The 5 C’s consist of best parenting practices. Consider these to be your ‘Vitamin C’ – practicing these will boost your strength as a parent. The 5 C’s are:
Consistently following your parenting plan is key to making it work. Consistency is equated with trust. During this time of uncertainly, consistency in your day to day parenting provides a certainty and predictability. It provides a sense of security and safety for your family. Consistent parenting sends the message to your kids that they can count on you to lead and guide them.
As values grounded parents, here are some of the key areas to be consistent:
- Behavior expectations for your children AND yourself
- Daily structure and routine
- Rules regarding technology and other recreational activities (what is appropriate and what is not)
- Boundaries, Limits, and Consequences
- Positive Reinforcement
- Family Together Time – family dinners, play time on weekends, family meetings
- Affection and intimacy
Here are some practical suggestions for staying consistent:
- Have regular family meetings – 15 – 20 minutes (can be over a meal)
- Discuss positive values, family rules, changes to any of the routines, and how well kids are maintaining expectations
- When setting limits and boundaries, be sure to follow through. The same applies for consequences, both positive and negative
- Practice structured flexibility. Keep your structure, yet be flexible in adjusting to unusual life circumstances.
A brief note on inconsistency. If we are inconsistent, we are communicating to our children that they need to listen and follow our direction some of the time. When this happens, the somebecomes a sum, and, as a result, we end up paying a considerable sumas parents with greater burden, power struggles, and emotional angst – for our children and us. By being inconsistent, we are diluting our voice and stance as value grounded parents.
Clarity refers to 2 separate, yet related parenting principles. First, it refers to clearly defining your day to day family routine / structure, and positive values. Second, clarity relates to a direct style of communication that reinforces values grounded behavior.
During this time of change and uncertainty, clarity provides direction and security for your children. A key part to being an effective parent involves providing direction not indirection.
Avoid Making a Common Parenting Mistake
When redirecting negative behavior, many parents make this common mistake. They tell their kids what NOT to do as opposed to what TO DO.
‘STOP poking your brother … can’t you see it BOTHERS him!’
‘Do NOT talk to me THAT way … that is RUDE!’
‘STOP SHOUTING! I have had enough … I mean it … I have HAD enough!’
This kind of redirection is typically ineffective for 2 reasons: 1) the child is NOT directed toward a more positive behavior (the parent does not clarify the expected behavior); and 2) the use of a consequence (either positive or negative) becomes weaker because there is not a behavior that the parent can reference as a reason for the consequence.
Instead of telling your kids what NOT to do, tell them the positive behavior you expect. This clarity will help reduce frustration and angst for you and your kids. Using the examples above, it would sound something like this:
‘Please keep your hands to yourself and respect your brother’s boundaries.’
‘Please use respectful words when talking with me. I understand you are upset – it is possible to be upset and respectful at the same time.’
‘Please lower your voice and we can talk about this more calmly.’
Here are some practical tips in practicing Clarity
- Make expectations, rules, and routine visible. Use a white board and put in your kitchen
- Write down 5 Basic Family Rules
- Be clear about positive and negative consequences for following the rules
- Write down the day to day morning, afternoon, and evening routine
- Be behaviorally specific
- Write down weekly chores using a checklist format
- Write down rules regarding screen time – consider a technology contract
- Clarify when school work is to be done and when your kids can play, have screen time, etc.
- Write down 5 Basic Family Rules
- When redirecting your children, use a behavioral language and tell them the behavior you would like to see
Competency refers to your kids’ positive qualities, skills, and abilities. An important part to growing up is understanding what you are good at. Pointing out positives enlightens your kids about their strengths and helps them engage challenges as opportunities.
One way to practice competency is by praising your kids. One of the best ways to get your kids to listen and follow your direction and parenting plan is to positively reinforce them when they do! Your encouraging and positive words with your children have a powerful impact.
Consider the word raise – it conveys an upward direction. Now, add a ‘p’ (for positive) and you have a great combo! Praise validates your kids’ efforts toward growing up and reinforces those behaviors that demonstrate positive values.
Praise and recognition leads to feeling valued. When others in your family feel valued and appreciated, they are much more likely to behave in increasingly valuable ways. Essentially, we create a virtuous cycle of positive reinforcement.
Here are some practical suggestions for practicing competency:
- Link praise with behaviorand positive values
- Nice job (praise) in doing your homework (behavior). You took the time to neatly complete these worksheets (behavior). You showed discipline and responsibility (positive values) in getting it done.
- Identify 3 positives a day for each family member
- Make praise meaningful by slowing down, seeking eye contact, and pausing a few seconds after your positive feedback
- Avoid sarcasm when praising – this dilutes trust your child has in your positive feedback
- On a post it note, write down a positive action you caught your child doing and put it on their bathroom mirror
- Publicly praise your child in front of your family – this helps others hear and attend to one another’s valuable qualities
- Praise effort and perseverance
When your child makes a mistake and accepts accountability, praise their accountable behavior while still applying a limit and / or consequence
Given our current health crisis and the various changes that have come about as a result, calmness is key.
