Wednesday, October 8, 2008

PPP #12 ♥ Ask a Stupid Question....

Parenting Pointers Post #12
Help for the Frazzled Mom!
Based on Dr. Glenn I. Latham's book The Power of Positive Parenting

"Behave well. Good parenting is first a matter of teaching, second a matter of modeling, and never a matter of reacting." Dr. Glenn I. Latham

I am so excited for the discovery I just made! I just found a link to Dr. Latham's Free Online Course Materials!!! Do you know how cool that is? That means you don't have to buy the book, you can just go to this link and read most of what is in his book!

I wasn't surprised one bit, because Dr. Latham's main goal was not to make money on what he taught, but to get the word out to help parents and children! He was so amazing! And now hopefully through the power of the internet, his life's work will be able to reach ALL who need it. Namely everyone who is a parent or teaches children in any way. I knew he would find a way from the other side to keep promoting the best way to raise children! Go HERE to become a better parent!


Ask a stupid question and you get a stupid answer.

Have you ever asked any of the following:

☻Why did you hit your sister? (because she is ugly and I wanted to make her look better)
☻Is there a reason why you threw that rock? (no, I just like to hear the sound of breaking glass)
☻Why did you wet your pants? (because I like to make you mad)
☻Why can't you put your things away?(because I like to spend hours looking for them later)
☻How could you possibly hit a parked car? (it was easy, I just didn't put on the brake)
☻Do you call this horrible mess a room? (no, I call it a mess)
☻Do you want your face to stick like that? (yeah, then I won't need a costume for Halloween)
☻How many times have I told you not to do that? (not exactly sure, but I think it is about 3245 times)

One of Dr. Latham's basic rules for raising children is to not question children about their behavior unless you really need information for problem solving There are two main reasons for this. First, you don't really want an answer-and even if you get one, it doesn't improve things; behavior doesn't get any better. The second reason is that by asking questions about the behavior, the child is getting lots and lots of attention for that behavior and the probability is very high that the attention will strengthen the very behavior being questioned; hence, the probability increases that it will reoccur.

Dr. Latham said he was forever amazed at how much family discord and hostile parent-child interactions are caused by the improper use of questioning. When one carefully analyzes how questioning is used, it's no wonder problems arise. Consider these examples from Dr. Latham's book:

Parent: "Billy, why did you hit your brother?! Haven't I told you a hundred times not to hit your brother? How many times am I going to have to tell you to quit hitting your brother?!"

Billy: "I hit my brother because he is very ugly and I was only trying to fix his face. Yes, in fact you've told me 112 times to quit hitting him. I'll quit hitting him when he quits being ugly."

Parent: "Okay. Thank you. I just wanted to know!"

Though this example uses an absurd response from the child, and a subsequently absurd response from the parent ("I just wanted to know"), these are no more absurd than the questions being asked. In the first place, the questions were not asked to get information from the child. They were simply words the parent used to blow off steam, a desperate attempt to get the child to "shape up"! Nothing the child would have said would have been acceptable.

For example:

Billy: "He started it! Why do you always get after me when it's not my fault?! I hate that dumb brother of mine. I wish he'd die. The only thing he does is get me in trouble!

This is a more likely answer. Not absurd at all. But does it set the stage for problem solving? No. What typically happens is that the discussion-by now an argument-is off on a tangent and things will only get worse:

Parent: "You're always blaming your brother for everything! And besides he's smaller than you are. Furthermore, don't you ever-do you understand me young man?! - don't you EVER say those wicked things about your brother!"

By now you can see what's happening. It's a lose-lose situation no matter how you cut it. If the child answers the question, absurdly or otherwise, he's in trouble because the parent was never looking for an answer in the first place. Once again, according to Dr. Latham, that's the first reason you never ask a child to explain his inappropriate behavior. The second reason is that the behavior is more likely to be repeated because the child is getting lots of attention for it. The principle to be kept in mind is this: behavior is strengthened by attention, and behavior that is strengthened is behavior that will more probably reoccur. In the examples, the parents have strengthened the very behaviors they want to get rid of.

