Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedure (CAPP): What do Do When Your Kid Acts Out at Someone Else’s House
Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:
1. Be cooperative
2. 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:
3. 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…
When your child has a habit of acting out in public, is there anything more nerve-racking and potentially embarrassing than taking your kid to an event where other parents have also brought their children?
Yikes! No parent wants to be in this position. We presently live in a society where parents are judged by whether or not their kids “behave,” but we also live in a world where actual working procedures for eliciting those positive behaviors are hard to come by.
The bad news is that, if you use this procedure the next time you take your kid to a party or event, he or she may still use lots of negative behaviors. The good news is that this will be the last time that happens.
What Not to Do
Don’t warn. When you say, “Don’t do that again!” kids hear, “You are allowed to do that at least once.”
Don’t accept behaviors that you don’t like. If your kid is using behaviors that you find to be anti-social (they cause a problem for another human being) and they embarrass you, that behavior needs to stop.
What to Do: Setting the Limit
As you approach the event, right before your kid goes off to play with other kids, say one time, “You will be allowed to be at this (party, bar mitzvah, etc.) for as many seconds as you can manage to not cause a problem. Good luck!”
When you see the host of the event, let them know that you are experimenting with a Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedure, that you are going to be significantly more strict with your kid than you have been in the past, and that you and your kid will probably be leaving early. Say both hello and goodbye when you talk to the host.
What to Do: Interventions
The purpose of these interventions is to allow you to use the minimum amount of energy to gently guide your kid to use pro-social behaviors before he has really caused a problem for someone else, at which point we will go to What to Do: The Consequence.
For all but the very youngest kids (under four), choose one of these interventions and use it only one time. You actually want your kid to get to consequences! That is how they will learn: through suffering consequences. Your kid(s) won’t learn by you telling them to do things, but they will learn by you taking action without giving warnings.
The parent must be in the room to use these, so feel free to hover, gently spy, or walk through where your kid is playing or hanging out. Here are three excellent interventions that don’t take a lot of time, make you look like a cool, strong parent, and won’t embarrass your kid. Remember, these should be done right before your kid really causes a problem: right before she gets into a shoving match, right as before an argument escalates to a screaming match, or right before your kid eats or does something that you have said they are not allowed to.
Confused Eye: Look in a totally perplexed way at your kid. Tilt your head to one side. Furrow your brow. This says, “You’re so smart and awesome. I’m confused as to why you’re about to do what you’re about to do.”
Request Thinking: Look at your kid. If you can’t get eye contact, say their name. Put your index finger to your temple. Say, “Think.”
Ask the Mother of All Awesome Questions: Say, “What should you do now?” This question forces your kid to actually think about his actions without telling him what to do. Asking a question encourages thinking instead of leading you towards a power struggle.
These interventions are not designed to force your child to stop behaviors that see, like they are going to become anti-social. They are just giving your kid some gentle guidance to not cause a problem. Once your kid does cause a problem, go to What to Do: The Consequence.
What to Do: The Consequence
The purpose of Calm/Assertive Consequences is to teach your kid a lesson about the real-life implications of what happens when you act in an anti-social way. They are always administered with sadness instead of anger. Anger usually comes from not having all of the bases covered. It comes from kids getting to choice “C.” Since we have the bases covered, we can be calm.
When your child causes a problem, simply say the following: “Oh, man.” Then get all of your possessions and your kid’s possessions. Put the stuff in the car, or carry it if you are walking home or taking public transportation. Say the following to your kid, and whisper if possible: “Oh, man. You caused a problem. That means we have to leave. Do you want to leave holding my hand, or would you like to walk out with me?”
Just leave. Smile. Cheerily say “goodbye” to people as you leave, but do not go out of your way to talk to anyone.
Your kid will probably be upset. That’s fine. He now understands, through your actions, that when you say something, you mean it.
If your kid refuses to leave, and he is small enough to carry, give him the choice to either walk with you or fly with you. If he doesn’t walk with you immediately, say, “Flying it is then.” Pick up your kid and walk out of the house.
If you wish, you can give an additional consequence later for having to “destress” you, by doing your chores or doing something else to make you feel less stressed.
If your kid is too big to carry and you are concerned that he will refuse to leave the house or event, that kid has no business being in public. For a blog post on retraining your kid to be able to be in public, go here: https://www.ervineducationalconsulting.com/how-to-train-your-kid-at-home-to-not-meltdown-while-on-vacation/
In order to alleviate feelings of embarrassment, especially if you are pretty sure your kid is going to get to consequences, talk openly with the adults at the event about how you are planning on leaving early, that you are retraining your kid to only use pleasant, positive behaviors, and that you are setting your world up so you won’t have to be angry or frustrated anymore. You may be surprised at how other parents will admire your strength and good sense!
If you have other kids in tow who you don’t think will cause a problem, you have two choices: plan in advance for them to be brought home by another family (remember to leave the appropriate boosters or car seats) or plan on taking them home as well. Either is fine, and depending on the ages of the guilty and innocent, the negative feelings from the innocent might influence the behavior of the guilty.