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 Cis 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 Cand 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…
If you are like me, your mornings are eventful. I always make my wife and daughter breakfast and pack my daughter’s lunch. When my wife was still teaching, I would pack her lunch as well. Of course, there can also beclothes to iron, homework to finish, and gym shoes to locate.
Because we are all very busy in the mornings, in order to have functional mornings, it is imperative to have a well-trained, efficient eater at the breakfast table. That is, the kid must be at the table on time and eating at a reasonable speed. You simply have too many things to do in the morning to use less than efficient tactics.
Before we set the limit, and before we get to tomorrow morning’s procedure, the first step takes place tonight. I know you have been trying to do this for a while, but you need to commit to making sure that everything that can be done in order to get out of the house on time is done the night before.
How to Set the Limit
As you wake up your kid(s), simply say these exact words:
I will be serving breakfast from 7:30 to 8:00. No breakfast will be available after 8:00.
Also, you will be allowed to eat breakfast until 8:00.
Two limits have been set.
If or when your kid(s) arrive at the breakfast table from 7:30 to 8:00 say these exact words:
Feel free to eat your breakfast until 8:00.
Notes on Setting the Limit:
- Of course, make the times appropriate with their schedule, but give at least a 20-minute window.
- The 8:00 deadline must stand, even if the kid comes down at 7:58 and only has enough time to pour the cereal but not eat it.
- Do not lecture or remind! The job of the parent is to simply set and enforce limits with calm empathy. The consequences will set the limit, not the parent’s words!
- Scaffold appropriately for kids who can’t tell time. Saying “Feel free to eat breakfast the big hand is on the 12,” for example, would help younger kids to understand the limit.
- Feel free to have fun and talk with your kids in the mornings, and don’t use any other words when setting the limit.
Enforcing the Limit
Now that you have set the limit, your kid or kids will try testing the limit to see if, in fact, it is a limit at all. This will happen on the first day of procedure implementation, unless your kids are weird. Here is the important and perhaps counterintuitive understanding: we want them to test the limits! How else will they know that they are there?
The first limit they test may be coming down to breakfast on time. If they come to the breakfast table after 8:00 and ask where breakfast is or try to find breakfast for themselves, ONLY say:
Oh, man. When do I serve breakfast?
Unless your kid is very strange, she will totally freak out. This is a normal reaction for a kid not getting what she wants. It is good and healthy. No breakfast is served and she goes to school without breakfast.
The other limit that your kid(s) may challenge is either coming down too close to the 8:00 cut-off so there is not enough time to eat, or eating too slowly, or both. As is the case in all CAPPs, there is a simple limit enforcing move for all negative behaviors. In this case it is the negative behavior of not getting with the program in the mornings. The second8:00 rolls around, you simply say these words:
Three big bites, three big sips. You know what to do.
At that point, you wait as long as you think that three sips and three bites should take, and you take the breakfast away from your kid while saying the following and only the following:
Your kid(s) will become very upset at that point.
Notes on Enforcing the Limit
- Make sure your kid doesn’t have a medical condition called dysphagia: a difficulty in swallowing. If he does, do exactly the same procedure, and give a larger window during which he can eat.
- One fix for parents who don’t want to send their kid(s) to school without food is to have a loaf of bread and water bottles available on the way out the door. Don’t prepare special bags or pour the water, but allow for a few seconds for them to scramble and get bread and water. If you like, you can have a small dollop of peanut butter available for spreading. Of course, if your kid is diabetic or has some other nutritional challenge, adjust this as necessary.
- The second fix is to make a slightly larger lunch than usual when you first start this when you know that your kid(s) will be testing the limits and may not get breakfast.
- If your child is small enough to carry, when the tantrum occurs, ask the child if she would like to walk to the car or fly. Unless she immediately chooses walk, say, “Flying it is!”, pick her up and carry her to the car.
- If they are too big to carry, do the same thing, but give the choice to go with or without holding hands. If they choose anything but walking without holding hands, gently but firmly take them by the hand and take them to the car.
- If the child is old and large enough, and he refuses to go to the car, give the choice to either get in the car or have a police officer take him to school and/or charge him with truancy and or being an unruly youth, or whatever the term is in your state. If he comes with you, great. If not, make the call to the police. You may want to give your local police department a call beforehand if you think that this is a possibility.