1. at what age do you start training the 4 basic skills
2. How do you do the training? How does it differ between ages 1-8? Another issue: Our oldest is 8 years old and is dealing with some self esteem issues and will say things like "I can't make my bed, I'm just no good at it" or "You just think I'm a slave and don't want me to have any fun" "I don't care if I can't play, nobody likes me" He has been quite uncooperative yet each time he receives a consequence (no Legos, no free play, early bedtime) he seems to dig himself farther into a hole. Any suggestions?
Regarding number one: I start training the four basics as soon as they can understand me and say the word, "OK". By 2.5 years old, my children are pretty good at them.
Regarding number two: I gather them all together, in the morning, and then make a fun game out of following instructions. If they still have attention span, then we move on to accepting NO and criticism, etc. They tell me what to do, and I tell them what to do, and there is lots of praise involved. The rest of the day, we practice and praise. It should all be really positive and empowering. ----For small children, it is often better if you teach the big kids first, and them pull the little one aside and do a private game time with him. He will focus much better if it is one on one. Then just follow through with what they have earned and repeat the steps as often as possible so that they get the memorized quickly.
Without knowing your 8 year old, I am going to make some assumptions based upon my experience to answer this question.
My first assumption is that your 8 year old has been taught that if he has a pity party, people are concerned and show him pity. At some point, he probably genuinely felt bad for himself because of some failure. Then a caring person showered him with attention and one on one time because they were concerned about his mood and sadness. He noticed that he liked how he felt when the person gave him all the attention, and that people try to do things to make him feel better when he acts down. (This gives him perks.) The most important lesson that he might have learned is that he has a special tool built right into his mood to get more things he wants. In short, he is probably using his mood shifts to manipulate people. This is the most common answer for this kind of behavior; especially if the child has caring parents, which it seems like you are. :)
To remedy this problem, you need to stick hard to the four basics. If he pouts he is not dropping the subject, and he is not having a calm voice, face and body. You will feel like you are not being compassionate at first, but just remember that he is in bondage to these self induced emotions. The only way to free him is not to feel pity for him and to teach him that he is not choosing to be OK. Be very consistent with the teaching. Negative consequences must be earned.
Tip: Don't ever talk back to this kind of pity party disagreement. Simply say, "Just now I gave you an instruction to clean up your room, you didn't look at me and you started complaining about the task. You are not following instructions. What you should have done was......steps....." Or you say, "You are complaining and pouting. This shows me that you are not following instructions...you should....steps....If you can't follow instructions then you are "out of instructional control."
If he really is depressed, then you need to change his focus away from himself. Don't baby him. Stop feeding him sugar of any kind. Have daily mood check ups and goals with positive consequences as well as negative ones. And, most importantly, use the four basics consistently.
I had a few youth who really had depression. The four basics helped free them from their down times. :)
If he digs himself into big holes. Remember that he is choosing the hole himself, so he has to choose himself to get out of it. Remember to have regular family activities. Also, have regular date nights with dad. Do lots of relationship building.
Idea: When my youth would did holes for themselves for weeks, I would set up a special motivation system for them. I would have envelopes with motivators in them like; a snack out of the snack bag, or a date with mom, etc. If they earned their privileges for an certain amount of time, they could pick an envelope. It helped them look forward to something.
Has he ever lost all of his privileges for 24 hours? He should. Depression or pouting is out of instructional control behavior. Either he chooses to follow instructions or he should have to do the rule of three.
Some people really like being depressed. It sounds strange, but it is true. I know some people that choose it. Some have chemical problems, but some just choose it. At his age, I would think he just needs to be praised more for all the good he does. Remember 6-10 times per each time you correct him. Beyond that just work on relationship building with him. Give him lots of one on one time when he is happy and in control, so that he sees people like to be around him when he is happy and don't like to when he is sad and pouty.
It is too easy to take advantage of our children when they are behaving, and never praise them or spend time with them. Teach yourself to notice all the good around you and praise it. It will bring the Spirit into your home.