Building Parenting Skills: Implementation
If you have read the previous two articles titled: "Building a more positive relationship between you and your child- Attending" and " The Johnson family gives a go at the "attending" skill " then you might have realized the importance of "attending" technique. This skill lays the grounds for a more positive relationship between you and your child, leading to improvements in his or her behavior.
At this point, you might be wondering: "Ok great, so how can we actually learn this technique?" Lets attend to the hot stuff:
Practice, practice, practice
Like everything in life, the best way to learn attending skills, is to set some time aside and practice. Create practice sessions where you will be describing aloud what the child is doing. As a rule of thumb, if you are attending well, then anyone over-hearing should be able to tell exactly what your child is doing. Imagine you are like a sportscaster giving play-to-play commentary only it is on your child's behavior and with a positive regard (Sportscasters do tend to get a bit biased, don't they?) Many parents feel uncomfortable and silly or even sounding childlike during the first session. If you are feeling this way, then kudos! It means you are doing the right job!
To start with, set aside at least two ten-minute periods per day. Play periods are when you sit down with your child in a play situation without anyone interrupting. We know it is difficult and you might be quite busy, but if you want this to work, then it is essential you put the effort into it! It is also necessary for you to become "child-focused". That means when you are in a play-time, your thoughts, attention, talking and hence mind is 100% there - not at work, dinner, tonight's football game, Mary's midlife crisis or anything else. Just your little-one.
During play session, have a number of toys available for play. Tell your child that you want to play whatever he wants to play (well, within reason.) Your job, is to describe your child's appropriate behavior with attending statements (A few examples for a reminder: "Boy, you sure can build high walls!" or "I really enjoyed the castle you built yesterday!") In case he displays minor inappropriate behaviors, try to ignore it. Remember, you can also imitate your child's behavior as it passes the message that "I'm interested in you and what you are doing". Avoid instructions or questions or trying to teach your kid. This is your child's time to direct the activity and for you to observe!
It can be very helpful to tape-record your self during play sessions in order to see the number of attends, questions and instructions you gave to your child (you would be be surprised ...!) or have your spouse observe you while you do it. At first you need to be thinking on what you are about to say and the wording of it. If you are thinking to say "Are you stacking the blocks?", simply say "Now, you are stacking the blocks!"
"Why are you talking funny Mom?"
What happens in the case that your child says something like "Why are you talking funny?". Well you can simply say, "I am just interested in how you are playing." If he does continue to question you, ignore the questions and focus on attending with interest and enthusiasm. In case you notice your child becoming over stimulated, simply reduce the frequency of your attends.
Set some time aside
Find two "natural times" to use attending with your child for at least five minutes each. For example, it could take place while you are riding the car with your child, sitting with him while he takes a bath or grocery shopping together. All of these are excellent times to begin incorporating the attending skill into your daily routine.
If you are thinking, "Great, should I never issue another instruction to my child or ask him another question again?" By no means in this case. There are many times every day when your child has to do many things (such as go to school or do chores). At those times you should continue to issue instructions to your child. When you do need to ask your child a question, make sure you listen to his response. So here is your weekly challenge: Focus only on attending for the next seven days! Below you can see some general guidelines of do's and don'ts for practice sessions.
Guidelines for Practice Sessions: Attending
Imitate your child's behavior
Try to teach
Tape-record the session or have someone observe you
Evaluate your performance
Reward yourself for your efforts or performance
Recognize that learning to attend effectively will require substantial work on your part
Issue any instructions
Attend to (describe) your child's appropriate behavior
Ask any questions
Forehand & Long: Parenting the strong-willed child: the clinically effective proven five-week program for parents of two-to six-year olds.