Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Behavior Dialogue: Negotiating Agreements — The “How To”

The Behavior Dialogue (Discipline Skill #1)
Negotiating Agreements: The “How To”

In this process (the Behavior Dialogue) you use all the listening skills (acknowledging, questions,and reflecting) and the illustrating skills (i.e., speaking skills, especially modeling and I-messages). While arriving at an agreement on something here and now is important to you, what’s even more important in the long run is that the child learning to respectfully negotiate a solution to a problem and reach an agreement that you can both live with.

The following steps might seem pretty complicated at first. But they’re very logical, and if you make this your standard M.O. (method of operation), you’ll get pretty good at it, and you’ll be able to do the whole process without even trying to concentrate on whether all the steps have been used. What’s even better, the child will also become capable, through practice, of intuitively using a very important life skill: negotiating an agreed-upon solution to relationship problems.

Step 1: Set the table–get her attention by inviting cooperation. Here you invite the child to enter into a dialogue with you about something you consider important. These should be stated as “I-messages.” In other words, they start with the word “I.” As the parent, I am conveying to my child that I am the one who has a problem, and not that the child is the problem, has a problem, or is doing something wrong. For example:

  • “Johnny, I’d like to talk to you about something that’s been bothering me.”
  • “I’d like to get your help on solving a problem we’ve got around here.”
  • “I was wondering what made you so upset with me yesterday when…….”
  • “Honey, I’m having a problem with something and I’m hoping you can help me with it.”

Step 2: In an I-message, state YOUR problem as clearly as you can. In other words, give your reason(s) as to why you think it’s a problem for you. You can refer to what the child does behaviorally. This is a legitimate part of an “I-message.” Give them your reason, too. Examples:

  • “I get irritated when you whine, because you’re not a baby and I expect you to act your age.”
  • “I got upset when you hit your sister earlier, because I don’t like you kids hurting each other.”
  • “I get worried when I don’t know where you are when you’re out at night, because it can be very dangerous and I’m afraid you might get hurt (or in serious trouble, etc.).”

Don’t pass negative judgments on the child, like “When you act like such a little baby,” or “When you bully your sister,” or “When you go gallavanting the streests all night.”

Don’t propose the solution. Don’t start out by saying something like, “Would you be willing to take out the trash?” Or, “From now on it’s your job to take the trash out whenever the bag is full.” It’s too early to start imposing solutions. You might say something like:

  • “I have a problem with the garbage bag getting full, and starting to smell, I really don’t like smelly garbage in the kitchen.”
  • “When you and I are at the store, and you start whining and crying and reaching for things, I get upset with you, I get distracted from what I’m trying to do there.”
  • “When you hit your sister earlier, I got angry with you because I was afraid you might hurt her.

Step 3: Ask for their ideas.. Build a list of possibilities. Here’s a great way to invite their cooperation. Simply ask, “What do you think we can do about this?” Or, “What should we do about this?” Or, “How can we handle this?” There are lots of ways this can be put out there–the point is you’re inviting their ideas before giving your own. Other examples:

  • “What ideas do you have about how we could handle this?” Or,
  • “How do you think this could be handled?”
  • “What do you think should be done?”
  • “How do you think you could do better in that situation?”

You’re asking him to brainstorm possibilities here. Accept and acknowledge everything he says as a possible solution, even if it’s unacceptable to you. Then ask for more ideas. Let’s say he says, “Make Sue do it.” Or, “Let mom do it.” Or, “Do it yourself!” You can respond with, “Okay, those are some possibilities. What other possibilities are there?” He might not suggest that he could do it, so you can put that one on the table: “Well, another possibility is that you could do it.” When he objects, listen to the objections (“Sue never has to do anything!”). Don’t get into an argument about what s/he says, but use I-messages to let him know how you see it: “I see you as part of the family team, and I expect you contribute your fair share.” Listen to his objections (“I always have to do everything!”). Again, don’t take the bait and get into an argument, but let him know what you think, using I-messages (“I expect you to do a little more to help out around here.”), not you-messages (“You never do anything around here!” Or, “You’re nothing but a lazy oaf!”).

Step 4: Share your ideas. You have ideas too. They count as much as the kid’s ideas! You might say:

  • “Okay, I have some ideas too. Would you like to hear what they are?” (Seek permission first!)
  • “Well, I have some ideas that I’d like you to consider.”
  • “I’m going to share my ideas with you.”
  • “I’d like you to hear my ideas now.”

Share those ideas on what you would like to see happen, or what you expect from your child as a member of the family team. Eliminate possibilities that are completely unacceptable to either of you.

Step 5: Pop the question: “Okay, so, what can we agree on here?” As this discussion continues, remember what your main objective is: reaching an agreement. Don’t force your solution, even if it means you don’t get an agreement this time around. Be willing to let the subject drop (for the time being) if he digs in his heels and refuses to play ball with you. “Okay, Johnny, we’ve eliminated all the possibilities. I was hoping you’d agree to take on that responsibility. Why don’t you think about it, and we’ll talk about it again later.” This is all about parenting smarter (New School), not power and control (Old School). You are trying to teach cooperation, not force compliance, submission, or obedience. This is part of why New School parenting methods work better than Old School methods.

