Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Different Approach to Discipline

Most often, disciplining our children tends to lean toward a focus on the negative.  If you've ever been inside a classroom, the same approach holds true.  Much time is spent trying to use the threat of negative consequences to change an unwanted behavior.  Interestingly enough, usually the battle that takes place between the teacher and the student becomes one of "who has the stronger will" rather than a focus on changing the misbehavior.  It is at this time the situation becomes a recipe for a bad ending for both parties.  Teachers become impatient, throw in a bit of sarcasm or an attempt at humiliation; kids raise their voices, add a pinch of attitude and the entire situation is out of control.  Can you see it?  Can you hear it?  It has happened to me before in the classroom and it happens to me with my own children at times.

What if a different approach was taken?  That "reverse psychology" may work after all.  To get the outcome you really want, focus your efforts on the positive outcome you want and use language and offer options that will get this result.  I don't know about you, but my kids don't seem to fear consequences of a negative nature.  The older they get, the harder I have to work to find a negative consequences that means something to them so that they stop the behavior I don't want.  It is exhausting.  For parents with kids who have ADHD, this situation is often maddening.  I read an article recently about a parent who tried such a different approach.  I wanted to have a "real-life" example of this to share with readers.  The long and the short of it is that he was having trouble getting his daughter to bed one evening after a very long day for him.  He spent a great deal of time telling her what would happen if she made the right choice about getting ready for bed one evening.  He also spend a fraction of that time reminding her of the normal negative consequence if she chose not to be compliant.  After he presented her with both options and was confident she understood the outcome of either situation, he asked her to make a choice.  She chose the outcome that resulted in a smooth bedtime, good father-daughter time, and no time-out. 

I know you might be saying, "Yeah, make it sound so easy" or "my kids wouldn't fall for that reverse psychology stuff."  The bottom line is that sometimes making the right choice is NOT easy for kids, especially those with ADHD.  Thinking about the consequences and then having the developmental maturity to weigh those choices is not something that comes easy for adolescents.  Try changing the approach.  In the classroom, where an entire group of kids is watching may be the perfect place to change strategy.  The kicker is that it must be given time to work.  Negative consequences have been the typical approach so a shift in thinking won't come over night.  Talk up what good choices do for relationships.  Focus on what great things happen to them when they make good choices.  After all, you can always go back to what you know doesn't work.  Trying something new is a no-lose situation.

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