Parenting

Understand the Background of Immediate Reward Now

By | October 14th, 2018|Tags: , , , , |

Today I want to talk about the importance of rewarding positive behavior in a timely manner when utilizing a positive reinforcement model. There are many reasons why this is important. The first being to understand the effort that you and your family are putting forth is worth seeing through to completion. A positive reinforcement model includes laying clear boundaries, recognizing progress and rewarding good behaviors. In our busy lives, it is understandable to feel relief when things are running smoothly, but the fact is if you want to see them running smoothly for the long term then that behavior deserves and needs to be rewarded.

Another reason to reward as soon as possible is that you want to make sure that your child associates the reward with the positive behavior that he or she performed. If too much time goes by then the impact is not as great and they may not feel the fulfillment of a job well done. Imagine getting a paycheck late or receiving gratitude for a labor-intensive meal long after it was eaten. You accept the payment and the appreciation but the immediate recognition of your hard work either in a job or at home is much more fulfilling.

How many times have you promised something to your kids only to let time get the better of you and either forget or procrastinate? It happens to the best of us but it is one of the worst things you can do when utilizing a positive reinforcement model. One way that kids will not respond to rewards is by learning that they are empty incentives. Why put forth the effort to support a household that does not follow through with a promise after a job is well done. It teaches indifference and supports poor motivation.

Think about why positive reinforcement is such a powerful tool. Children constantly want attention or prizes that are before them. You are giving them the opportunity to earn them. Keep that positive energy going in the right direction! Reward, acknowledge, and celebrate your children’s positive behavior and you can trust that it will be repeated.

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5 Mind Numbing Steps for Kids Craving Structure

By | September 2nd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Children crave structure. They appreciate knowing the rules and how far they can push. It is one of the reasons for learning how to set rules is important. Learning how to set boundaries can be difficult which is especially true when it comes to children; we want them to have more than we did. A parent told me “our generation has ruined it”. We get our kids what they want when they want it. When it comes time to give a gift there is little from which to choose. It is time to set some boundaries! Let’s look at five steps for setting boundaries:

  1. Discover why you are setting a boundary. It is important to have a good understanding of the problem before trying to brainstorm solutions. You may miss your target altogether. 
  2. Explore and identify different solutions to the problem. Depending on your need, come up with as many solutions as possible and generate a list. There are no dumb ideas. Sometimes the whackiest idea (or ideas in combination) make a fun and appropriate solution.
  3. Choose the idea you will use. Don’t be afraid to combine lots of different ideas in setting your boundary. If your “problem” is that your child pesters you for treats at the grocery store, then some ideas might be: avoid taking your child to the store or allow them to accompany you but have them choose to spend their own money.  This combination of options easily becomes: don’t take your child to the store unless he is willing to spend his own money.  Important: Don’t throw away the list just yet. You will probably want to revisit some of your ideas later!
  4. Implement your solution. Using the example above, take your child shopping.  This may appear easier than it is. Make sure to be prepared to allow him to spend his own money. Allow him time to pick the one thing that he can afford. Stick to your guns. Consistency is key.
  5. Evaluate. If your child has stopped pestering you in the store, it appears that your job is done! Congratulations! If, however, they pick their item and begin pestering for more, then make sure you have allowed enough time to implement your solution.  You may need another trip to the store.  If that doesn’t work, then it is time to start from square one and make sure you have identified the right problem. Revisit your solutions and put another one into effect. This can be a long process. The important thing is being consistent once you set a boundary so that you can see what works and what doesn’t.

You may find that you have to go through the steps several times before you get the result that you want. The point to remember is that your child will be better for understanding the boundaries that you are setting.  The time you have together to visit, plan and perhaps the dream will be priceless. 

  For more helpful tips on positive reinforcement and tools to help implement them in your home please visit our website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com

Behavior management games are a fun way to get started. Check out Vlinder on our website. It’s quick and the kids love it!

