Like you, they blossom when they can contribute in a positive way and are recognized for it, and wilt under constant negativity and criticism.
Common sense alone should tell us this, perhaps; but a large body of research also confirms that positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative feedback in bringing about changes in human behavior. Negative feedback does have its place, of course. Unfortunately the human brain is generally better at noticing when things are going wrong than when they are going well.
As a result, our challenging child—whom we love and who craves our love and approval—almost certainly is going to receive a higher percentage of negative than positive feedback from us and is going to notice our negative feedback disproportionately as well. The attention our child craves, then, is most often being paid exactly when it is least effective, and in the form that is least effective. A cycle is born because our child fails to respond, so we ratchet up the negative feedback. Complicating matters, teens soon become aware of negative expectations held by other adults in their sphere.
For the great majority of law-abiding and hard-working young people it means all too often that they find themselves treated by adults as if they were trouble-makers. For parents it means that expectations are created about the teenage years which focus predominantly on the problems. An important orienting principle is the goal of helping your children internalize the core competencies referred to earlier. If you think back to when you taught your children to walk, you remember aiming for a balance between controlling and neglecting them; encouraging them and discouraging them.
At first you supported them almost completely while they practiced taking steps and praised them effusively when they succeeded. Gradually you allowed more autonomy until they were standing on their own feet, taking steps without holding your hand.
We sometimes misjudge their capacities, which can have one of two consequences: If serious clashes have become the norm in your household, however, it is not impossible to turn things around. Once the pump has been primed for positive interactions, the cycle will become almost as effortless as the former negative cycle. Both parent and child will enter into interactions expecting a positive outcome—and expectations have a strong effect on how people respond to one another.
Clinical child psychologist Alan E. Kazdin , director of the Yale Parenting Center, specializes in helping parents of children with severe conduct problems.
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His evidence-based techniques do not include prescribing drugs or humiliating teens by making them stand on a street corner wearing their failures on a sandwich-board. To replace a negative pattern with a positive one, we need to consider the circumstances that typically lead up to the problem behavior: The antecedent here was a prompt: In his Everyday Parenting Toolkit , Kazdin looks at a few that are known to be especially effective.
Having made the behavior more likely, we can then respond with positive consequences that reinforce that behavior. In terms of antecedents, Kazdin and his team encourage the use of setting events , choice and high-probability requests. Setting events include anything that sets the stage for a behavior; choice refers to offering two options acceptable to the parent. Then again, it may be helpful to reflect on how we like to be treated. Are we more likely to listen to someone who shows us they care about our feelings, or someone who steamrolls over them? So how does one use antecedents to make a desired behavior more likely?
Is he generally doing something stimulating right before bedtime? Wrestling with Daddy, playing with a favorite toy, chasing the cat? A setting event sets the stage either positively or negatively for a desired behavior. A bath and a quiet story, on the other hand, would be positive setting events for bedtime compliance. Choice can be another helpful bedtime antecedent. Not choice about whether or not to go to bed, mind you, but a choice of stories or bath toys or which pajamas to wear.
You can also use high-probability requests to increase the likelihood that your toddler will respond to your bedtime prompt.
Fortunately defiance is not a permanent trait but a behavior—and behavior can be changed through positive interactions. This is not to say you can expect a relationship that is forever afterward free of conflict. I came away with a whole new set of tools to use at school meetings and during challenging times. Doing the Work to Parent with Purpose. There are two ways to cover this cost:
Will you please choose a bedtime book from the shelf and bring it to me? It should go without saying that the tone of voice used when making requests or giving feedback is very important, as is the social setting. A public display of your displeasure prolongs the negative cycle because it humiliates; but more importantly, research demonstrates that the closer you are to someone when you deliver a prompt, the more likely he or she is to comply. A gentle touch on the arm or other small display of affection can also help.
What we really want are those core competencies: Does that mean addressing every little behavior one by one? Did we teach our children a different way to walk on the sidewalk versus on the grass, or did they show themselves able to apply the walking skill to different surfaces and circumstances? For instance, the positive opposite of a tantrum one of the easiest behaviors to eliminate, says Kazdin would be the ability to express frustration calmly, without screaming or throwing things.
The opposite of defiance would be respect for family rules and requests and even the occasional expression of love and concern. Sometimes the behavior we want is actually a set of behaviors, in which case we need to break it down to its components. The point is to reward the practice with positive consequences, whetting their appetite.
Jump-starting simply involves priming a behavior—doing the first steps with the child, for instance, knowing that once the first steps are taken the child is more likely to complete the behavior. Each of these behavior-building techniques rests on a well-proven concept: Those concerns can be significantly decreased.
The times have changed, and what a child needs in order to become a reliable, respectful, responsible, resilient, loving human being have not changed over the years.
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