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Ep #104: Investing time with your child


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As parents, we have limited time to invest in our children. We can, though, make our investment count–even with limited time. How? By focusing our energy and efforts on the areas that will create the most return by using Effective Praise.

Effective Praise helps you focus on what your children are doing well, no matter how small, and letting them know what you saw. 

Using the skill of Effective Praise builds your relationship in a few ways. 

First, it signals to your child that they matter. When children feel like they are valued, they are more likely to respond positively to correction.

Second, is it focuses on the positive instead of the negative. Where we focus our energy is what will grow. The more positive interactions we have with our children now, the more positive interactions we will have with them in the future. 

Third, it allows your child to understand what is expected of them. By pointing out the positive, you are encouraging them to repeat that behavior.

Fourth, it builds your relationship. Your child will trust, respect, and love you because they will understand that you are there to help them grow and be successful and they will not want to disappoint you.

Effective Praise doesn’t require huge effort or time, but we promise the return will be incredible. 

Learn how to give Effective Praise by visiting SmarterParenting.com:

If you need one-on-one help to implement Effective Praise, join the Smarter Parenting Club:

Episode Transcript

This is Episode 104.

We welcome you to the ADHD Smarter Parenting Podcast. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.

Join the Smarter Parenting Club

Hello, my friends. How are you? I hope you’re doing well. Thank you for joining me today. I am so excited about today because we are going to use an economics principle to understand parenting, and this is going to help you take it to the next level. This is next-level stuff, people. So, super important for you to pay attention to.

There are three specific things that I want you to be able to understand by the end of this podcast and your ability to apply the skill of Effective Praise with your child. So during this podcast, I am going to be sharing a story with you of a family that I worked with years ago. In fact, the young man that was 15 at the time, is now a grown man. He’s married and has children. But being able to watch him grow and develop over this time span, you would be amazed at the progress that he has made.

So, there are three things that I want you to be able to understand and take with you by the end of this podcast. The very first thing is that even small efforts in what we apply in these skills will yield big results for you. The second thing I want you to be able to leave with is I want to motivate you to practice with full fidelity the Model that we have, meaning that if you are using Effective Praise, you will use each component each step the way that it’s intended to be used, and you will see greater impact and greater change. And the third thing that you will walk away with by the end of this podcast is understanding that every interaction that you have with your child is important. Every interaction.

Now I’m going to introduce the family that I’m talking about because it’s important for you to understand the context of how this all came to be. I was working with the father. His name is Darren. He was recently divorced and he had three sons. Now the two sons live with their mother, but Nathaniel wanted to live with his father. So Nathaniel was highly rebellious against both his mother and his father, and his mom really struggled. And so it was decided by them that Nathaniel would move in with Darren and Darren would take care of him and raise him.

Now, Nathaniel was 15-years-old at the time. Nathaniel was involved with the court system for drug possession and distribution. And so I was called into the home in order to help Nathaniel adjust and help him follow the rules and be consistent in what his parents established for him to follow.

So I came into the picture late in the game. In fact, Nathaniel was to a point where he was so disobedient and so disruptive, he would not go to school. He would continually use substances, illegal substances that his probation officer was to the point of recommending he be removed from the home because he just was not following through.

So I had a big pow-wow with Darren. Darren was very wealthy. Darren had a successful career in business, real estate. And so he was his own boss. He had a lot of money and he invested in a lot of help to try and help Nathaniel break this habit. So our discussions went back and forth. And in my work with this family, I would go into the home and become part of the family in order to see the dynamics and then help make suggestions to bring everybody together.

While I was working with Darren, Darren was at the end of his rope. He was tired. He’s like, “I just cannot connect with this kid.” So I met with Darren initially talking about his goals and what he wanted in the end with his child, with Nathaniel. Nathaniel would come into the room and he would just roll his eyes. He would sit at a distance. He would swear at his dad. He would stomp out of the room. And this initially didn’t happen when I first started working with the family. But even after a week, he would put up a facade that everything was great. And I started to see the cracks.

Now, the benefit of the work that I did in going into people’s homes and observing behavior and integrating new rules was that after a while, you can only pretend things for a certain time. And after a while, your true self comes out. I would spend eight to 10 hours in the home with this family. And after a while, he became so comfortable with me there. It was almost as if I was part of the family. So, I started to see what Nathaniel was like to Darren in the home and I started to understand Darren’s frustration with his son.

So we were discussing different ways that we could approach it. Now, Darren, because he was successful in his business, he was very business-minded. He continually thought about business and business principles and application, a very technical thinker. And I, on the other hand, and somebody who is more on the social work side of things, my interest is in helping people. If you think about me, I’m kind of like just a big Care Bear in many ways. And I openly admit that. I am a very warm person and I gravitate towards helping people because I feel like that’s something that I’m driven to do. It gives me motivation. And so our communication was a little rocky at the beginning.

