EFFECTIVE PARENTING: LOOKING FOR THE GOOD IN THE BAD

<?xml:namespace prefix = o />              "There are two sides to every question: my side and the wrong side."
                                                                 Oscar Levant 
Mary jumped up suddenly, after hearing a blood-curdling, three year-old scream. "Momm-ee! Adam hit me", her daughter, Jeanne, exclaimed!
"But, Mom", protested six year-old Adam,, "I'm trying to build a fort with my new 'Leggos' and she keeps taking pieces off the wall."
Ben, an eight year-old, was told to be in bed by eight- thirty. At ten minutes past nine, Terry noticed that her son was still talking with his older sister. "Hey young man, it’s late'_. Why aren't you in bed yet? Let's go, now! Get into bed this instant or else." Ben began to sob, "How come Julie can stay up?"
Jonathan was assigned the weekly chore of taking the trash cans to the front of his house for pick-up every Thursday night. When his mother heard the sanitation truck pass by without stopping, her face flushed as she bellowed, "Jon! Why didn't you take out the garbage? Now we have to keep it another week."
"Well, Mom, I just--"
"Nevermind", she interrupted still maintaining her anger. "Every time I
give you a chore to do you find an excuse not to do it!"
We are taught from an early age that having children is one of the most fulfilling events that occurs in a lifetime. Witnessing their growth and development is richly rewarding for many parents. However, a large part of that development involves teaching children discipline. Quite often, a highly unrewarding task.
When children don't get what they want, or when behaving a certain way doesn't seem important to them, they shove, hit, scream and procrastinate. From the child's perspective, it's the best way available to get what he or she wants. At this point, you as a parent has several choices for disciplining that child. If you believe time is of the essence and you have an overwhelming need to immediately express your displeasure, you can yell or punish either physically or by withholding something of value. Perhaps you will try a lecture about the importance of engaging in desired behavior.
However, another alternative available to parents is to learn to respect the positive intentions of their children, and offer more appropriate ways to achieve them. The idea or feeling we express-- no matter how inappropriate-- has some useful and important purpose. Positive intentions are frequently unconscious. That is, not readily available to someone's conscious awareness. To better understand positive intentions, it is important to establish greater rapport with all parts of ourselves-- with our entire being-- as a foundation for behavior change.
The various parts of ourselves is simply a convenient way of organizing conflicting experiences; when we want to do one thing but also want another at the same time. In a previous example, Adam may have a conscious "part" that is trying to control his temper and refrain from hitting his younger sister, while another less aware part reacts aggressively when she removes his belongings. Each part displays its positive intention through certain behaviors or feelings. To effectively discipline a child who expresses unwanted behavior, it is important to understand it's positive intention so a more appropriate behavior-- that still satisfies that intention-- can be selected.
For a child to want to protect his toys is understandable; to select fighting as the behavior of choice to express that purpose is not. Thus, the situation warrants helping the child find a more acceptable way for the part in charge of hitting to express it's positive intent.
After consoling his crying three year-old sister, Mother approaches Adam. "If Jeannie keeps taking pieces off the wall, she will ruin the fort and you will never finish it! But she's little and very curious; and she learns things by touching them. Hitting her is not allowed! Let's think of a different way to keep the fort safe. I know. Would you like me to help you move it up here where she can't reach it?"
Intervening harshly to correct inappropriate behavior may seem more efficient, but will often produces negative outcomes. A child will feel frustrated as a conflict develops. He can act inappropriately, receive punishment and learn to consider himself "bad." Or he can sacrifice something of importance to him and be considered "good."
In contrast, identifying the positive intention of a child's misbehavior as part of the behavior change process enhances his self-esteem and your resourcefulness while encouraging more appropriate actions.