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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Disciplining Children

We think more in terms of discipline, not punishment.

I believe in lots of tools in the "parenting toolbox". No one response works in all situations with every kid and everytime. You have to mix it up. As a matter of fact, I tell DD (9-yrs old), "There will be consequences to your actions. I don't know exactly what it will be yet but it will be something and you will NOT like it."

Anti-social behavior (swearing, talking back, slamming, hitting, etc) is a sign the child needs MORE time with me, not less. I usually don't use time-outs or being sent to their room or denial of family fun for those offenses. Instead they usually have to do more, like help me load the pick-up truck with stuff to haul to the dump, etc. Whatever it is, we do it together and the project will have visible results.

Be creative. I like a little bit of surprise in the disciplines I select. With one mouthy teenager, we painted one wall of her bedroom Pepto-Bismal pink (she hates pink) and told her if she did it again we'd paint a second wall ... color to be determined (but guaranteed not to be pleasant). If she went an appropriate amount of time with good behavior, we'd re-paint the wall to cover it.

Model self-discipline. I have a child with RAD - reactive attachment disorder. One of the hallmarks of this psychological condition is that she doesn't easily trust adults, especially ones who don't seem to have control over their own emotions. For this reason, I have to be rather level-headed in how I respond to DD - even when there are times that I want throw a temper-tantrum of my own. With this in mind, it is perfectly reasonable - and very effective - to tell your child, "I need to take a moment to think of an appropriate disciplinary response to what you just did. I'll tell you my decision tomorrow morning."

Oh, did I mention? In case I wasn't clear above, you don't have to tell them ahead of time what the disciplinary response will be. For instance, let's say my DD sasses back to me. I'll give a warning. I'll say, "That was sassing when you respond to me with that tone of voice, that body language and that sarcastic kind of statement. That isn't allowed. The next time you behave like that, I will discipline you." She'll respond with, "What will you do?" And I say, "I haven't decided yet but it will be something that will help you to remember not to do it again." In other words, give a warning - it should be educational as to the behavior you want them to work on - but you don't have to tell them what the consequences will be. With my DD, she'd decide that the consequences were minor compared to being able to continue with her bad behavior. When she doesn't know exactly what the consequence will be, she can't easily make that decision.

Have perspective. A typical 7-yr old is going through a developmental growth spurt (not necessarily physically growing but brain development). This is the age when they begin to realize that they are social beings (have to live in a society) and there is right and wrong - aside from what Mom and Dad has always said is right or wrong. They develop a stronger sense of fairness and they start feeling social slights more deeply. This psychological development is profound. It is a bit of a shock to their system. With perspective you can see that a growing brain is quite demanding on a child. They need more sleep, thus an appropriate response is to rollback their bedtime for half an hour. (As in, "You're acting very tired. I think you need to start going to be earlier.")

One of the tools - especially with a child who is developing a conscience - is to have them work in service of others. Again, tell the child the behavior you want to HELP THEM CORRECT. Explain the social consequences of that behavior (she'll have fewer friends, etc.) Then go about helping that child be of serve to others as a way to modify their behavior. So, they might have to help plan, shop for, make and serve dinner every night for a week. He might need to think of a community service project - like collect canned food for the food pantry or collect unused books for the school library (HE has to think of a project).

Have a connection with the child. You like the child. You want to enjoy living with them. You want them to enjoy living in the family. The correction of the problem is a co-operative action. Sometimes have the child suggest ways that they can correct the behavior.

Sometimes pass the decision on the disciplinary action off to someone else (your hubby, for instance.) For instance, your child just sassed you and hubby walks up to the child and says, "No one treats MY WIFE that way!"

Keep in mind, younger children are concrete thinkers. Make the punishment tangible. For instance, correcting a bad habit (slamming doors) takes time. So, have the child start with 10 tokens in a jar (I get poker chips from the dollar store). Every time they are caught displaying the bad habit they have to remove one token (They do it, not you. They need the tactile sensation.) This makes them notice when they are doing the behavior. It makes them more aware of it. Then at the end of the week (day, month, hour - whatever seems reasonable), they get something for every token they have remaining in the jar. For instance, if they have 5 tokens left they might get to spend $5 on a something in the toy department (money is very motivating to my DD). Then keep repeating the session (week, month, hour) until they have completely eliminated the habit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A vision for America

I've been reading a lot of books lately about the formation of the USA and some of more recent history. Consequently, some of those themes have been showing up in my dreams. This is my long tortured way of avoiding the phrase, "I have a dream ..." But I DO have a vision for this country. Unfortunately, I'm probably alone in my point of view.