You could, of course, try to ram it down his throat. (“That’s enough! It’s your job from now on, and that’s that! Got it?”). Life happens that way sometimes, and Johnny has to learn how to cope with it, right? Well, he will (hopefully) at some point, but right now you’re trying to help him to learn to negotiate solutions to problems and reach agreements. Try not to view this as a zero-sum, win-lose type of ball game. If you drop the discussion for the time being, and let Johnny think about it, he just might surprise you. He might come up with something “out of the box.” (“I talked to Sue and she’s willing to take the garbage out if I load the dishwasher for her twice a week.”) Or, he might even agree to do it himself–perhaps with a condition attached. (“Okay, I’ll take the garbage out if I can stay out till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.”) If it’s an outlandish proposal, you might want to make a counter-proposal. (“Well, I think that’s too late, Johnny, but I’d be willing to say ten o’clock on one of those nights if we know where you are and how you’re getting home.”) You want more than what he might be willing to do. You want a commitment. Have a little more discussion here, and be willing to bargain, till you’re clear that he’s proposing an adequate solution in your eyes (that is, an agreement you can live with). If you incorporate his/her ideas into your agreement, you greatly increase the chance of cooperation and commitment to follow through.

Conclusion

The big value I see in negotiating agreements with children is that, besides teaching them how to do it, agreements constitute the basis for an effective discipline system. When the child doesn’t follow through on agreements, the parent has two options, at least: 1) administering the punishment (Old School approach), and 2) holding them accountable for breaking their agreement via the “You-and-Me Dialogue” (my New School approach). I prefer the latter, particularly with children who are willing to “play ball,” talk things through with you, and reach the agreement in the first place.

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3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model.  Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

Learn More          Buy Now         Table of Contents & Intro

 

The Behavior Dialogue: Negotiating Agreements — The Rationale

The Behavior Dialogue: Negotiating Agreements:
 The Rationale  

The first New School discipline skill is the ability to negotiate agreements with a child about right behavior. I call this the Behavior Dialogue. This forms the basis for holding the child accountable for their actions, which is discipline skill #2 (the Accountability Dialogue, or the “You-and-Me-Dialogue“).

But first of all, what the rationale for why a parent should negotiate “acceptable behavior” with a child?. As the parent, shouldn’t you just define the rules, and tell the child what’s acceptable, expected, and demanded? No! The New School way substitutes agreements for rules. Why?

Agreements Are Better Than Rules Continue reading

Be the Consultant: Don’t Rescue (Discipline Skill #3)

Be the Consultant: Don’t Rescue (Discipline Skill #3)

Discipline Skill #3:
Be the Consultant. Don’t Rescue.
Instead, Guide Your Child to Solve His/Her Own Problems

It is understood that parents must play many roles in raising responsible, caring, and cooperative children. At different times, in different circumstances, depending on their child’s age and needs, parents are nurturers and protectors, they are teachers and guides, they are role models and advocates.

Yet one of the most important roles a parent can play in raising responsible, caring, and cooperative children is one that parents typically may not even consider, much less know how to perform. That is the role of consultant to their child. It is a somewhat difficult role, and may or may not come naturally for any given parent. It is certainly one that requires a real balance between the natural tendency to help the child by protecting and supporting, versus the natural tendency to help the child by teaching right and wrong, or guiding the child in how to do what’s right and how to do it well. The consultant role actually provides the child with a bit of all of these parental blessings: protection, support, teaching, and guiding. With this approach, you are “teaching her how to fish” instead of just “giving her a fish” (the way a baby’s “mommy” might do).

Being a consultant has two important parts. Continue reading

Teaching Kids Self-Control

Teaching Kids Self-Control

I define self-control as the ability to select an appropriate response to a feeling or thought from among a number of possibilities.

If you accept the assumptions (and conclusions) of the Volcano Theory, and if you accept that control over another’s behavior is a delusion (a belief falsely held), then how are you to “manage” or “govern” your child’s behavior? How are you to “get” him or “make” him do the right thing, or do what you want him to do, or behave the way you “need” him to behave?

The answer to these questions is really quite simple. You can’t. So the best thing to do is to stop trying to do the impossible.

What?!? Stop trying to make your child do the right thing?

Then what about the child who never picks up her toys? What about the toddler running blindly into the street? Or hitting her mother? Or biting her brother? What about all her unacceptable behavior at school, or in the neighborhood, or in your home? What about your teenager stealing, or fighting, or cheating, or cursing?

Again, you’ll stop trying to make her do the right thing. You might think I’m crazy. So, what am I talking about??

