Making A Connection
In the nine years that I've been a treatment parent, I have learned that it works a lot better for the family
and for the child when we use brief, short-term consequences for a child's behavior. We would like to avoid any misunderstandings about the intention or application of any of the parenting techniques used at The Attachment
Center at Evergreen. The goal of everything we do is to create a connection between parent
and child. We need to be constantly re-evaluating ourselves and what we're doing, to see if we are meeting that goal in the best way.
Sitting time, for example, for me is given as a choice - 5 minutes of good sitting (Mom's way), or 15 minutes . If the child does 5 minutes of good sitting, it's over and we are up doing something else. After 15 minutes of sitting, I will check with the child, give him another direction (sweeping the floor, etc.). If he's willing to do anything for me, my way, then we go for 5 minutes of good sitting and back to whatever he was supposed to be doing in the first place. Always with lots of positive pizazz (smiles, eye contact, hugs, words of encouragement - never degrading or humiliating) and regard for what is going on with the child emotionally. You might have to do this many times throughout the day at the beginning.
I never give a chore or any consequence that lasts more than one hour at a time. That doesn't mean that they finish it in one hour or that they don't have to redo it. I will give the child the option of doing it quickly or taking as long as they want to do it, always making sure they have bathroom breaks, time to sit and think about it, or let me know if it's going to take him until tomorrow to get it done right. But at the end of an hour, I have the child do something else, with me or for me, for two hours or the rest of the day (whatever you chose). And then they go back to the original chore.
I feel that long-term consequences that drag on for hours or days at a time (or owing large amounts of time or push-ups,etc.) only cause the child to become more depressed
or hopeless, or more "locked-in" to the behavior or power struggle. Breaking it up (on my terms), bringing the child in close at least every hour, checking in with them on what's going on and why, creates a connection. They end up completing the task my way. And we have connected, instead of pushing the child away.
CONNECTING IS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM AND WORKING OUT A SOLUTION WHERE EVERYONE WINS.
Isolation closes down communication and processing. Behind every negative behavior there are feelings. You connect with those feelings, and the problem is solved. Always in a loving way. The goal is to get the child to want that connection with you, and to change their own behaviors to be able to have that. They need reality checks and positive feedback to be able to change behaviors.
If a child needs to be away from you for more than 15-20 minutes, there's a problem. Even when a child needs to be excluded from family fun because of their behavior, they should still be close to the family. Maybe sitting next to Mom with her arm around him, discussing the fun everyone else is having, and checking in as to whether they'll make a better choice next time. Always in a loving way - not shaming. "Nothing makes moms and dads happier than to have everyone together having fun."
I never miss an opportunity for me or my family to have fun. Even if I have a child that is really acting out, I'll say, "Honey, this is your lucky day. We have an invitation to go out to dinner, and we sure would like you to go with us, but that chore still needs to be done and you'll have to change your clothes. Do you want to go with us? All right, hop up and sweep the floor, change your clothes and we have exactly 15 minutes to get going." Lots of pizazz and fun in your voice. So you go back to the same behavior that got him in trouble in the first place, he complies, you're all going to have fun, and he is included. Don't get stuck in the negative. You need to come up with some creative ways to change that around in a positive way- to make it a win-win situation. "Honey, one good thing about being an adult is that I can change my mind."
When mom wins, the child wins. The issue is not sitting or doing chores. The issue is getting the child to want to change his behavior because he wants to be close to you.
Credits: Lorain Huntley, Therapeutic Foster Parent