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The Safety Parent

By | January 3rd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , |

A long time ago I had a scary conversation about child predators and how to keep our children safe. The talk progressed sharing fear-based stories heard on the news, internet and via word of mouth. We naturally helped each other as each tale got more difficult to fathom. It followed with good parenting advice on how to prepare children for such a potentially horrible world. What hit me later is that I don’t want my kids to grow up fearful. I want to instill confidence.

At the time my own fears were getting in the way. The avoidance method was in full effect. Around the same time, my oldest son had an interaction with two separate men at the grocery store. One made him very uncomfortable so he stayed clear. Another was a homeless man and they shared a special interaction. One that I would have robbed him of had I been around. I’m proud of him and I don’t have advice on how to make it safer. It was time to review how I parent, the rules of safety, and make decisions that have long-term benefits for my children.

When I think of what I want my children to be I think of words like outgoing, adventuresome, kind, brave, intelligent, and confident. I don’t think of weary or even aware. There is a question that looms over my assertion. How do you keep your children safe?

The best I can do is feed their intelligence by watching the news and discussing stories as needed. As a family, we work on confidence and self-esteem with self-defense or martial arts. We inspire adventure with travel, imagination, and books. I have had to come to peace with the fact that as ready as I think I am, there is always the unknown that I am not prepared for.

There are many strategies that can be used to nurture a personality trait. As the parent, you decide which actions you take, even when if it is no action there are outcomes. If you read my blogs, you know that I am a proponent of parenting with intention. I proffer that after reading this you look at what you want for your kids with regard to their safety and decide if your actions are helping or hurting them get where they need to be.

The biggest lesson in this part of the journey was learning that I have to continue to work on my own fears. Fear is a strong emotion and impacts the decision-making process in a profound way. Children look to us for our strength and guidance. Making sure that I have enough energy saved up to offer what is needed is my goal, my mission, my work.

Thank you for reading. There is more available at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. Come visit to learn more about what Breakthrough, LLC has to offer. We invite feedback. This is a great place to start a conversation.

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Where Are All the Grandparenting Books?

By | December 7th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

(This article was originally posted by the New York Times on Dec. 6, 2017. Written by Paula Span)

It was, let me acknowledge, an old-school response. A major life cycle event was underway — becoming a grandmother or, to use the Yiddish name I’ve chosen, becoming Bubbe. So I began looking for a helpful book.

Others might prefer a website like The Grandparent Effect, where the writer Olivia Gentile passes along news, interviews and studies.

But I wanted a book I could underline and dog-ear and stick Post-its on. I had in mind an authoritative user’s manual, a later-life counterpart to the Penelope Leach baby and child guide I’d relied on as a parent. I also hoped to find more empathic, personal volumes that explored the emotional side of the experience.

Publishers would be eagerly targeting this vast market of 70 million American grandparents, I figured, so I would find dozens of worthy contenders in both categories.

Well, no.

You can indeed find scores of grandparenting books. But when you weed out journals and keepsake albums, books for specialized audiences (often religious ones, like “Biblical Grandparenting: Exploring God’s Design, Culture’s Messages, and Disciple-Making Methods to Pass Faith to Future Generations”), self-published books (without gatekeepers, it’s hard to gauge quality), books that label their reader a “complete idiot,” and those out of print except for digital versions, there’s not much left of substance.

But here’s the good news: You can find scads of wonderful children’s books about grandparents, even if there aren’t a lot of great adult books for them.

Why the disparity? Maybe the industry thinks we’ve been parents already, so we don’t need or want books about grandparenting, even though these are very different roles.

Or perhaps potential readers don’t exactly want to acknowledge being old enough to be grandparents, though you can achieve that status long before Medicare eligibility.

When I asked people in publishing about the gap, they couldn’t quite explain it.

“They’re conspicuous by their absence,” the literary agent Andrew Blauner said of good grandparenting books.

“There should be a big book by someone we’ve all heard of and want to hear from,” said Marnie Cochran, executive editor at Ballantine Bantam Dell, who has published family and parenting books for 25 years. “Like Nora Ephron, God rest her soul.”

