The Moment Of Truth: Correcting Attitude Problems And Whining Behaviors


“I am a much better, calmer parent than I used to be since starting to focus on teaching myself and my children self-government, but I still have two issues I seem to constantly battle; attitude problems and whining. What do you do when the child won’t calm down, and won’t do what you tell him? How do you stop whining?”


Learning to be a better parent is just like any other learning process. We learn “line upon line; precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” We recognize what principles we need to focus on first, and then as we improve we will see what our new parenting focus needs to be next.

The majority of people first recognize that they need to fix themselves first by being calm and in control. Next people usually see a need for increased structure at home as well as skills to teach the children so that they can have more positive parenting interactions. Finally, parents are ready to take on the big behavior problems which they initially wanted to learn self-government for, such as attitude problems and anger control issues.

Unarguably, the most difficult parenting moments are when there are out of control kids. What is a parent supposed to do? How can they stay calm and calm the child down all at the same time?

This dilemma is easily solved by incorporating a new skill into your daily parenting interactions. Just like a parent might have to train themselves to praise the children when they have chosen to do good, a parent also has to train themselves to calmly, effectively teach a child to choose to be calm when the child is out of control.

When a child is out of control, that means they are not willing to follow any instructions from the parent, or they have a negative countenance. I’m sure you know what it feels like when a person is being obstinate. They have a distant, defiant kind of feeling. If you feel that from your child, or you notice they are not able to control their emotions and calmly talk to you about an issue, then you know they are “out of instructional control.” This term really means the child is not willing to go through the five simple steps to following instructions, which are:

  1. Look at the person
  2. Keep a calm face, voice, and body
  3. Say okay or ask to disagree appropriately
  4. Do the task immediately
  5. Check Back

If the child misses any of these steps they are not respecting the parent, and are “out of instructional control.” When a child is not willing to follow a simple instruction from the parents it is as if they are saying, “You can’t teach me. I won’t allow you to.” The child is using emotion to usurp the parent’s role in the family. This imbalance of power will always create frustration for the child and the parent.

The Big Whammy

For generations parents have tried to discover the big whammy negative consequence which would make the children care about being obedient. Parents have tried spanking, scolding, slapping, grounding, taking things away, and giving work etc. The concept that children need to know what negative consequence they will earn for a bad behavior has value. Knowing what ‘could happen’ keeps many people from being disobedient. For instance, people get licenses to hunt and drive, and choose to follow established regulations to keep themselves out of jail and free of fines. People understand big whammies.

It is so important for parents to know exactly what their big whammy negative consequence is before a situation arises when the whammy is needed in order to avoid making up bigger consequences as they go a long and to decrease anxiety for children.

So, will any whammy work? Yes and no. If you want your child to be afraid of you until they are big enough to do what they want anyway, then yes, any whammy consequence will work at instilling fear in the hearts of the children. But, if you want your child to learn cause and effect and know that they were the ones responsible for earning the negative consequence, as well as have a consequence which requires self-government to finish or to avoid, then no. There is a special whammy for this kind of teaching called the Rule of Three.

The Rule of Three

The language used by the parent during the Rule of Three makes it very clear to the child that he is making all the choices. The repeated series of pre-teaching, giving instruction, and effectively correcting by the parent is also the most merciful system of leading to a big whammy consequence. I don’t know any other system of administering negative consequences which is more loving and merciful than the Rule of Three. The Rule of Three keeps the children knowing exactly what will happen next if they don’t choose calmness which decreases their anxiety and allows them to use their agency. And, it keeps the parents from having to get emotionally involved with the situation at hand there by keeping them more clam and loving.

The whole point of having a big whammy is primarily to encourage the child to practice self-government, and not get to the point of needing the big whammy consequence.

What happens if you don’t have a big whammy? Your children will emotionally manipulate you and situations so that they don’t have to practice self-government. Without the Rule of Three my home would have a hole in the parenting. Even though my children don’t often choose to go “out of instructional control” anymore, if they did we all know the family is ready. No one will get angry or emotional. We all stay calm and go through the Rule of Three in a matter of minutes.

