I often read parenting books to check out new or interesting theories on child rearing and recently I’ve been working on “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.”
Alan Kazdin, Ph.D, is the director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic and has some interesting methods for shaping children’s behavior. One tiny aspect of the book that I wanted to discuss today was how much household chaos could contribute to behavior problems.
“Household chaos, believe it or not, has been studied by scientists, who define it as a set of conditions: a household high in noise in activity and low in regular activities, routines and rituals. It’s a matter of degree of course. All households with children in them can feel chaotic at times. So when we talk about household chaos as a condition, we mean a little more movement and activity around the house; a little less knowledge of where everyone is or transportation, and other logistics; a little less predictability when it comes to even the most basic activities.”
He says that chaos cuts across economic and social classes.
“I have learned that you can actually hear chaos over the phone. When I call a parent in a chaos-filled home from my clinic, the experience is almost stunning and more than a little sad. When the parent answers, the background noise is so thick and vibrant that it sounds as if somebody, perhaps the director a new reality show called “Families Gone Wild,” had gathered everyone in the home and instructed to cut loose on cue. There’s shouting, a cacophony of video game noises, rapid-fire requests from a child to the parent to whom I am speaking, a crying infant, an adolescent yelling…. “
“The main recommendation coming out of the research is to develop more routines: regular, repeated, predictable, reliable activities that individuals in the home usually perform as a group.”
He goes on to say they don’t necessarily have to be daily activities. They can be weekly or monthly just as long as they are regular.
And he also doesn’t mean scheduling every second of time in a day. Kids need times to roam in a house and explore their toys or just daydream.
I am a little bothered by his phone call test to look for chaos. I think there needs to be a standard for HOW OFTEN he calls and finds that the parent can’t talk because of business in the house. Also I think he should have to call at different times – maybe he is hitting in the homework/dinner hour when most house are crazy. I am a little sensitive with this test because I know there are times where I would have failed this test — but not all the time!
After reading this book, I have tried to institute more routines at home. Lilina used to bust bedtime all the time but now with her being in preschool three days a week, everyone goes to bed at the same time no matter what. Also we’re doing homework as soon as walk in (after a small snack but no TV or computer until homework is done). Our activities are at about the same time each day.
I was trying to institute a two-week dinner rotation just to make things easier on me and simple for them but I haven’t pulled that off yet. I have a hard time locking myself in on meals. But we do serve close to the same time each night.
So what do you think about Kazdin’s theory of household chaos adding to behavior problems? Do you see this in your own home? Would you pass the phone call test? What type of routines do you have? Do you think you have too many?