Continue reading

Chuck’s Relationship Coaching Service

Chuck’s Relationship Coaching Service

How to Be the Best Parent You Can Be

Available to single, married, and separated/divorced parents
Purchase one hour of relationship coaching from Chuck Adam here.

http://www.payloadz.com/go/sip?id=1574592

Knowing how to be a parent does not always come easily or naturally, especially if —
  • You were raised by parents who were very controlling or very permissive;
  • Your child is very strong-willed, hyper, uncooperative, resistive, defiant, violent, or depressed;
  • Your partner or your “ex” criticizes or bad-mouths you;
  • Your own parents spoil your kids or interfere with your parenting;
  • Your child acts out at school and the teacher wants you to put a stop to it;
  • You are exhausted, out of ideas, and have found that “nothing works.”
If you are a parent who has run out of ideas about how to help your child do better and maintain your own sanity, coaching might be for you.
Coaching is not therapy. It is an educational process in which parents learn new skills that will both help their child and bring more harmony to the parent-child relationship.
Coaching addresses specific situations and issues that are identified by the parent. It honors the parent’s personal and cultural values and builds on the parent’s strengths and insights about their child. The coach listens, supports, and empathizes with the parent while helping the parent to develop “hypotheses” about the child’s unacceptable behavior that the parent can test for him or herself. The coach provides the parent with new ideas about parenting and parenting techniques, and the parent is free to adopt, experiment with, or reject those ideas.
Benefits of coaching include:
  • Support and encouragement for stressed parents,
  • Impoved parent-child communication and trust,
  • Clearer rules based on agreements,
  • Clearer child understanding of the limits to acceptable behaviors,
  • Stronger child commitment to live up to agreements about acceptable behaviors,
  • Greater cooperation from children with less anger and defiance,
  • More parent consistency with better disipline,
  • Better understanding by parent of child’s problems,
  • Increased options for handling parent-child conflict,
  • Reduced stress for all in the family,
  • More harmony and cooperation between parents and kids,
  • More “quality time” spent together,
  • Less friction, fighting, and arguing,
  • More appreciation of the positive contributions each person makes to the family,
  • More easy-going attitudes in the family.

I work with parents as a coach either at my office in Wauwatosa Wisconsin, or over the phone, depending on distance and the parent’s preference.

Confidentiality is always maintained.

Since coaching is not a mental health profession, it is not covered by insurance, but my rates are very reasonable. My introductory session on the phone is free, and I use it to determine if the parent and I think coaching would address his or her needs. The parent also uses that session to get a feel for me and my style, and to determine if she or he thinks we would be a good “fit.”
Many of my ideas are posted on this website. Feel free to read and experiment with them. If you are interested in getting more detail, or want help in applying the concepts that I present to your specific situation, give me a call. It never hurts to explore possibilities. And it just might be a turning point in your family’s life.
Call me at 414-778-0634 or email me at chuckadam@sbcglobal.net to see if coaching could be of help to you.
Chuck Adam, MSW

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

In my course “A New School Approach to Anger in the Family,” I have concentrated a great deal on the dynamics of anger, how our own thoughts cause our anger, how our own thoughts create the pain that underlies our anger, and how we need to be able to communicate with those we are angry at or who are angry at us. Bruised and hurt ego, the “little me,” and the thought patterns it identifies with, are the source of both our anger and the underlying pain, since we take things personally that are said and done to us.

I have stressed in this course that we cause our own pain and our own anger at others, and that these are rooted in our expectations and our interpretations of others’ behavior toward us. Although I realize this is not a position that is easily adopted by everyone, I am convinced that there is real self-empowerment in this position. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz urges us (as one of the agreements) to take nothing personally. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this counsel, and I encourage all of you to give this wonderful little book your serious consideration.

At the same time, I also recognize that it is true that we have all been hurt by others in very real ways that are not simply insults that we have taken personally when we didn’t need to do that. The hurt inflicted may have been intentional or not intentional, recent or long ago, physical, emotional, or financial, or any number of other possibilities. For this reason, it is imperative that in any course on anger we consider the mysterious and perhaps scary topic of forgiveness. Continue reading

Just Thoughts, Just Feelings

Just Thoughts, Just Feelings

Never take someone’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior personally.

Who hasn’t at one time or another had a thought like “I’ve been wronged.” Or “I’ve been mistreated”? Or “I’ve been hurt”? Or “I don’t deserve this”? Or “I’d like to punch him out”?

And who hasn’t at one time or another had the feeling of anger, pain, jealousy, envy, or fear?

Feelings seem to be always intimately connected with thoughts. Many feelings and their accompanying thoughts are quite pleasant. Many feelings and thoughts are quite unpleasant. But can it be said that any feelings, or any thoughts, are bad?

Children often say things we don’t want to hear, such as “I hate you!” or “I wish you were dead!” or “I wish I had a different mama!” These are verbalizations of thoughts, probably accompanied by feelings of anger, frustration, or even hatred. But can we rightly say these thoughts and feelings are bad? From a certain moral perspective I suppose it is natural to say, “Yes, these (and other) thoughts and feelings are indeed bad.”

But from a relationship perspective, it is not the thoughts or feelings themselves that are “bad,” but rather the expression of them in word or deed that can cause harm to others and damage to relationships. In other words “acting out” or “speaking out” ugly or nasty thoughts and feelings is where bad happens. Bad things can happen when Continue reading