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Section 2
Tools for Helping Parents Overcome 'It' and 'Things' Thinking

Question 2 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed Shaping Attentional Styles.  This included the Sharing Attention, Recognizing the Fear of Failure and Acknowledging the Obvious.

Do you have a client whose child is deliberately defiant?  Is the parent having difficulty enforcing authority through requests?  How do you respond to this client? 

In this section, we will discuss Communication and Children’s Responsibility.  This will include Depersonalizing, Discrediting Elective Behavior and Always Giving 100% Credit.  As you listen, think of your client.  What kind of advice do you give him or her?

Janene, age 38, came to me about her daughter, Jocelyn, age 7.  Janene stated, "I feel like Jocelyn is deliberately defiant.  She’s driving me crazy!  Last week was horrible!!  I’m so afraid I’m going to physically abuse her!  Some highlights include the birthday party I organized for her on Monday, and she whined and complained the entire time.  She never finishes her homework on time, and I had to set a timer for her to get it done.  And her parent-teacher conference was one of the most mortifying of my life!  She told her teacher to ‘bug off’ in my presence!  What can I do about this?  I don’t want people to think that I can’t effectively discipline my child, but if she isn’t responding to my requests…I don’t know what else to do.  I told Jocelyn, 'It needs to change!'"

♦ Depersonalizing Children’s Responsibility
I had noted Janene depersonalized a lot of her reprimands of Jocelyn by using the word 'it.'  For example, she would globalize and say, "It needs to get better," or "Things need to improve around here."  So, as you can see, we have two challenges here.  Not only does Janene depersonalize her commends, but she is also non-specific with them.  Let's talk about Janene's depersonalizing use of the words "it" and "things." 

I stated to Janene, "A common challenge for parents is to depersonalize the behavior they wish to have changed by using nonspecific words such as ‘it’ or 'things.'  By stating, 'It needs to get better,'  instead of saying ‘Jocelyn, you need to do thus-and-so specifically,’ you might make it much easier for Jocelyn not to recognize herself and her own specific actions regarding what you have described.  Using someone's name is a great attention-getter." 

Janene stated, "But I feel powerless to change or influence Jocelyn’s behavior!  That makes it all the more painful to talk about in specific terms.  The more I talk about the specifics of what Jocelyn did or didn’t do, the more powerless I feel!"  I replied, "Talking by using the word ‘it’ instead of being specific regarding what Jocelyn, for example, said to the teacher may serve to soften the emotional blow or the personal embarrassment, but it most likely will not be an incentive for Jocelyn to change."  Janene asked, "So what would be an incentive for Jocelyn to change?"

I stated, "Be specific.  Try to make it clear about the specific behavior you would like to have changed.  You might say, ‘Jocelyn, I felt angry and hurt when you threw a cup of punch on the floor because you didn't like the brand I bought.’ 

♦ Discrediting Appropriate Behavior
Janene seemed to be receptive to this information, so in addition to depersonalizing and being specific, I continued to state, "You've mentioned that you want Jocelyn to follow directions and do what she’s told.  You want to teach her to accept responsibility.  However, it can be easy to discredit the positive actions Joselyn takes by off-handed explanations.  For example, if Jocelyn routinely refuses to do her homework, but finished it on time last week, did you give credit to Jocelyn when she finished her homework?"  Janene stated, "Well, she got it done after I set a timer!!!"  I stated, "Yes, you did set a time, and that gives the timer credit for the homework being done, not Jocelyn.  She may feel that, no matter what, she cannot succeed." 

♦ Always Give 100% Credit
In addition to depersonalizing, being specific and discrediting appropriate behavior, I decided to introduce the concept of giving 100% credit.  Here's how I explained giving 100% credit to Jocelyn.  I stated, "When Jocelyn does what you feel is the right thing, whatever it may be, try to give her 100% credit, even if what was done was done by accident.  If you want the desired behavior to happen try not to discredit it by explaining, justifying or minimizing it." 

Think of a parent... you are currently treating.  Would playing this section, regarding giving 100% credit, be beneficial during your next session?  Do they discredit appropriate behavior by explaining it away, perhaps justifying that it should have been done, or minimizing the appropriate behavior?

Janene asked, "What if she does what I ask, but it's not done exactly right?"  I stated, "Even if it's not done exactly right, give credit for the parts that are done correctly.  Give Jocelyn every bit of positive reinforcement you can."  Janene stated, "Well, I'll feel like a phony, because it isn't exactly how I wanted it!"  I responded, "Yes, I agree.  Part of you may feel that way.  However, have you ever heard of the term a self-fulfilling prophecy?"  Janene replied, "Yes.  That's where if you think something is going to happen, it will happen…oh, yes!  Now I see!  If I always expect her to screw up, and don't give her credit for the parts that she does correctly, she will continue to always screw up!" 

Do you have a Janene... whose child doesn’t seem to respond to requests?  Might he or she benefit from hearing this section?  In this section, we have discussed Communication and Children’s Responsibility.  This included Depersonalizing, Discrediting Elective Behavior and Always Giving 100% Credit.

In the next section, we will discuss Equivocal Statements.  This will include common indirect statements and using emotion as a communicator.

What three kinds of communication can affect how children perceive their own responsibility?
To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 3
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