Remaining calm sets the tone for your children to listen and follow your direction. First, you are creating an emotionally safe environment for your kids to learn and grow from your leadership. Second, your calm behavior makes it easier for your children to understand your request and direction. On the other hand, if you lose it emotionally, your kids pay far more attention to your emotion than the actual content of your request to follow your direction.
Practicing calmness involves using a relaxed tone of voice with average volume AND a calm posture. Since over 90% of communication is non-verbal and a para-verbal, calmness helps your words be consistent with your facial expressions, body posture, tone, and volume.
As a values grounded parent, maintaining a calm, emotionally balanced state of mind will help you stay focused on your parenting plan, day to day routine / structure. It is the secret sauce that enables you to be responsive versus reactive.
Here are some practical strategies and exercises that you can practice daily:
- Breathing Exercises
- 4 – 7 – 8 Breathing (Weil, 1999)1
- Breathe in through your nostrils for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Breath out of your mouth, making swoosh sound, for 8 seconds.
- Repeat 4 times to complete 1 cycle
- Do 3 cycles per day – one cycle in the morning, another around noon, and one at night
- Diaphragmatic Breathing / Belly Breathing
- Sit upright in a chair
- Clasp your hands together and put them on the back side of your head and try to touch your elbows together
- While maintaining this posture, take a deep breath in and then exhale – it should feel like you are breathing in your belly
- While breathing, think about your shared vision and 3 positive values you want to practice that day
- 4 – 7 – 8 Breathing (Weil, 1999)1
- While driving (home from work and / or picking kids up from school), stream some mindfulness music in your car
- Get up 10 minutes early, engage in some breathing exercises and review your parenting plan for the days
- 20 second rule – when frustrated and angry with your kids, stay quiet for 20 seconds before responding – practice some deep breathing during the 20 seconds
- Be transparent – explain to your kids that you need to do some deep breathing so that you can be consistent with your positive values
- Give yourself permission to take a ‘cool down’ – Take 5 or more minutes to cool down before addressing your child’s button pushing behavior
1Weil, A. (1999). Breathing: The master key to self healing. Sounds true audiobooks.
Applying consequencesreinforces positive behavior as well as setting limits and redirecting negative behavior. When applied in a values grounded manner, consequences serve as a means to teach and instruct your children.
Consequences tend to be most effectivewhen 2 things happen:
- You apply the consequence shortly after the behavior.
- You are purposeful and mindful about how you apply them.
One way to be purposeful is through the concept of linking.
Linking is a process of connecting the positive or negative consequence to the child’s behavior while highlighting the positive value(s) involved.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine that you are the child in both scenarios. Pay attention to what you are thinking and how you are feeling.
As a 12-year-old, you just completed your homework, including a math assignment that is very tough and challenging. You are putting your completed work in your backpack to bring to school tomorrow.
Example 1: Your Mom walks by and comments, “Nice job,” and proceeds to the kitchen.
Example 2: Your Mom walks up to you, makes eye contact, pauses a second, and states, “Well done! You put much effort in getting your homework completed, especially your math. That shows perseverance and accountability.”
In the above example, verbal praise was the consequence. What difference did you notice between the examples? How did it feel in the second example compared to the first? As the 12-year-old, did you take away a different message? Note the difference in the parent’s statements was probably less than 5 – 10 seconds. Could you identify how the Mom practiced linking?
Let’s look at another example. Imagine you are the child in both scenarios. Pay attention to what you are thinking and how you are feeling.
As an 8-year-old, you can’t wait to eat some of your Mom’s homemade, scrumptious, chocolate chip cookies. You are told you have to wait until after dinner. After scheming a bit, you sneak a cookie and head off to your room to gobble it up. Your Mom walks by your room and notices you are scarfing down the cookie
Example 1: Your Mom walks up to you, wearing a disappointed expression, raises her voice, and exclaims “What are YOU doing?! I told you NOT to eat any of the cookies (she gasps). I can’t believe you snuck the cookie. Why don’t you listen? … That’s it … you will stay in your room until dinner and you get no dessert tonight!!’ She briskly walks out of your room, shaking her head. After she leaves, you proceed to finish eating the cookie.
Example 2: Your Mom walks up to you, wearing a disappointed expression, though mindfully and calmly states, “You were asked to wait until after dinner to eat the cookie. You chose not to follow directions and your behavior is dishonest. Hand me the cookie (you reluctantly hand over the still warm, gooey cookie). Since honesty is such an important value for you and us as a family, you will receive the following consequences: First, you are grounded to your room until dinner. While in your room, you are to write an apology for your dishonesty, and identify 2 ways you can practice being honest. Second, you will not have dessert tonight. Let me know when you have finished your apology and 2 sentences – we will briefly discuss. She proceeds to walk out of the room.