He saw the world in one way and I saw the world in another. And so we were discussing ways that we could implement skills to build strength in the relationship between Darren and Nathaniel. What I found is that the rationales are the reasons that I was getting Darren to connect with his child and how to make it work just were not sticking. Darren just didn’t feel like those were motivating enough for him to change the way he was interacting with his child.

So I had to do some additional digging, and this is the beauty of what I do because I have worked with so many different families over so much time that I’m almost a master of discussing just about any topic. I’ve learned so much from the people that I’ve worked with because they come from varied backgrounds. Now, Darren taught me a lot about business. He taught me about principles in governing business, and I actually did some additional homework on the side to better understand his mindset and understand motivations to help him along the way. We decided to focus on Effective Communication and Effective Praise. So those are the two skills that we’re going to work on with Nathaniel in the home.

Now, back to the three things that I want you to be able to understand. The first one is even small efforts affect things. Number two was to motivate you to practice with full fidelity the Model that we have implemented, and number three was understand that every interaction is important. I want you to keep those in mind as I continue telling you about Darren and Nathaniel and during this process.

So, during the third week, I came to Darren and we sat down and sat at a table and I had done some research on something called a Pareto Principle. It’s an economics principle. And I asked Darren if he knew what the Pareto Principle was. Darren said he wasn’t familiar with it although he was open to discussing it. So let me explain what the Pareto Principle is. The Pareto Principle is named after an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, who noted that an 80/20 connection between things. So he was at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland in 1896. So he wrote about it.

What he observed, and this had to do with politics, that there was an 80/20 split. So 20% of people own the land in Italy while 81 present did not own the land in Italy. And so they control, the governments, 20% did, while everybody else followed. So it’s this distribution of what is happening. Now, you may think, well, that’s interesting. There is a rumor that there is an 80/20 principle as well in regards to Vilfredo Pareto in the garden. He was able to observe that 80% of the peas he was able to get came from 20% of the plants. So he was able to yield more than he was inputting and producing.

Now, that actually is super impressive. And we started to talk about this principle, the Pareto Principle, and I related it to him applying the scale of Effective Praise with his son. So we were talking about his interactions with his son throughout the day. And if he were able to focus 20% of that time into praising his son effectively and following all the steps and really focused in on that, that it would yield a greater result in the end. Now he was skeptical. He was completely skeptical to this idea. And in fact, for me, I thought, “Well, this is an area that you can test and that you can try, and based on your interest in economics and your interest in business, let’s try this out and see if the Pareto Principle applies.” And so we were able to discuss this further.

Now, what was interesting is I left that meeting with Darren. And when I came back, he had done a lot more research into the Pareto Principle. Come to find out that the Pareto Principle is being used in various models. So this includes Microsoft. So Microsoft, the business, they were able, and this is a published article, they were able to problem shoot 80% of their problems by focusing on the top 20% of issues that customers reported. So by fixing the 20% most reported bugs in their program, 80% of the errors disappeared. Interesting, right? It’s also been applied to sports. Meaning how much exercise do we need to do in order to get a greater output? Because you only have a limited amount of time that you can do something and what’s going to yield the greatest results in the long run.

So this principle became the driving force in our conversation in how we were going to apply the skill of Effective Praise for the greatest maximum return. Now, remember, he’s into real estate. He’s into business. He’s into getting a return for his investment. And so this was a way that I could connect with him and also help him apply these skills. We went through the steps of Effective Praise and the steps to Effective Praise are super simple. There’s only four steps.

First, you’re going to show your approval, find a positive in something that your child is doing well.

Second, you’re going to describe the positive behavior and you’re going to be very specific about what they’re doing well.

Number three is you’re going to give a meaningful reason, which is a meaningful reason for your child to continue behaving that way.

And then step four is optional. It’s give a reward to reinforce that positive behavior.

Four steps, super, super easy.

So we Role-played it. We practiced it. Now, remember I told you, Nathaniel was a highly rebellious child and he struggled. So we started off praising the simple things: him coming home, walking through the door, him putting his bag on the floor, him grabbing something from the refrigerator, and then cleaning up after himself. All of those minor things, we were going to focus on praising.

We practiced it. I practiced being Darren, Darren practiced being Nathaniel. And then we switched it and we Role-played it together before Nathaniel came home. And then we started to implement it.

Now, what was interesting was Nathaniel responded to it pretty immediately. He realized something was different and something was strange, but he wasn’t quite sure what. So Darren started to implement Effective Praise in his interaction. And what we did was we determined throughout his day how much time he’s going to spend with his child and then focused 20% of that time into specifically following Effective Praise. He was going to effectively praise his son this amount of time throughout the day. Super, super powerful for him to be able to see that dynamic and then follow that plan. So this is the plan that we set up for each other, and that I was holding him accountable to.

