It’s back to school season, and relaxed summer schedules are quickly turning into days filled with early bedtimes, harried morning routines, and homework. In many homes, days start and end with parents pleading children to stay on task.
As parents, we expect our children and teens to comply, right away, every time. Sometimes they don’t. You may have tried warnings, lectures, grounding, threats, yelling, and restricting privileges. Most kids hate this, and for some, those we call “intense,” consequences don’t work!
Intense children/teens are more likely to have a greater need for connection, especially with their parents. It can appear to be the opposite when an intense child continues to make poor choices knowing the result. Why would they do this?
Some kids seem to prefer negative attention to none at all. For intense kids, everything we do that connects with them, whether positive or negative, feeds the child’s intense need to connect. To change behavior, it is important to give attention to positive choices.
Most parents naturally praise their kids and spend time doing positive activities with them. However, parents tend to talk longer, use more specifics, show more emotion, make more intense eye contact, and even get physically closer to their children when the child/teen has made a negative choice. These actions say, “I am fully present with you right now.” On the other hand, when parents praise their children, it often consists of fewer words such as “Good job”, or “Way to go.” These non-specific statements provide a less intense, less present connection than what is often said about poor choices.
Try these 3 principles to nurture the behavior you want:
Commit to stop giving your energy and connection when things are going wrong. Instead, giving a short, clear consequence without much talk. Moving on is likely to be more effective, over time, if done in combination with the next two steps.
Fully connect with your child/ teen when they are making good choices or moving in a positive direction. This includes eye contact, a specific description of the positive action, and, most importantly, pointing out the positive character trait they showed by that action.
Give specific, clear directions about your expectations and rules, and give a brief consequence every time the direction is not heeded, without the added connection of yelling, lecturing, threatening or arguing.
*The above is based on The Nurtured Heart Approach® created by Howie Glasser.
Dr. Trent Everett and Ms. Erin Whitney, LPC-S, are clinicians at The Conative Group, PLLC, and are both Advanced Trainers in this approach. To learn more call for an appointment at (713) 993-7030 or visit the website at www.theconativegroup.com