In the above example, being grounded and removal of dessert was the negative consequence. What difference did you notice between the examples? How did it feel in the second example compared to the first? As the 8-year-old, did you take away a different message? Note that the difference in the parent’s statements was probably less than 10 seconds. Could you identify how the Mom practiced linking?
As indicated in the above examples, there are generally 2 types of consequences: positive and negative. When used in a purposeful manner, both help shape and influence values grounded behavior. Let’s take a look at positive consequences first and then we’ll discuss negative consequences.
As the term positive implies, this involves a desired outcome that reinforces your children’s values grounded behavior. There are a variety of ways to positively consequence behavior, praise being one of the most common and effective.
As a general rule, it is recommended 4 positives to 1 negative.
In addition to praise, there are other ways to provide positive consequences. Setting up reward systems to reinforce positive behavior is another effective way. When setting up reward systems, identify the behavior expectations and the reward ahead of time. This not only makes it more effective, but it also strengthens trust in your relationship with your kids.
As identified in the blog, ‘Developing Your Plan,’ here are some examples:
- Establish a values grounded behavior jar
- Add marbles when they complete their daily responsibilities
- Add marbles when they are cooperating with one another
- Add marbles when they are using respectful words and actions
- They can redeem their marbles for various rewards that they helped choose
- Keep the rewards more on a social level (avoid rewards that are overly materialistic), such as baking a special treat together (sharing some of the treat with their friends – you can make a special trip to drop it off at their front door), popcorn and movie night, board games, etc …)
- Link electronic time with completion of their daily tasks. For example, they earn an extra 15 minutes on electronics for successfully taking care of their daily responsibilities
- One of the most effective ways to reinforce positive, values grounded behavior is praise and positive recognition. Find different ways of acknowledging their positive efforts and behavior
- With older kids, consider saying things like, ‘Nice job at getting your work done today – that shows maturity and I am proud of you.’ or ‘I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to have had to adjust to all these changes – you are doing a remarkable job in handling it.’
When you think about it, we all participate in and benefit from contingency consequences. Our paychecks are a contingency consequence that positively reinforce consistent attendance, punctuality, and productive work behavior. Employee bonuses are another example of contingency consequences. So, when we use contingency consequences with our kids, we are applying real world principles to positive behavior management.
As the term implies, negative consequences involve an undesirable outcome that is designed to redirect behavior that is notvalues grounded or ungrounded. When applied effectively, negative consequences serve to provide meaningful feedback to your kids that their ungrounded behavior is unhealthy and needs to change.
Setting an Emotional Boundary
It is common for children to protest negative consequences through various means, such as tantrums, silent defiance, oppositional behavior, and avoidance.
These emotional protests can be contagious, causing parents to become angry, frustrated, and aggravated. It is key to set an emotional boundary between you and your kids. This allows your kids to own their behavior emotionally. By doing so, you give them the space to explore their stressful feelings (e.g., anger, sadness, disappointment), and, link this to their decision – making and behavior. When you remain calm and mindful in the face of their distress, this communicates 2 important messages to our kids:
- The negative consequence is about their behavior and it is NOT personal between the two of you.
- You will not let their emotional outburst and / or tantrum control the mood of the situation or your relationship
It is common for younger kids to blame parents for the negative consequence and their distressed emotion – though this happens with older kids as well. This offers a valuable teaching opportunity to clarify the reason for the negative consequence through linking.
Here are some examples of linkingwith negative consequences:
- I understand you are upset. You are being grounded this weekend for behaving dishonestly. In order for us to trust one another, being honest is important. I understand the temptation of wanting to lie. Hopefully, by being grounded, you will have time this weekend to think more about how to deal with this temptation and the value honesty has in helping you grow up.
- You were asked to clean up twice and chose to continue to play. I understand it is hard to stop doing something you really like and have to clean up – yet that is part of growing up and being responsible. As a result, you have lost your (toy, computer game) for the remainder of the day.
As stated earlier, consequences are designed to teach. Learning occurs best when our kids feel safe and trust that we are helping them grow. If we overreact when applying a negative consequence, we make it about our ego and stressed feelings as opposed to a purposeful lesson.
Our kids are more likely to learn a purposeful lesson when we link their behavior to the consequence and the related positive values(s). Although our kids will not like the negative consequence(s), they are far more likely to understand its purpose.
The 5 C’s, your vitamin C for parenting, help build strength in your parenting. Although each principle applies to a separate aspect in parenting, they all work together to help unify your efforts at being an effective, loving parent. The 5 C’s serve to align behavior with the positive values with which you are trying to raise your children.