Children and seizing opportunitites to teach

Often times we look at our children’s behavior as good or bad,  then equate it with them being good or bad.  Our children are not born knowing the difference.  We teach them that they are good or bad, depending on what we are telling them and how we respond to them.  If we are telling them they are bad and then laugh at the behavior we are confusing them.  Bad things are not laughable.  If we tell them they have to be good in a store and then bribe them to do so we are telling them we will pay them to behave.  That is not a realistic goal.  No one else in the universe is going to do that.  If we get them whatever they want when we go to a store because they are acting out, we are teaching them they can get away with this behavior and get rewarded for it.  None of these behaviors, will make them successful people, necessarily.  manipulative yes, successful?  In some ways yes, because they will manipulate people to get what they want.  Most of us get tired of being manipulated and will stop hanging around the manipulator.  So success with this behavior is limited.

So, what do you do?  Natural consequences for actions are best whenever you can.  Not giving in to the temper tantrum and allowing them to have one without trying to control it or give attention to it.  If you leave them alone with their anger they will learn to control it for themselves and they will also learn that it will not get them anything.  Mom and Dad have to be on the same page.  They cannot learn that they can go to one parent and undermine what the other one just said. Parents have to agree on how situations are going to be handled, together.  That means you have to talk about it, agree to it and follow through with what was agreed.  The child has to know that you are a united front.  If you have other people living in the house, babysitter, Aunts, Uncle or Grandparents they have to be following through with what you, as parents, have agreed.  It is your household, you have to be the one running it.  Otherwise you are teaching a child how to undermine your authority in your home by allowing that to continue.  No one should have the authority to make the rules in your home but you.

Looking at behavior as opportunities to teach life lessons, instead of good or bad behavior also takes the judgment out of it.  Being a child means you are learning to be an adult.  It means you have not mastered that feat yet.  It means that you have parents who are going to teach you how to be an adult that can be successful in life.  It means that your parents are not acting out of their own frustrations, their own past experiences of being a child and most especially guilt about not having enough time for them.  Children love to play on their parents guilt.  Whatever the natural consequence for the behavior would be, should be done.  If a temper tantrum has occurred and a mess was made, the natural consequence would be to clean it up.  If the child is young, you may have to help them.  Everythng stops for that child until the mess is cleaned up.  If you wait to clean it, the child will forget why they are cleaning the mess.  You should not have given any attention to the temper tantrum either.  Unless they are hurting themselves, let them alone with their anger.  Whatever you give attention to, they will repeat.  If you have been doing the temper tantrum thing for a while, in order to break it you will have to ignore the behavior.  That will take strength and courage on your part.  If you have been doing it for years, it will take a while for it to stop.  It will take you doing it daily to have it stop. The behavior will escalate because the child is use to getting away with the behavior and does not understand why it is no longer working.  So they do whatever they can to get our attention so they can get their way, it worked before, why not now.  After all, if you have walked 4 miles into the woods it will take 4 miles to get out of the woods and you are now tired as well.

The older your child is the more difficult it will be to change the behavior.  It is not impossible, it will take more determination on your part because you have allowed it to continue for so long.  Even if you have someone undermining you and your authority,  you can do it.  Your children will learn what you are teaching them.  If you teach them there are limits, they will learn limits, if you teach them to manipulate their world they will learn to do that as well.  You are the teacher, they are the student, be careful what you are teaching, because they are paying attention.  These video’s will help you to relax while you’re changing their behavior and yours.   Link to the video’s.   Enjoy!


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I became a therapist in an attempt to understand my own childhood and what happened there and how it made me who I am, exhibiting the behaviors that were not always positive, very often self-destructive. I used Art Therapy to help me understand things in my past that were stopping me from making better decisions in my present day. I used Behavioral Science to help me understand underlying causal factors, roots to the present day behaviors that I was seeing in myself. Both help me to change those behaviors/thoughts that were causing me to make self-destructive decisions that were causing pain in life. I have been a therapist since 1985 and have an undergraduate degree Art and behavioral science (double major) from the University of Maine. My graduate work was done at Marywood university and I have a degree in Art Therapy. I have certificates in Forensic Interviewing and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior therapy. I have 22 out of 30 credits toward a degree in Trauma Therapy from Drexel University. I started out as a Community Support Worker, Program Manager/Clinical Supervisor, Family therapist and Outpatient therapist.

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