Now, one of the things that he was able to observe immediately was even small efforts affect larger things. He started to notice even after praising his son for a short amount of time that it was yielding some results back and his son was starting to respond in a different way to him. So instead of complaining to his son or yelling at his son for something he did inappropriately, his son now was noticing that his dad was praising him for positive things and reacting in a positive way.

Now, during my time working with them during my fifth week with them, I started to observe that Darren was not following the steps the way that he should. And so I went back and sat down with Darren and said, “Darren, it is super important that you follow each step specifically the way it’s outlined, meaning you have to give a meaningful reason in step number three that is meaningful for Nathaniel. Otherwise, there’s no reason for him to continue to do so.” That required us to really go back and write down what those meaningful reasons are.

So what this sounded like was Nathaniel would come home and he would go to the kitchen and he would grab a bowl of cereal. So his father would show approval, find a positive in step one. Say, “Hey, I noticed you came in and you were focused on getting your cereal and getting something to eat, which is really good.” So he’s describing the behavior in step two. Step three, being able to get a snack after school is a good thing because it makes you full and puts you in a good mood. And it makes you ready to do all the other things that are about to happen. So that’s wonderful, all the things that you’re required to do. And so we continue that.

Now, remember step four is an optional reward. So we didn’t offer a reward for that. But basically, we just walked through his day. Anything he did well or that he was doing that we could praise, we would praise. I mean, that is something that’s super simple. We weren’t waiting for big actions from Nathaniel. We were just adjusting to things he was doing well, which was going home and grabbing a bowl of cereal.

So, Nathaniel started to respond to this. And again, with Darren during the fifth week, I was like, “Hey, listen, you have to follow each of the steps. You have to give a meaningful reason. You can’t just praise and leave it alone because then it’s an incomplete interaction.” So we practiced it and Darren was able to implement it. So I wanted to motivate him to practice with full fidelity to each of the steps because they’re all interconnected.

We started to notice a change happening the very first time we did it, but it started to incrementally improve over time. This was a fantastic thing for Darren to see. Now Darren needed me to point out some of the nuanced interactions between them. Because for some reason, he started to believe this was normal and he was doing things that were natural and that it was just a natural outcome of him being him.

And yet I was like, “Okay, Darren, before he would walk in the door and Nathaniel would do something and you would complain about it. And then you would yell at him and then you would start an argument. And then pretty much he was rolling his eyes, slamming his books, and leaving the house. And so the difference is we’ve implemented Effective Praise with your son. You followed the steps with fidelity. Your small efforts have yielded a bigger result.” And he was able to recognize the difference between the two.

It was an 80/20 split. When we looked at it and we figured it out, it was an 80/20 split. He was spending 20% of his time with his child, praising him for all the positive things he did, and he noticed an increase in his son’s ability to follow through. So again, those small efforts affect larger things. If we’re able to tweak the small things, the larger things come along. And the second thing was that I had to motivate him to practice with full fidelity. If you leave out a step in these skills, you are not tying it up nicely in a package that your child can understand and comprehend. And so it leaves things open for interpretation, which is something we don’t want. We want our child to be very clear about where we stand on things and to understand exactly what we are praising for. It was wonderful to see this interaction.

Now at the end of my visit with Darren and with Nathaniel, we sat down and we started to talk about understanding that every interaction is important. So I outlined for Darren understanding that when his child was five, by using a visual, I pointed out to Darren that when his child was five, I have this jar and it was filled with little fuzzy balls. And I said, “If this represented how many days you had with your child, this would be full.” Then I pulled up another jar and said, “Okay, this represents when he’s 10 years old. If you’ll notice, these fuzzy balls in here are much less, meaning you don’t have that much time to interact with your child.” And then I pulled up another one when he’s 15. And they showed that there were even less of those fuzzy balls in there, demonstrating that when a child is young, you have a lot more time to be with your child, to reintegrate and reinforce these ideas for Effective Praise. And then as they get older, you have limited time, very, very limited time.

Now, after we discussed the limited time that he had, I started to emphasize to him that every interaction that he has with his child is important. Every interaction. Even if it’s the same small interaction, he should be finding things to praise in his child. We started to talk about that. And I asked him specifically. I said, “Darren, tell me about your parents.” And he said, “Well, my father passed away, but my mother is still alive.” And I was like, “Okay, where does your mother live?” And he’s like, “Well, she lives out of state. She lives in California.” I said, “Okay, well, how often do you get to see your mom?” And he said, “Well, oh, we see her maybe once a year around Christmas, maybe, or Thanksgiving, just decide when she’s too old to travel. So I have to make the effort to make it down there.” I said, “Okay, okay. So how long old is she?” And he told me her age and we estimated an average for how much longer she would live, which was only four or five years.

