Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:
- Be cooperative
- Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative
Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:
- Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around
The possibility of allowing choice C is what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.
Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to C and reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.
Here We Go…
What Not to Do
First, a disclaimer: This CAPP is for kids who have chosen to participate in a paid extra-curricular activity and have since chosen to opt out of participating, or have decided to participate in a way that is not acceptable. This is not for kids who have been forced to participate in extra-curricular activities. If you are forcing your child to play the piano because you think they should, or play basketball because you like basketball, this CAPP is not for you.
Do not warn, lecture or threaten. Do not talk long-windedly about the value of said activity or about the value of responsibility. During the activity, do not yell at your kid, or try to force them to do the activity appropriately. Much of this behavior comes as an attempt to get control of the parent’s emotions. Much of this behavior happens as a way to create and win a power struggle. Using this CAPP will allow the parent to avoid this power struggle altogether while allowing them to set and enforce limits without becoming angry or frustrated.
What to Do: Setting the Limit
Let your kid know that you are sorry to have lectured him in the past about his performance, his unwillingness to participate, or lack of responsibility. Let him know that you won’t be doing that anymore.
Instead, let him know that he will be allowed to participate in activities as long as the way that he participates does not embarrass your family. Let him know that if he chooses to not participate in the activity, he will be required to pay you back for any and all money you have used to pay for this activity. Let him know that he will be responsible for the entirety of all fees for the entire season.
Many parents would be uncomfortable with letting their kid quit something. Often, parents say that they don’t want to teach their kid that they can quit things. This is an understandable position, but it is probably not what most parents actually want to teach their kids. In reality, people quit things all the time: jobs, clubs, relationships. Do parents really want to teach kids to never quit? I don’t think so. In life, sometimes quitting is exactly what we should do.
What parents actually want for their kid is for them to know that there are consequences for quitting something. Logical consequences will be detailed here. Similarly, the natural consequences of quitting when doing so would adversely affect others in a significant way will be detailed under What to Do: Consequences.
What to Do: The Interventions
As a reminder, if at any point a kid refuses to participate after apologies have been made and limits have been set, go straight to consequences (see below).
Interventions for the Home
When kids whine about going to an extracurricular activity, you can set the limit by letting them know what kind of voices you respond to: “I talk to people who use big-person voices.” For teenagers, replace “big-person” with “adult.”
When kids drag their feet, the use of questions will work better than the use of demands:
“What should you do now?”
If the feet dragging or whining gets too annoying, you can use a Consequence Gateway Choice:
“You can either get in the car silently without whining, or you are telling me that you will no longer be participating in ___________, and consequences will occur.”
Interventions for the Activity Time
If an activity is one for which parents are not usually present, such as a piano lesson, communicate the appropriate information to the adult in charge of said activity and say the following to your kid: “Feel free to stay at ___________ as long as your conduct doesn’t embarrass our family. If you choose to embarrass our family, you will no longer be allowed to go to _____________ and you will repay us for this year’s fees for ___________.”
Have the instructor call you immediately when these behaviors rear their head during a one-on-one activity and ask him or her to stop instructing immediately. Have him remove your kid from the group during a group activity. Pick your kid up as soon as you are able.
If you have had the limit-setting conversation and you are at your kid’s activity with him, you will empathetically remove your kid if they act in a way that embarrasses you. Don’t do this unless you have set the limit and your kid has had multiple serious problems with their behavior at this activity. It doesn’t matter if this is a 6 year-old’s dance rehearsal or a 17 year old’s varsity basketball game. That’s right, game.
What to Do: The Consequence
Whether your kid decides on their own that they no longer wish to be involved with an activity, or their actions at home or at the activity have shown that the activity is not working out, it is time to give your child the consequence for quitting. They simply will have to pay you for the activity. This is solving the problem that quitting causes, which is that money has been wasted. The money spent for that entire season should be repaid. For a constantly ongoing activity, like instrumental lessons, some parents choose to have their kid pay for any of the lessons that were less than helpful due to a lack of reasonable effort.
If the kid has been earning money, the you can have the money given to you or you can take it. If they do not have enough money, you can keep each week’s allowance until the lessons or activity is paid off.
If your kid doesn’t have money, you can take whatever amount of toys/video games/other possessions and get the needed amount from a pawn shop. In order to avoid your kid not having money, you may want to give him an allowance:
In addition to the logical consequences that will be imposed, when someone, usually an older kid, quits an activity, and it adversely effects other people in a significant way, there are often severe natural consequences. Natural consequences happen naturally, they cannot be created. For instance, if a star basketball player quits the day before the first game of the district tournament, his team will probably lose, and he will probably be seen as the school pariah for the rest of the year. The same is true of the lead in the school play who quits two days before opening night. It is extremely rare for this to happen because these kids are getting so much positive regard when they continue to participate in these activities. There is nothing wrong with letting our kids know about these consequences one time, so they know what they are getting into. There is also nothing wrong with coaching the lead in a play through a case of the nerves, or letting a basketball player know that it is, in fact just a game, and it isn’t as important as it seems. It is also important to do some investigating to make sure your kid is not being bullied by another kid or even abused by an adult. When there appears to be no other factor when kids quit activities that they previously found highly enjoyable, these possibilities are often the cause. They should be investigated thoroughly.
Remember not to warn. Let the consequences do the teaching.
Internalize that none of these behaviors are your problem. This procedure allows you to make sure your kid understands that her behavior is her problem.