Tag Archives: behavior in children

Feel Good, Do Good; Feel Bad, Do Bad

Feel Good, Do Good;
Feel Bad, Do Bad

We sometimes hear about people doing “random acts of kindness.” Like holding the door for strangers, plugging a stranger’s parking meter, etc. What motivates random acts of kindness?

On one hand, it might be a thought, such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” On the other hand, it might be that at the moment the person is just feeling good. Or it might be both. It could also be pre-meditated, or simply spontaneous, reflecting the person’s internal disposition or state of mind at the moment.

By the same token, if a person if feeling grumpy, or full of anger or self-pity, they are much less likely to do the random act of kindness. When we feel bad–impatient, angry, depressed, and the like–we are not only less inclined to do the good thing, but we are more inclined to do the bad thing, like barking at someone, criticizing someone, or ignoring an attention-getter.

This applies to children, too, of course, and perhaps even more so. They are so much more likely than we adults to spontaneously act their feeling state out and express their feeling verbally or non-verbally. Children are much less likely to be “reserved” or “controlled” in how they express their feeling of the moment. They are more primitive than adults in that way, but also genuine or authentic than a more self-conscious adult is likely to be.

So it is critically important for us as adults, and as parents, to be able and willing to quickly size up a situation in which our child is “acting out” (expressing) some negative feeling they might be having at the moment. When the four-year-old hits his little brother, or the ten-year-old steals $20 from his mother’s purse, or the teenager threatens to (or actually does) run away, it is important for the parent to assess and respond to what is motivating the behavior, and not just fly off the handle in reaction to the behavior itself. A knee-jerk reaction to bad behavior by a parent is not just missing the mark, it is also (and much worse) an invitation to the child to do more bad behavior. Why? Because the parent is ignoring or blowing off the pain and frustration the child is experiencing. Ironically, the parent now creates another problem, and more bad feelings, for the child by criticizing or attacking. In this way, showing the child a lack of empathy (i.e., not communicating some understanding of the child’s feeling or thinking state) is in a sense a rejection of the child. It’s not just the bad behavior the parent is rejecting (which is to be expected), but it’s also a rejection of the deeper, more important aspect of what makes us persons: the thoughts and feelings that motivate our behavior.

When children feel good, they are likely to do good. When they feel bad, they are more likely to do bad things. Conversely, when we see them doing something good, we can surmise that they may be feeling good, and when they do something bad, we can surmise that they may be feeling bad.

Understanding another person’s plight is called empathy. A loving, empathic response by the parent that expresses that understanding can make all the difference. For example, “Okay, honey, you must be feeling bad–angry, sad, afraid, jealous, etc.–right now. Is that right?” It communicates that the parent accepts the child’s internal distress. It invites the child to talk about what made them act badly. It’s the perfect way to start a dialogue that leads to a common understanding (and maybe even the child’s agreement) about how to handle those thoughts and feelings next time. It communicates respect and love, without approving unacceptable behavior. It shows the child that the parent cares and is willing to listen, and this strengthens the parent-child relationship.


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   

Parent Responses to Out-of-Control Kids

Parent Responses to Out-of-Control Kids

There is no way a parent can control any child, even less, one who is “out of control.”

See my Volcano Theory for more detail. In short, it states that all behavior in all people at all times is motivated by a) thoughts, or b) feelings (emotions), or both. Only the child can control his behavior, just as only you can control yours. So don’t try to control, or “take charge of,” your out-of-control child’s behavior. It’ll cause more anger and resentment, and just make things worse.

As the parent, you must work at being the child’s ally, not her persecutor or drill sargent or boss. You can be her ally by understanding what thoughts and feelings motivate her behavior, and then by negotiating agreements with her, and then by holding her accountable for her agreements. Believe it or not, you can do this with two-year-olds. In fact, the younger the child is (as long as he can communicate verbally), the better is the time to start this.

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Old School Parenting Is Not Necessarily “Bad” Or “Wrong”

Old School Parenting Is Not Necessarily”Bad” or “Wrong.”

But It’s Often Ineffective

The Old School model of parenting is not, in and of itself, bad or wrong in terms of how to be a parent. Ninety-nine percent of us were probably raised within that model, and we turned out just fine, thank you!

By the “Old School parenting model” I mean the model that has been around for eons, probably as long as human parenting itself. It consists of a set of time-honored, tried and true principles that include the following: 1) rules; 2) obedience; and 3) punishments.

Old School = Parental Decree –> Rules –> Obedience –> Punishments

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Discipline: What Is It?

Discipline: What Is It?

Disciplina, in its original Latin usage, means both “teaching and learning.” It’s an interesting word because it means that If there is teaching going on, then there is also learning going on. If someone is learning something, then someone or something (like life or personal experience) is teaching it.

“Discipline” Wrongly Means “Punishment”


Parents discipline children in order to teach them something specific, like right from wrong, good behavior from bad behavior, obedience, the importance of limits and self-control, and so on. Parents teach these things in many different ways. However, in our culture when parents say they are disciplining their children, or want to know how to discipline them, they almost universally use the term discipline to mean punishment as the means of teaching the intended lesson.

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Unacceptable Child Behavior: the UCB Survey

Unacceptable Child Behavior:
the UCB Survey 

Unacceptable child behaviors are obviously a major challenge for parents, and rightly so. Parents usually know what’s best for their children, and rightfully demand the best from them. How parents demand the child’s best is another issue, and is dealt with in other places on this website.

It may be helpful for you as a parent to take a “snapshot” at this point in time of how badly, or unacceptably, your child is behaving day-in and day-out. You can use this “Uncacceptable Child Behavior Survey” both now and at a later point in time to measure whether your efforts at improving your parenting techniques are having a positive, desirable effect on your child’s behavior.

I typically offer this survey to participants in my parenting classes as a pre- and post-test at the beginning and end of each course. I figure that if my courses are achieving positive results for parents, those results should be observable in the improved behaviors of their children. Hundreds of parents have completed this pre- and post-test, and the results are encouraging. After the customary 4-session course (which covers only 3 weeks), the average reduction in unacceptable child behaviors is 20%. If parents are getting better at using the relationship skills I teach, it follows that their children are also getting better at relating to their parents cooperatively and demonstrating less unacceptable behaviors. This definitely appears to be the case for almost all parents.

To take a snapshot of your child’s unacceptable behaviors at the present time (and then at a later time), print this form and then rate the SEVERITY of your child’s unacceptable behaviors using this scale: 3 = Serious; 2 = medium; 1 = mild; 0 = not a problem. Total your score at the bottom and enter the date. If you rate more than one child, use the form for once for each child and be sure to enter the child’s name as well as your own at the bottom.


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   Table of Contents & Intro

The Delusion of Control

The Delusion of Control

This material is based on my Volcano Theory.

The English language plays tricks on us that we either don’t notice, or just live with. For example, we erroneously say, “The sun rises and sets.”

We do this with people too. On the internet advertisers talk about “driving traffic” to a specific website. This kind of talk is a delusion that the advertiser’s methods can somehow control the choices a searcher makes and “drive” him or her to the website.

We often delude ourselves into thinking a parent can or should be able to control a child’s behavior. Here’s why that’s impossible.

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