis-Norton.
"There will still be times when your child does the wrong thing, and parents need to follow through their strategy, rather than ignoring the behaviour.
"Ignoring misbehaviour doesn't work, and what often doesn't work as well is telling them off."
She says the strategies work regardless of the severity of the problem, and parents generally see a difference within a few weeks, and if their child is fairly easy going, within a few days.
All the strategies are equally important, she stresses, but what underpins them is that the parent needs to be in charge.
"One of the things that stresses parents is children who aren't very cooperative, so putting these strategies into place helps parents to be better tempered," she says.
"It doesn't mean that we don't listen to children, but we as the parent make the decisions."
She says the strategies don't need a lot of time, and while parents might think, for example, that they don't have the time to do the six steps of the Never Ask Twice method, she explains: "In fact, it saves you time - let's not forget that repeating, reminding, cajoling, bribing, threatening and eventually shouting to get kids to do what they're told all takes time and is stressful - much more stressful than finding a bit of time to try a new approach."
Janis-Norton says that as being so positive and consistent isn't the way most people were brought up, her methods involve a new way of looking at things.
But she promises: "You'll feel good about your children, and good about yourself as well, because you know you're being positive, firm and consistent, and all parents want to be that."
She adds: "This programme doesn't claim to turn children into angels or robots - what it does is help them to be cooperative 90% of the time.
"And it doesn't mean that parents will never shout - but they'll hardly ever shout."
Actress Helena Bonham Carter and her partner, the director Tim Burton, attended Janis-Norton's parenting classes after Bonham Carter said she'd grown weary of "becoming this policewoman, this negative being and nagger" when dealing with her children, Billy Ray, eight, and four-year-old Nell.
She said: "The parenting class has been really useful. You learn skills like descriptive praise, and it really works.
"As a parent you become happier because you're observing all these good things about your child."
:: Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting by Noel Janis-Norton is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £14.99. Available now.
Ask the expert Q: "My 10-year-old daughter never wants to drink anything in the morning before she goes to school. Does it matter, and if so, why?"
A: Professor Gerard Friedlander from the Descartes University Medical School in Paris, who has just supervised research by the University of Sheffield Medical School into British children's hydration levels, says: "Maintaining good hydration - drinking plenty of fluids - is as important as having a healthy diet.
"Being well hydrated is especially important for your daughter because, as a child, she's more vulnerable to dehydration than an adult.
"Also, children don't always pay attention to the feeling of thirst, so may not naturally ask for a drink.
"Our bodies are made up of 60% water and all our organs, including our brain, need water to function properly.
"We know as adults that when we're not well hydrated we can get lethargic and it's hard to concentrate. When children go to school we're asking them to fire on all cylinders, and so it's important that they have sufficient fluid and nutrition to do this.
"Being insufficiently hydrated regularly can put undue strain on the kidneys and can, in some cases, lead to future health problems - even dehydration, which can have severe consequences.
"Although all drinks and food contribute towards hydration levels, our research shows that most children don't get enough at breakfast time to stay well hydrated throughout the morning. Having milk with breakfast is a great way to start the day but, after that, plain water is the best and healthiest fluid to drink.
"I'd recommend you encourage your daughter to have a small glass of water before she leaves for school, and then perhaps she could try sipping from a bottle on her way to school or during her morning break. In total I'd suggest aiming for eight small (150ml) glasses of water a day.
"Many children say they don't like the taste of water, but it's important that as a parent you try to educate them that they must drink water, just like you'd encourage them to eat fruit and vegetables."
Playing at the Jubilee Little Miss Princess And The Very Special Party Little Miss Princess, who made her debut for the royal wedding last year, appears in a new book full of favourite Mr Men and Little Miss characters to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Written by Adam Hargreaves and published by Egmont, £2.99, available from all good bookshops.
Happyland Queen's Diamond Jubilee Set A miniature figure of the Queen in a white ballgown and crown, along with a faithful corgi and a celebration cake. Suitable for 18 months plus, £5, available from www.elc.co.uk, Early Learning Centres and some Mothercare stores.
JCB Talking Joey Special Edition A Union Jack talking JCB with five fun phrases, a flashing light and an articulated scoop. Based on a real Union Jack JCB digger that was auctioned to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity, with 70p from every toy going to the charity. Suitable for 12 months plus, £10, available from Argos, Boots and www.amazon.co.uk