So why isn’t there? Ms. Cochran’s sense is that grandparents who want the kind of guidance offered by a Penelope Leach are reading … Penelope Leach.

Still, here are my picks. I’ll be interested in yours.

When it comes to instruction manuals, I’ve found no contemporary expert with the status and clout of a Spock, a Brazelton or a Leach. But a California child psychiatrist, Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, came close. He researched grandparenting extensively, published half a dozen books and many articles in the 1980s and ’90s, became a TV fixture. Tom Brokaw called him “the Dr. Spock of grandparenting.”

Now 85 and still practicing, he has self-published an updated version of his encyclopedic “The Grandparent Guide,” first released in 2002. Like many self-published books, it suffers from poor layout and design, with lots of typos; it’s not an aesthetically pleasing object.

But so what? Here’s a guy who has thought about every aspect of grandparenting, cosmic and pragmatic, and covers subjects ranging from favoritism and spending to L.G.B.T. families and visitation laws. He writes authoritatively, citing others’ research and his own; he combines compassion with sound advice. Like a Spock or a Brazelton, he earns your trust.

And he may have a rival come March. The trade publication Publishers Weekly just warmly reviewed “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” by Jane Isay, a longtime editor and author of several books on family relationships.

In writing about grandmotherhood (grandfathers are even more underrepresented on bookstore shelves), they’ve taken a collective deep breath and proceeded with unexpected honesty.

You’ll read heartening stories, but also chilling ones. The authors confess to competitiveness and perfectionism. They sometimes triumph as magical, memory-making grandmoms and sometimes screw up. They keen over grandchildren they’re no longer permitted to see. (Note to my daughter and son-in-law: Don’t ever do this, ever.) It’s a compelling collection.

A few runners-up in this category: The relentlessly droll Judith Viorst’s account of a briefly multigenerational household, “Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days.” The more recent “Becoming Grandma,” from the veteran television journalist Lesley Stahl. And, depending on how resonant you find her spiritual labors, Anne Lamott’s “Some Assembly Required.”

You’ll find the true riches, though, among the children’s books. Here, I turned to a friend, Marjorie Ingall, author of “Mamaleh Knows Best,” who reviews children’s books for the Times Book Review.

Among picture books for the youngest, she gave a thumbs-up to Todd Parr, who has created dozens of Technicolorful books on an array of subjects. I add my thumbs-up for his producing both “The Grandma Bookand “The Grandpa Book.” “For very, very little kids, these books are crack,” Marjorie said. “And if the goal is to enjoy cuddle time with your grandkid and make reading feel intimate and pleasurable, mission accomplished.”

She also applauded Lauren Castillo’s “Nana in the City,” a Caldecott Honor picture book for ages 4 through 7. “The grandma is bold, vigorous and energetic and wears snazzy Berkeley therapist-esque clothes,” she said. “I have a hard time thinking of other picture books with lively, out-in-the-world, non-soup-making grandmas.”

She’s also fond of another Caldecott Honor picture book, by the revered Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. “Coming on Home Soon,” meant for 5- to 8-year-olds, is set during World War II, when a mother must go off to work in far-off Chicago, leaving her daughter behind with her grandmother. “It’s an intimate portrayal of the little girl and grandma’s life together,” Marjorie says.

Other friends have tipped me to “Tom,” the wonderful illustrator Tomie dePaola’s idiosyncratic tribute to his own grandfather. And to Vera B. Williams’s much-loved “A Chair for My Mother.” And to “What Grandmas Do Best” by Laura Numeroff, of giving-cookies-to-mice fame. Flipped over, it becomes “What Grandpas Do Best,” and in egalitarian fashion, the text is the same for both.

All these children’s books were new to me, and they’re all marvels. So my granddaughter will come out ahead in this investigation, apparently.

The bookshelves in her small bedroom are already crammed, because while we were awaiting her birth, good friends hosted what they called Bubbe’s Book Shower.

