Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Second Chances

An important John Rosemond principle is don’t threaten, bribe or give second chances in response to misbehavior.

A parent recently asked me; isn’t it a second chance when you use a behavior management plan that gives the child 5 “free passes” for misbehavior before being confined to his room?

Excellent question!  I think the difference is that in the principle, we are talking about your child’s direct refusal to do as you ask.  So when you tell him to pick up his toys and he just sits there, many parents start bargaining – “look, Brian if you don’t pick up those toys I am going to send you to your room (threat); if you pick up just a few toys, we can go have a cookie break (bribe); there, good job, now if you keep going I won’t send you to your room (2nd chance).”  These actions weaken your authority and confuse your child, because he isn’t sure if you mean an instruction or if it is negotiable.

On the other hand, in the behavior management plans, we are addressing major, ongoing patterns of misbehavior such as children who constantly, daily talk back to their parents, jump on the furniture, tease the dog, leave their rooms and toys in a mess, hit other children, etc, etc.  So we create a plan with 5 free passes. When behavior starts improving, we reduce the passes to 4, then 3, then 2.   

The passes are a parental decision that has been thought out ahead of time, rather than a weak response to an instruction that is being ignored.  It is parental wisdom to know that when you have an ongoing pattern of multiple misbehaviors, you are not going to solve it with a single event of sending your child to his room after supper.  Therefore you need a plan that gradually, assuredly retrains your child while at the same time firmly establishes the parent as being in charge.  Behavior management plans that are implemented calmly and with absolute assurance that this is the way it is going to be, do exactly that.

The principle is to lead with authority and make sure your child understands that authority.  Parents who successfully establish their authority with clear, concise communication, generally won’t need behavior management plans. 

But if things have gone amuck, the behavior management plan will get your child’s attention so that he learns you are in charge.  Once this particular era of misbehavior is under control, the parent will be able to correct occasional misbehavior by following the general leadership principles!