Remember, you must:
‘A’ set up the situation for success; ‘B’ specifically define the behavior; and ‘C’ pick your consequence of punishment (P). Avoid reinforcement (R) of unwanted behavior.
Assess what the behavior tells you about needs: why are they acting that way? What do they need? Do they need or want attention? Are they lacking guidance on how to act? Change your approach and reaction to effectively meet those needs.
It may seem like a monumental task to implement all of this, but really, what are you doing anyway? Aren’t you already spending most of your time dealing with your child’s behavior? Make the most of the time you already spend. Put it toward the Five Basics of structure, communication, limits, consistency, and guidance. Making your child secure and happy means you’ll have more time in the future. You won’t be spending every other minute in warfare!
Sure, it will be daunting at first because they are used to certain reactions from you. When you go and change the way you do things, it will throw them for a loop. They’ll probably kick it up a few notches to make sure you know they mean business. Fine. Hold your ground, stay calm, and don’t give in.
Let’s say, for instance, you take your eight-year-old kid to the school book fair. (Keep in mind, the unstated expectation is that you are going to purchase the books, which makes a big difference in this example.) The child throws a fit because he wants the Turtle Ranger book written for a five-year-old, and you refuse to spend (way too much) money on a book he is clearly too old for. So ABC it. You know the only reason he wants it is for the nifty lock and key it has – which you know he’ll forget all about in two days. So your choices are:
P = don’t get the book, ignore the behavior, and leave.
R = talk about the behavior, get into a discussion about why he can’t act like that and tell him he can get the book if he pays for it (using his own earned money) the minute you walk home.
(P) will punish, because the little stinker will figure out that you can’t pout, cry and stomp your foot to get what you want. If the goal is to spend his own money to get what he wants, fine. Just set that expectation beforehand. Do not give in with this compromise after his behavior turns sour. That will reinforce the poor behavior because he gets what he wants in the end.
(R) will reinforce, because even if the kid straightens up, the initial fit is what spurred you to cave in the first place. So what if he gets a lecture? He got the book. Mission accomplished.
No shocker, this example is totally true, and my own personal bad. Headline reads: “Discipline Chic Mom Gets Run Over by Six-Year-Old at Book Fair!” Yep. I was an absolute push over. As soon as my six-year-old started in with the water works, my first reaction was an embarrassed, silent, “Oh-my-gawd-this-is-SO-not-going-to-work-and-I-just-know-someone’s-looking-at-me-I’m-on-the-PTO-board-for-heaven’s-sake-so-she-can’t-do-this-to-me-in-front-of-these-women!” I quickly followed the mental monologue with a verbal, “Don’t you dare start that behavior. No ma’am. That is not how we get what we want.” I then promptly started negotiating, “Listen, I refuse to use my own money for that book, but if you want it, you have to give me your stash of quarters just as soon as you get home.” Take that! Showed her!
Okay, so no Parent of the Year awards for me. However, in my defense, since I write books on discipline and immediately felt the swooping rush of Catholic guilt, I swore to do better and change my ways. As luck would have it, another incident popped up only a week later and I held my ground. My daughter found a necklace she wanted and I never once swayed. Nope. No siree. “My dear, after the fit you threw at the book fair, I am not inclined to get you that necklace. And furthermore, you spent your last dime on that book you wanted so badly, so now you’re out of money. You made a choice and now you have to live with it.” The tears I expected never came, and she nodded her head with a resigned, “Okay.”
You know, I adore my kids. We all do. Sometimes it stinks to be consistent, give limits and provide those parental guidance lessons on the choices they make and the natural consequences. But if we don’t do it, they won’t learn how the world works.
And listen, it isn’t all unpleasant. Here’s an ABC Guide that consistently reinforces GOOD behavior – which is what we want:
A = You ask Danny to take his dishes to the sink after dinner.
B = Danny politely takes the plate and brings it to the sink.
C = You reinforce and say, “Thanks so much, honey. High Five!”
So to increase cooperation:
- Get a routine
- Teach your child how to communicate effectively
- Provide guidance and limits
- BE CONSISTENT
The 5 Discipline Basics to promote positive behavior:
Punish (P) bad behavior. (Again, P is NOT harsh).
Reinforce (R) good behavior only!