My children know exactly what they are choose and my husband and I know exactly what we are doing during the “out of control” time. Since we all know what will happen, the children rarely choose to be “out of control.” Why would they when they can come to mom and dad and talk to us calmly about anything? The Rule of Three makes home a safe environment!

Challenges Of Learning A New Way To Communicate

Learning a new way to talk when people are emotional always takes a bit of practice. Some people know this and choose not to practice it and then never use it.

Over the years I have noticed that people generally run into the same challenges regarding using the self-government skills I teach.

  1. They don’t feel ready to use the Rule of Three
  2. They don’t feel calm enough to use the Rule of Three
  3. They forget the Rule of Three exists because they started focusing on the Four Basic Skills instead.
  4. They don’t think they will remember it when it is time.
  5. They don’t think it will work on the children’s worst behaviors.
  6. They don’t know what to do with their child when he has lost his privileges.

Solving These Problems

1. If you don’t feel ready to use the Rule of Three, then review that chapter of the book again. After reviewing the chapter on the Rule of Three again, practice each day with your family. Practice all the other teaching self-government skills and teaching styles too. Until you and your children know the Rule of Three and the other skills, practice for fifteen minutes each day.

2. Learning the language of the rule of three will keep you calm. It is really hard to keep arguing with the child when you are trying to keep the three steps and three consequences in order. Your brain doesn’t have time to get angry. So, if you are worried about being calm, using the Rule of Three is the answer. Learn the words and steps to keep yourself calm.

3. It’s really easy to get focused on teaching one self-government skill and forget that part of teaching a child how to follow instructions or disagree appropriately is that you have to have a big whammy ready for if they choose not to do those things.

4. If you take the time to teach the Rule of Three and practice, using role playing, with your children each day, then when the moment arrives when your child is “out of instructional control,” you will remember to use it. The more we practice the right way to do something, the less likely we are to choose to do it the wrong way when the moment arrives.

5. After years and years of dealing with the same defiant behavior it is logical that the parents might think no consequence or way of talking during an “out of control” moment could make a difference. All I can say here is “Trust.” Trust me and many other people who have used the Rule of Three over the years to help children choose to conquer trouble behaviors. It works. Also, as you practice as a family your children will know it will work before you ever even use it for a trouble behavior. If you know the steps, trust the skill.

6. Lastly, people wonder what going without your privileges for 24 hours actually looks like. It looks like doing chores and SODAS whenever the child is not sleeping at night, eating their three meals, or doing school work. The child cannot sit around the house, play with friends or siblings, or eat snacks. It is so important that you follow through with this 24 hour loss of privileges correctly so that the child will not choose to lose control again in the future. This consequence is only for losing control. It is not for making a bad choice or hurting a sibling etc. The child must always have the opportunity to opt out of a consequence this size. This is why it is only reserved for conscious disrespectful behaviors.

The Moment Of Truth

When a person is “out of instructional control” they are lying to themselves. They are convinced that someone else is to blame for their problems and their emotions. This is a sad state to be in. When it is all someone else’s fault, the person has no hope of becoming happy. What could possibly make it all right?

When a person’s brain is emotionally engaged it needs help refocusing. This is why the Rule of Three is so effective. The Rule of Three engages the logic center of the brain, which offers the person a moment of truth. This moment suggests that the person is in control of their emotions and can at any time chose to be calm if they want to. The interaction teaches the child that they are in total control of their own happiness and that they can have some control over their emotional future. In short, it teaches them self-government.

When we have moments of truth, we can effectively learn to master ourselves. Without honesty a person cannot ever allow themselves to be happy and calm.

By Nicholeen Peck, BBC television star and author of Parenting A House United, and Londyn LaRae Says Okay.

Listen to Nicholeen’s Class about the Rule of Three called “The Power of Calm”

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