Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Rewarding Kids’ Good Behavior

Posted by Marcia on October 31, 2009

My last post discussed consistency in parenting and I focused on punishment.  Linda, a friend I’ve known since our kids were small, responded to that post with some interesting thoughts.  I had intended to talk this week about rewarding good behavior and how important that is, and Linda’s responses gave me a lot to think about.

Linda pointed out that sometimes you have to look really hard for some way to compliment your child, to comment on something good he or she is doing.  Kids can get into streaks of behavior where all you see are things that are driving you nuts, that you worry about or are outright dangerous.  It’s so easy to slip into criticism and forget to say anything nice.

I’ve been guilty of that at times.  I hate to admit it, but that’s the case.

When I wrote the book, I interviewed a woman who had some interesting things to say about managing behavior, both her own and her son’s.  Sue has two grown children from a previous marriage and their relationship is cordial.  She was eager to share what she had learned and some of the changes she’s made in her parenting style with her young son.  I’ve edited Sue’s remarks for this blog to share a bit of what she said.

“Charles is seven, and in the last year, I recognized that what I was doing wasn’t working.  With Tom it wasn’t working, but I wasn’t fully cognizant and I wasn’t willing to change it, so with Charles, I try more to understand what might be causing his misbehavior.  I studied some of Alfred Adler’s work, he is a psychologist in Austria, and he says that all people have two basic needs: to have significance and to feel like they belong.  All behavior is motivated by those two things.  When a child is misbehaving, it is in a mistaken attempt to get that significance and belonging, so if I can figure out what is going on for Charles, I can work with him.   I have a chart and it is based on how I’m feeling about his behavior.  If he is annoying me or irritating me, more than likely he wants attention.  Then I spend time with him or assure him I will give him special time. 

I might need to finish what I’m doing.  But it goes back to how can I help him see his significance and belonging, so that he doesn’t have to misbehave?

Parents are constantly nagging the kids. With Tom and Alan, it was just the constant nagging, and micromanaging, and me getting more and more upset, wondering why don’t they just do it? What I have learned is to have Charles create a morning routine and make a chart for it, and he is responsible for the chart.

When you involve people in decisions that affect their lives, they are more likely to go along with it, and you are more likely to get the behavior you want if they had a say in it.  I try as much as possible to let him make the decisions about when he will do things and how, because I really care about the end product, and how he gets there is his decision.   He is a unique person so whatever works for him.”

Do you have some tips you can share or some thoughts on the matter?

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