In one of my dreams a new Libertarian President was elected. In his (yes, his - that was how the dream went) inauguration speech he started with ...

~ "We are going to get serious on this war on terror. That is why I want every able, law-abiding citizen of this United States to obtain a firearm, train with it, and carry it with them at all times.

~ I challenge Congress to pass the Fair Tax THIS YEAR. If you don't know what that is, here is the website . Until the Fair Tax is passed - and ALL other personal federal income taxes eliminated - books that explain the Fair Tax will be tax deductible.

~ Starting immediately, I am eliminating non-essential federal departments, especially those that aren't directly addressed in the Constitutional. I am putting on notice the employees of the Department of Education that they will be out of work by the end of the year. Yes, this might cause a rise in unemployment but I have confidence that many talented people employed by the federal government have the ability to get other jobs or start a small business. The US government is NOT a jobs program. Employees of the Small Business Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health & Human Services, the FCC, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture, take note. Your turn will be coming soon.

~ If you are a member of the US Army, you will be given the option to transfer to another branch of the military, the reserves, border enforcement or the National Guard. The US Constitution is clear that we are not to have a standing army on US soil and I intend to make sure that is the case. Yes, that will mean there will be many more base closings and some areas of the country will feel the loss. I have confidence in the American people that they will recover AND they will find much better ways to use those army bases than the federal government ever could.

~ STOP turning to the US government - or any government - to solve your problems. If your home floods and you don't have flood insurance, do not rebuild in the same location with the assumption that FEMA will bail you out. If you make bad business decisions, we won't come to your rescue. If a commercial operation spills oil on one of our coasts, THEY will solve the problem, not me. I'm not a drilling expert. My presence will only cause an extra burden on the community that is hard at work to get the job done. I will not be visiting any disaster area. Yes, I care about the disaster and I trust the people closest to that community to run the operation without my interference.

~ With this in mind, the American people will need to volunteer more and, if the see fit, direct their money to fund programs that matter to them. If you think it is shame that college students will no longer receive federal grants or loans, then start a micro-lending service to help college students buy textbooks. If you think the federal government needs to keep Head Start, then sponsor a child's tuition at your local preschool. If you think the federal government needs to continue to fund drug treatment programs, then re-write your will to fund a program in your area.

~ Speaking of drug treatment programs, if you are in a US prison for drug possession, I am signing your pardon right now. (Pauses to sign.) If you manufacture, grow, import, transport or sell illegal drugs, we'll deal with you in the first 100 days. Be warned, you probably won't get a presidential pardon, though. However, your businesses just might get taxed. Feel free to start manufacturing hemp products. (Pauses to sign a presidential order.) The same goes with prostitution and gambling. Expect big changes soon. No, I don't want the USA to become drugged out, promiscuous and dive into poverty due to their gambling activities. However, I believe that making those activities illegal is NOT making the level of activity we have now to be lower. I firmly believe that the American people who don't do those kinds of illegal activities will continue to not do those activities, no matter what the law says.

~ The staff at the White House will be cut significantly. If you write to me, please do not expect a reply. If you ask for a Christmas card, a birthday card or an anniversary card, I am informing you now that one is not coming. However, you are welcome to come and tour the White House. It is the country's house, not mine. Severe restrictions on who can visit and when they can visit will be lifted.

~ In the next several days, I will be signing several presidential orders - to reverse many presidential orders from previous administrations. The federal bureaucracy is much too large. Federal bureaucrats are not elected into their position, many are not appointed or approved by Congress nor do they change when a new administration comes to Washington; yet these are people who are making LAWS - yes, laws - that impose a huge burden on the American people. Many of these bureaucracies have been established by presidential order and, thus, will be eliminated the same way.

~ Hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies consider your special tax deductions that have been contributing to the dramatic increase of health care costs to be very short lived. Under the new Fair Tax, you won't have those deductions anymore. If you are an employee who is getting your medical insurance through your employer, start NOW to research individual plans. Your employer will no longer be able to deduct that benefit from their taxes so they will probably stop offering those plans. Your health insurance shouldn't be dependent on your employment status anyway. That only limits your options in starting up your own business. You NEED to be independent."

That's about all. Somewhere along this time, I woke up and started to gasp for breath.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Financial Myths and Truths

Disclaimer: These are my own, non-expert opinions based on years of experience, observation and the school of hard-knocks.

Myth: If you're deep in debt, then pay off the debt with the highest interest rate.

Truth: Actually, pay-off debts with small balances first. That 'early win' can be really motivating and can provide instant financial relief.

Myth: If you have lots of credit card debt, the first thing to do is pay off the debt with the highest interest rate or the few debts with small balances.

Truth: Actually the FIRST thing to do is START SAVING MONEY REGULARLY. If you're in lots of credit card debt, as soon as a financial emergency strikes (and it will), the temptation to solve the problem by charging to the credit card again will be too great and the cycle will continue.

Myth: But I can't save money! We're living paycheck to paycheck. Our budget is really, really tight. I can't eek out even one penny.

Truth: People can and do live on less than what you're making now. Spend a week (or better - a month) writing down every single penny you spend and what you spend it on. You'll probably find that areas where you can cut back.

Myth: Okay, so I guess I could save some money by reducing the grocery budget and using coupons.

Truth: Hmmm, coupons. Coupons usually don't help me. I find more savings by carefully comparing prices and acquiring food at places that don't even accept coupons. Often I can buy the same thing for less than the brand-name item WITH a coupon. As far as reducing the grocery budget as a first step, that is usually NOT where families waste the most money. Think of it. No matter what, we still need to eat. A clamping down on the budget tends to make us feel 'poor' so don't start by clamping down on the one budget area which will be most noticed and cause the most discomfort. Instead look at budget areas that you consider "fixed expenses": taxes, mortgage, utilities, insurances, medical expenses, non-food disposable purchases (TP, paper towels, cleaning products, etc), clothing and entertainment.

Myth: Taxes? I love that huge refund every year. We use it to pay off debt or go on vacation.

Truth: You're going to stop that cycle, right? I know it is scary but stop giving the government use of YOUR MONEY (they take enough as it is) and change your withholding to where you'll OWE a bit in April. Remember, you're going to be setting money aside on a regular basis so you'll have the money to pay the bill when taxes come due.

Myth: But my spouse won't go along with this. We argue about money all the time.

Truth: Arguments about money are rarely about finances - usually money problems are a symptom of something else going on. If your relationship / marriage is otherwise sound, then START the conversation by deciding on your shared values, priorities and goals. Once you have that list, where you'll spend you money - and your time - will become very clear. If your relationship is shaky, get professional help to work on that area first.

Myth: But living on a budget is so hard. I hate feeling poor. I want to spend my money the way I want.

Truth: A budget is actually a spending plan; it is deciding AHEAD OF TIME what you want to spend your time and money doing. Keep those values, priorities and goals in mind! And I hate feeling poor, too, which is why knowing where my money is going helps give me a sense of security. I like having a choice! I like knowing that my car won't get re-possessed, that my phone will ring because friends are calling - NOT collection agents, that my home will be my home until I decide otherwise, and that, if my boss really p!sses me off, I can quit.

Myth: We're doing everything right but we're still struggling.

Truth: This is going to sound mystical and way-out-there, I know, but you have to open the door for a better financial situation to come into your life. Even when you feel like you have nothing, donate something to charity. And make it more than you expect and something really, really good. Sometimes all we need to do is make room. Plus, realize that we live in an abundant society. What goes out the door will come back three-fold. The point: Stop struggling.

About Me

A little about the author ... I'm known as Cookie. I'm a long time frugal fanatic so when I shop, I prefer to save money. There is no reason to spend more than we have to! However, I also appreciate convenience and fine living. I strive to strike a balance between a nice lifestyle, simplicity and frugal living. I work hard for my money so I like to make my money work hard for me.