The guests all brought favorite children’s books, a wonderful idea. Nobody had to worry about proper sizes or whether her parents would appreciate princess-themed onesies. (Answer: No.) People just brought copies of “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Runaway Bunny.”

But I’m going to wedge in these new titles, too. This is the kind of reading about grandparents I’ll probably be doing for a while.

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Confidence is Key

By | November 28th, 2017|Tags: , |

I was recently asked what parents should do to encourage leadership skills. Coming from a family of leaders I think back to see which text book answers apply. What I found is that it is rare to find a tip that is not equally good for a “leader” and a “follower,” or “chiefs” and “Indians” like we used to say. I would like to remind my audience that both play an important role in life situations. Society would dictate that leaders are superior. But since I know that every good team needs different strengths I suggest that confidence plays a stronger part.

Society has a way of stratifying and labeling kids. It can come with a negative connotation. Sometimes they change their appearance, friends, or social activities and successfully alter how they are seen, but more often than not they get stuck. The jock, the nerd, the preppy…

I go back to the question of how to build a leader. Again the idea of building confidence resonates with me. The parent who originally asked the question wasn’t necessarily asking because she wanted her daughter to run for student counsel. The conversation that preceded the question was about friends and peer pressure. There was an element of fear that she wouldn’t be there to help her daughter make the right choices. Leaders make wrong choices every day. Simply being a strong leader won’t be the deciding factor as to which path a child will take. A person with a strong set of values and confidence, leaders and followers alike, have my vote.

So, how do you build confidence in a child? Self-worth is the corner stone in your child’s existence. It begins when they are infants. As they grow older they gain independence and responsibility. The more they get, the more confidence they build. Good communication, positive reinforcement and a positive role model will show what is expected of them. One of my favorite quotes is by Hain Ginott. He says “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others!” What a confidence boost! 

Whether your child is a leader or a follower, understand the importance of their role. Society can’t complete tasks without both of them! If your child wants some leadership training, ask why. Perhaps it is to become the next President of Student Council. But if it is to build their self-esteem then you are barking up the wrong tree!

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Parenting by Trial and Error?

By | September 4th, 2017|Tags: , , |

I wanted to be a parent longer than I can remember. I was the little girl that stuffed a pillow under her shirt and gave birth to her baby dolls on a daily basis. The obsession was replaced with sports for a spell, but when I went to college and started dating more seriously, I wasn’t worried when I couldn’t focus on a major. Being a wife and mother does not require a  college degree.

It took me four years to find Mr. Right. It took us another fifteen years to have our first child. It was a long road of arguments, disappointments, doctors, fertility treatments, and finally in-vitro.  Less than two years later we had babies number two and three (twins). 

I remember bringing our first baby home and learning the first lesson of being a mom. It was two of us learning from each other from the start. I read books and spoke with family and friends. It was trial and error to be sure. After three days of not sleeping I  thought how lucky I was that I loved my job! I couldn’t wait till morning when I got to start the routine all over again. What other type of job lets you say that? Even when my back went out and I was crawling on the floor like Ursula (the sea witch from the Little Mermaid) in order to get my son out of his crib, I never regretted what I had signed up for.

Then I had the twins. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “boy, you have your hands full!” I’m going to let you in a little secret. When you have twins, they keep each other company! They don’t require all of your attention, all of the time. When you are changing a diaper, you already have all of the stuff out, you might as well change two. When you get to the stage when they are chasing each other around in walkers, don’t forget to break out your smartphone or camera. It is hysterical. Grocery shopping is more difficult because it’s hard to find places to put your groceries, but somehow you manage.

I’m realizing as they get older how events occurred and decisions were made and how they have affected their lives. It’s terrifying. In 2011 the twins stuffed their Halloween candy in the toaster and pushed down the lever. What I’ve learned years later is that they saw the toaster burst into flames, got scared and went to bed. Sometime later the fire alarm woke me, I called 911, and my family marched out of the house. We had to stay in a hotel for thee months before we found new housing. This was my childhood home. I spent a lot of time on the phone dealing with my own trauma thinking the boys hadn’t seen anything. They overheard a lot and carried a lot of guilt before they told me the truth years later.