And I said, “Well, okay. So Darren, tell me how much time do you have to spend with your mom?” And he said, “Well, not a lot. I have about four or five years.” And I corrected him. And I said, “No, you don’t. You only have five more interactions with your mom. That’s it. Five more interactions. And if we break those interactions down to hours, if you’re only spending an hour, you only have five hours left with your mom.”

Now that stunned Darren when he started to think about it. She could live for years, but his interaction with her would be hugely limited because his perspective was skewed. So I told him, “You need to call your mom. You need to talk to her. You need to engage. You need to interact with her more.” Because he did love his mother, but he didn’t see the world that way. And that’s where we started talking about that third point, which is understanding that every interaction is important. Every interaction, small interactions, big interactions, all of them carry value and weight. And so we need to measure that as part of that 20% of focusing our energies in positive ways to help our children.

Now, we related that back to Nathaniel. It’s like, “Hey, you only have this much time with him. Just take 20% of this time that was in the jar, the fuzzy balls. This should be positive interactions in here. And from this, you’re going to fill up the rest of whatever’s left will be a more positive interaction and engagement with your child.”

It was a really mind-changing meeting with them near the end of our interaction and my work with them to help them understand these things that we only have limited time with each other. And that if we can focus our energies in that 20%, what we can read from that is huge.

Now, how does this relate to you as a parent? I am making the recommendation for you to plot out your day this way. You have things you need to do as a parent. You have work. You have to search for work. You have other responsibilities. How much time do you have with your child in one day? And then I want you to lay out how you are going to spend 20% of that time using Effective Praise with them. I want you to really write it out and say, “Okay, this is how much I’m going to do Effective Praise and follow it with fidelity. I’m going to make this small effort count for a larger thing. And I understand that every interaction with my child throughout the day is important.”

If you figure it out, all of that out, you’re going to realize you have a lot less time with your children than you think you do. Even though they may be home and you’re distance learning, you’re going to have less time for that 20% interaction. But if you invest in that 20% and you practice the skills with fidelity, you’re going to realize that you’re going to reap so much more than you put in. It’s especially true with children. They’re so flexible, and young children are so willing and able to adjust and adapt to things that are positive that you’ll find that you’re receiving more than 80% back. You’re receiving a hundred percent back. You’re going to find that your return on what you invest is going to be much bigger, much, much bigger.

That’s my challenge for you. I want you to plot out today. Okay? Everything matters. Every interaction matters. Practice with full fidelity each of the steps for Effective Praise. I’m going to say the steps again so you know. Step one is to show approval or find something positive that they’re doing small, big, large, whatever. If it’s small, fantastic. Step number two, describe the positive behavior. Be very specific. This is where the skill of Observe and Describe is going to come in. Just describe what they’re doing well and be specific about it. Step number three, give a meaningful reason for why they should continue to do that specific behavior, give a meaningful reason. And then step number four is optional. Give a reward.

If you’re able to do this, I can promise you because I’ve seen it happen time and time again with so many families, that if you’re able to do this consistently for a week, you’re going to see some major changes in your interaction with your children and their interaction with you. You can do it. You can absolutely do it. I know you can do it. You have it in you to do it. So let’s make this podcast the 20% of today of me motivating you and teaching you this in order to affect the 80% of your day for the rest of today as you implement this in your daily routine with your child. Here’s your 20%. Now it’s time for you to go to work. Get it done. You can do it.

I am so excited because I am able to share this information with you and share past experiences with families that I’ve worked with.

Nathaniel now is a grown man. He has children of his own. We’re friends, which is fascinating for me to be a friend with somebody that I worked with so long ago. But he’s doing well. He’s well-adjusted. He loves his dad. They have a great relationship with each other. And the difference is that things could have gone really differently had Nathaniel and his father not found a way to connect. It could have been completely different. So now’s the time to act. You only have a limited amount of time. Take advantage. Take advantage of this time to make a difference. All right. That’s it for me. I will join you again next week.

Now, if you are interested in coaching, I’m here for that. You can sign up on the Smarter Parenting website. I can guide you along this process with you and your child specifically. So there are different levels and different tiers that are available. If you just need one coaching session, that’s great. If you need more than that, that’s great. I can help. That’s what I’m here for. So jump over to the Smarter Parenting website to find out more information about that. And if you want to see the skill of Effective Praise taught by a parent, you can also find that on the Smarter Parenting website. We have a video lesson that can guide you through each of the steps and how to apply them. So go ahead and take a visit. We have so much available for you because we’re here to help. So, that’s it for me. And I will talk to you again next week.

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Behavior skill: Effective Praise

Steps of Effective Praise

Behavior skill: Role-playing


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Podcast Transcript

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