Who is in Control?

Big LollipopLast week, I wrote about earning a trip to Hawaii or a trip to the corner market (A Trip to Hawaii).  As I stated then, most of us will be happy with the trip to the corner market.  Recently, a colleague was sharing something he had come up with to help a student focus-He simply gave him a job to do.  It was a small thing, but this child now feels important and is working much better.  The teacher is in control of the classroom, while the child is in control of himself.

While at a dinner party awhile back, I met a lady who heard what I do for a living.  She immediately started to tell me about how well she is able to control her child and mentioned how she makes her child earn rewards.  Intrigued, and always wanting to learn about how others reward behavior, I queried her for more details. It seemed her child used to throw a tantrum every time they went to the store (a common behavior among children).  Of course, this behavior was very embarrassing to the parent.  So, she figured out that whenever he would tantrum if she told to him, “I’ll buy you a candy bar if you will stop your tantrum,” he would, in fact, stop.  I listened politely, smiled, and nodded my head; but when I wasn’t as enthusiastic as she thought I should be, she questioned me.  I mentioned that she told me she was controlling her child, when in fact, it is the other way around.  She got upset with me and asked me how that could be possible?  After all, didn’t I hear what she said?  I apologized and told her that perhaps I misunderstood what she said.  To clarify, I asked her if her goal was to have her son stop having a tantrum while in a store and she said, “Yes.”  I explained that she was rewarding him to tantrum.  He was having a tantrum knowing that she would reward him to stop.  He was in control of the situation.  Then, I asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to never have him start in the first place?”  She agreed, but said that was impossible.  She explained that I obviously don’t know her son.  I agreed with her that I didn’t know her son, but I did know about behavior reinforcement.  I went on to explain that a lot of people think exactly like she does.  “But, what if,” I suggested, “before you get out of the car, you told him he could have a candy bar at the end of the shopping trip if he was a good boy, and didn’t tantrum at all?”  It took some more explaining, but eventually, she understood the concept.  Several months later, I saw her again at another dinner party and she was so happy to tell me that she was able to go shopping much more often without her son having a tantrum and that she now felt much more in control

By stating the desired behavior before the shopping trip, this parent was able to clearly and calmly tell her son what her expectations were in order for him to earn a treat.  She was able to stick to her expectation and her son was able to gain better control of himself.  By doing this, the mother was showing that she made the rules, not her son.  She was now taking a pro-active, assertive stance instead of a reactive, aggressive stance. 

This week, I challenge you to take a proactive stance and tell your students, children, spouses, friends and colleagues exactly your expectations, in a calm and clear manner, before the activity.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown


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