During this time their father and I were separated. We called it the fight that lasted a year. It was a stressful time and once again I ask myself how did this impact their lives? A separation, a fire, living in a hotel. We turned it into an adventure and the boys received enormous support from their school and family…but a mother’s worry never ends.

In 2013 it happened again. My husband and I both got phone calls at our place of work explaining that our house was on fire. This time there was not  a clear explanation as to how the fire started. When I got there the house was in flames and the ceiling had collapsed. Thank Goodness there was no loss of life. Our new kittens were safe, our old dog was still in the back yard and the kids were safely at school. Despite the rise in anxiety and a feeling of helplessness I got the message laud and clear about what was important.

It seemed so easy when they were lying under their arch of toys swatting at the little rainbow in the center. As I look back on it my biggest problem was when I gave birth to the twins and got to introduce their big brother for the first time. He took one look at them and high tailed it out of that room so fast. Not sure what his plan was, but I can tell you it didn’t include either of them!  Fortunately one of his aunts were nearby and raced down the hall to collect him. I look back at parenting then and now and realize that I’m not getting more than I can handle, and that we still learn by trial and error.

This summer my oldest son got to go on an adventure with his grandparents. I felt the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life. I bought him a special watch so I could watch him with GPS and call him whenever I needed to. He had the time of his life. He came home with so many stories. Whats more, my parents reported that he was well behaved helpful, fun spirited, and a joy to have around the entire trip. They said I was doing a good job!

Lets let that sink in for a while…I am doing a good job. When my kids are with others, they know what to do, they do it, and it reflects back positively on our family. Now that is a good feeling.

Every morning when I take my boys to school I watch them as they run to the sidewalk that takes them to their classrooms, backpacks knocking against their butts and I think how much I love my job, how lucky I am to have them and sometimes I get a lump in my throat.

Why Does Vlinder Work? Behavior Management

By | September 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Good question! Something that I, as the creator, should be able to explain to you.

For those that have never read my blogs…Vlinder is a behavior management game or program that uses positive reinforcement to reward clearly set expectations. For more information visit the website.

This is not about how to play or even how it works…this is about WHY it works. The ABC’s of behavior management rests on three aspects: antecedents, behaviors and consequences. Antecedents are events that occur before behaviors present themselves. If a child doesn’t have a good meal, didn’t get enough sleep, and got news that they weren’t going to their friends house then those are the antecedents to the temper tantrum that followed. The tantrum is the behavior that you are trying to discourage. Parents generally have a built in consequence for poor behaviors which can be anything from avoidance to a time-out or even worse.

Taking this example and using Vlinder means that you set the expectations before the antecedents have a chance to impact behavior. Clearly the child is in no shape for a play date. Expectations are set for what is reasonable for them to achieve the goal either later in that day or the next day. What can they do to earn this time? Have a rest or eat more breakfast? Complete some of their morning responsibilities. Note that in this example they are not losing their playdate…they are working towards it. You have gotten the same result without a tantrum.

That is the simple explanation of why Vlinder works. We looked at the ABC’s of behavior management and we took control at “A” (antecedents).

There are times of the day that are typically more stressful than others. If you use Vlinder to structure time you will be amazed at how much smoother time will play out. Not only will you have more cooperation but you will have more time for yourself as your players know what they have to do…as their expectations have already been laid out for them.

As with any behavior management program, results will vary. I am the first to admit that the first couple of times that you try this new approach it can be confusing for your child and a tantrum may still follow. Habits are hard to break. As they come to see that you follow through with your promises they will begin to work hard. Stay positive as you see them trying. When they question just acknowledge that this is not earning their “stamps” (part of the game) to go to their play date.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com!

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Out With the Old

By | May 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

One of the great things about any good behavior modification system is that you can watch the undesirable behavior slowly correct itself. With games like Vlinder you often see change occur quickly. Please note that it takes time for it to have a lasting affect. Poor habits do not form over night, nor do the remedies. Once you choose negative behaviors that you want to focus on, it is important not to overstimulate or overburden the child. Pick one at a time that you can slowly integrate into your plan.

