Grabbing Glasses Off Your Face a la Alfie Kohn

There has been a flurry of blog activity on NY Times Motherload following a Sept 15 NY TImes article by Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting. I want to reach Mr. Kohn. Any suggestions would be welcome.

You can help by posting a quick comment about SWYS on Motherload with a link to my website:

The world and Mr. Kohn need to know about the simplicity of SWYS. Thanks – Sandy

Grabbing Glasses Example: Here’s the example I posted (comment #122) in response to another parent’s comment (#108) that read: “Yeah this will totally work with my 10 month old when she yanks my hair or rips my glasses off my face and flings them to the ground…”:

When your 10 month old reaches for your glasses to throw say: “You want to throw! Here’s bunny. Throw that!” (Point where it’s OK with you to throw it.)

Said with excitement in your voice to match the child’s, even a 10 month old will get that you are on his/her side. If you can find something that clatters when it falls, even better. The closer you match what I call the CAN DO to the child’s initial action, the more successful you will be at shifting the behavior into something that works for you both.

For example, if the child’s intent was more about grabbing something off your face, as silly as it sounds, put something on your face the child can grab & throw ( a little plastic toy that will clatter when it’s thrown, or a washcloth which would add the beloved hide & seek game to the play?) and respond with enthusiasm to match the child’s when he/she grabs and throws that instead.

Provide the CAN DO a few times and the child will learn the pattern of what’s OK with you without punishment or reward.

If the child looks pleased with the throw, you get to add the STRENGTH, “You threw that just the way you wanted to!” Then as your child grows, you can continue to point out fact-based STRENGTHs (NOT opinion-based praise) to help him see his strengths like, “You looked first then threw! That shows you are careful!”

Since children act according to who they believe they are, shifting beliefs permanently shifts behaviors. No punishment, no rewards. Again, just like Mr. Kohn says.

Kohn, Faber & Mazlish, Ginott and I all come from the same place; the difference is that I am a parent, not a psychologist, so I simplified it into a how-to that even I can do.

It has turned out to be the basic 3 steps everyone is asking for. It is always right for the moment and for every child because what you say basically comes from the child. And it always starts with the same thing: SAY WHAT YOU SEE (objective observation).

SAY WHAT YOU SEE (not what you think) to connect and validate;
See something you like, add a STRENGTH;
See something you don’t like, offer a CAN DO.

I posted the little SAY WHAT YOU SEE handbook in full on my website to share with other parents around the world, and I invite your readers to take a look at it. Quick read.

As it turns out psychologists love it. Every time I teach it, parents’ jaws drop and they say in amazement, “It can’t be that easy!” I would love for Mr. Kohn to see it. It completely supports what he and other great psychologists like him have been trying to tell us all along.

Bottom line, it works.

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