Dr. Latham states: "Parents almost never ask questions to get answers."

Some more examples from his book:

Avoid asking questions if you expect the answer to:
Be one you don't want to hear:"Are you going to school today?"Rather, assume that he/she is going to school and be directive: "It's time to get ready for school."
Alienate you from others: "Why don't you get your hair cut?"Rather, use contingencies to do your nagging:"You bet you can use the car Saturday, Son. Just as soon as you get your hair cut."
Provide no answer: "How many times have I told you to hang up your clothes?"Rather, either ignore it, and wait until it's done, then acknowledge it, or let contingencies do your nagging: "Your allowance is ready once your clothes are hung up/room cleaned."
Prompt the child to lie: "Did you steal that money from my dresser?"Rather, say nothing until you have proof, then administer the pre-understood consequences. In the meantime, keep your money as secure as possible.
Be obvious: "Have you been smoking again?" Rather, give empathy:"I'm really sorry you have chosen to smoke. When you decide to quit, I'll be happy to help in any way I can." In the meantime, the natural and logical consequences of smoking must/will be felt.Natural consequences: Coughing, bad smell, damage to the body. Social consequences: No car privileges, allowance, etc.
Arouse personal animosities: "Why do you associate with such crummy people?"Rather, keep your mouth shut unless and until you can say something good.
Lead to further conflict: "Aren't you just about the biggest mess imaginable?"
Rather, wait for a positive characteristic to surface, then "pay that off."

A final note from Dr. Latham about questioning. Do not ask a child a question if you already know the answer: Alice has failed to get her homework done because she dawdled her time away watching TV.
Parent: "Alice, why haven't you gotten your homework done?"
In light of what you've read, why is this useless and how can it even make a bad situation worse? Here's a better way:
Parent: "Alice, turn off the TV and complete your homework now."

☻Never question children about their inappropriate behaviors unless you need information to aid in problem solving. When, out of anger and frustration, parents question their children, several negative results commonly occur, including: The asking of more useless questions. Since, at times like these, parents really don't expect an answer, if an answer is given it is rejected, only to be followed by another dumb question. Eventually emotions get out of control and things get progressively worse.
☻The strengthening of inappropriate behavior. Since questioning children about their behavior is a form of parental attention, that attention tends to strengthen the very behavior that is a problem; hence, that behavior is more likely to reoccur.
☻The encouragement to lie. It is not at all unusual for children (or adults) to lie when questioned about things that could reflect badly on them.

As always...good luck, and as Dr. Latham used to say:


LarryG said...

Jodi, Why did you post this? And did you in fact hit your brother before you posted it? :)
Very good info - and thank you for the link. I bookmarked Dr Latham's web page.

Kelli said...

I am going to jump on over there and check this out. Interesting. I can always use more advise (good advise) hehe

da Bergs said...

GREAT info!!! THANK YOU!!! I added it to my fav's....

And, I like the new things you added to your side bar!!!

Kelsee said...

He has it right on! Wish it were as easy to do as it sounds though!

Thanks for inspiring me to be better once again!

Tiffany said...

Wow, that's one I need to work on. I'm sure it's tougher than it sounds. Hmmm, really needed that!:)

Tiffany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mich said...

Love these posts! This is something I had never thought of thanks!

fawndear said...

Thanks for the reminder. It seems I need it daily.

His book 'Christlike Parenting' is one of my fav's.

Jodi said...


Yes that book is so powerful! It is also one of my favorites! My husband and I were asked by him to read it (edit and write a review) before it was published and so I literally scoured that one. It is one of those that sits right next to my scriptures when it comes to parenting. Incredible book! I am planning on talking about it in my next parenting post!

Jen said...

Thanks for the reminders. I am really bad at this one. I ask stupid questions all the time. It really is a way to take out frustrations. Not good. Now that it's said, it only makes sense, but not one I would have automatically thought of. Thanks!

Yvonne said...

I know I've asked stupid questions--thanks for the reminder and the link.


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