With Vlinder there is a list of responsibilities or expectations that your child has already set to accomplish each morning. By using the two-three extra spaces at bottom of the Task Sheet you can add your positive goals. 

As an example, if your child is hitting their siblings at home, two replacement behaviors may be, not hitting their siblings and showing acts of leadership. Generally you have one behavior that is the exact opposite and then one behavior that is doing an act to replace their time in a positive fashion.

Another example is if your child is still wetting the bed. The first replacement would be not wetting the bed and the second could be keeping their bed made.

A behavior modification system works because of the positive and negative reinforcers that are in play. A driving force in a game like Vlinder is the idea of earning stamps, thus earning the reward cards. For those who have played the game, you know that there is as much value in the stamp as there is in the reward itself. It is something that is earned. The tears never come from not earning the right reward, but they do come from not earning a stamp. Find your motivators and you have found the leverage to help you turn any negative behavior into the good behavior that you are looking for.

Breakthrough, LLC is the proud distributor of Vlinder. Please visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com for more information at behavior modification, our game Vlinder or other parenting information.

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Enough is Enough

By | April 23rd, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

How can you tell if you are overindulging your children? That is a tough question. For some, giving what you didn’t have as a child is overindulgence. It doesn’t really matter who is right. I think parents generally are pretty intelligent people and know when they are going overboard. What matters is a pattern of overindulgence can be harmful for your child. Not being able to recognize negative consequences leads to poor coping strategies.

What we do instead is offer reasonable solutions to our children when confronted with negative consequences. Allow them to learn from their mistakes and build strategies to become stronger, wiser and independent young adults. Here are some tips that parents and kids can work on together…

  1. Be grateful for what you have.
  2. Make sure to set and follow through with consequences.
  3. Share how it feels when your kindness is taken for granted.
  4. Work on communication skills between parent and child.
  5. Accept that patterns of over-indulgence can harm a child’s ability to function in life.
  6. Provide a lesson teaching the difference between needs and wants.
  7. Learn how to set boundaries and stay firm.

I believe that we all have the best interest of our children in mind. When we vowed not to make the same mistakes as our parents or that our kids would never “go without” we did not mean harm. But in some cases that is exactly what is happening and it is time to take a look at our parenting plan and rethink some strategies. Patterns that have set over a period of time can be difficult to identify and change. Using the steps above are a step in the right direction. Creating new patterns which don’t include overindulging your children is another!

I encourage conversation on my Facebook support group, Parenting With Intention…I also welcome your comments. For more parenting advice or to learn more about behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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Is Your Child Really Sick? Are They Trying to Tell You Something?

By | March 22nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Does your child fake being sick to get out of going to school? Recently I have been confronted with this challenge. I wish if they are going to get sick they would get a good old dose of the flu, it takes the decision making out of the equation. A fever means staying home quietly with a good book. It’s more concerning to me when my child delivers a performance, feigning illness to avoid the classroom. What is he really saying?

Perhaps nothing is going on. Perhaps your child is in the middle of a good book and can’t wait to finish it. But inventing stories to avoid school could also be a shout out for help. This is a good opportunity for you to ask if there is anything going on with friends or schoolmates. Perhaps he needs help with some homework. It may also be a larger problem such as bullying.

Children worry about life at home. If your child is feeling an unnecessary stressor due to events in the home they may feel like they need to stay close by.  This may be an important time for you to do an inventory on your own home life and reassure your child that they are safe.

As busy parents we often run on auto-pilot and it is good to slow down and look for the meaning behind our children’s actions. Patterns are created because the action works over time. If your child continues to create stories to get out of going to school, better to nip this in the bud early. Discover the reason and solve the problem before it turns into a behavior.

I encourage conversation on my Facebook support group, Parenting With Intention…I also welcome your comments. For more parenting advice or to learn more about behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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