Rabbi Shmuel Gluck is the Director of Areivim, an organization that offers counseling, crisis intervention and referral services for teens and their families.
Creating Change in Others: Part III
If the boy doesn’t want to attend Shacharis because he wants to be home with the rest of the family, then behavioral change is an appropriate step. He believes that staying home offers an advantage that is worth more to him than going to Shacharis. By staying home he’s not getting what everyone else is enjoying.
The fact that he doesn’t want to attend Shacharis because of a need for attention, and offering him individual attention, may take care of his “feeling left out”. One suggestion may be to have one of the parents drive him to school instead of making him take the bus. (This is something that I’ve done for my children). Offering such a privilege (when not forced to do it) is a sign of friendship and should not be considered as blackmail from the boy to the parent.
If he misses eating a homemade breakfast, giving him something special to take to school to eat may help him want to Daven Shacharis in Yeshiva. Don’t be afraid to keep the solution simple. Although I believe in promoting an in depth understanding of each circumstance combined with a thorough approach, I still believe that the simplest explanation should be the first one tried. An additional thought for parents to keep in mind is not to become resentful of the time and burden required for them to facilitate behavioral change.
These two suggestions (driving him to Daven or giving him something special to eat) will promote positive feelings within him. However, there’ll be situations where the change may have to focus on the negative. Keep in mind that the boy believes that the advantages of staying home exceed the disadvantages. Instead of increasing the advantages for going to Shacharis in the Yeshiva, parents may have to increase the disadvantages of staying home.
One approach may be to not drive him to Yeshiva thereby forcing him to walk, or take the bus, every day. However, for his siblings the parents will inconvenience themselves and drive them to school. Anyone attempting to change others should understand that this approach should only be considered when creating positive advantages have failed.
Positive motivators are mostly individual based; things that a person will appreciate. There are several standard, negative “motivators” that can be applied. Although they’re negative, they aren’t extreme, and can therefore be used somewhat liberally. Their goals are to make the other person (in this case the boy) realize that the advantages of changing his behavior exceed those of continuing it.
1) In a healthy relationship, persons attempting to change others can show their disappointment of the others in a focused, logical, manner. Most emotionally, healthy, children will understand that their relationships with their parents offers them advantages and they won’t risk losing that relationship by, for instance, missing Shacharis in Yeshiva. However, parents shouldn’t be naive and automatically assume that their children actually respect the value of a relationship.
Sometimes children decide to give their parents a “cold shoulder”, and speak to them only in short, curt, sentences, and only when necessary. How can parents make this behavior seem worthless? In most cases it’s best to let it “play out”. Asking for forgiveness from children when it’s not deserving offers them advantages. They learn that by being cold, they can get their parents to “give in”. Retaliating, by becoming angry, allows the children to feel empowered, knowing that they can control their parents by making them angry.
Instead, let the children become angry, wondering when you’ll react. When it becomes obvious that you aren’t going to react, they’ll have no choice but to make “the next move” .Usually they’ll begin by speaking nicely to the parents. When that happens, remember to be gracious in victory. Don’t comment on their actions and let them (on their own) realize that it’s now a week later (that’s how long they gave the cold shoulder), and they haven’t gained any ground. What you’ve done is to make their actions (not speaking to you) have more disadvantages than advantages.
2) Parents can (and this approach is something I often use) explain to their boy that his staying home inconveniences them. However, this should only be said if he’ll appreciate that it’s true. They can say, “You need to keep in mind that your missing Shacharis causes me to lose 10 – 15 minutes of my time and I’ll have to “make it up”. I may not be able to go to the library for you, buy you what you asked for, or do any of the other things I offered to do for you.
3) Parents (and spouses) can use a cause and effect approach. Many parents shelter their children from some of the reactions they’ll face as adults. In the real world, if one treats another with a lack of respect, the first person will not befriend or offer favors to the second. If one person lies to another, the second person will not trust the first.
This is how (to a degree) parents should react to their children. In areas that the children are trustworthy, such as when money is left in the house and it remains there, the parents should trust them. However, in areas in which they are untrustworthy, such as badly behaving when left alone at night, they shouldn’t be trusted. Cause and effect is taught to these children by what they do right (not take money that doesn’t belong to them) and by what they do wrong (behaving badly when home alone at night).
Overlapping the two by not trusting them with money because of their bad behavior at night is not cause and effect. It’s a reaction from angry parents. A focused and direct response to a specific behavior will teach them that their actions will cause reactions. If they’re not happy with the reactions, they’ll (after some time) adjust their actions accordingly.
Parents can apply this third motivator even when dealing with rebellious children, but more patience and focus will be required. Such children will challenge the cause and effect reaction. Their approach will be to “up the ante” until the parents are forced to back down.
Before beginning the process of creating change in their children, parents must be aware of this. Since the “up the ante” response exists, parents shouldn’t begin the cause and effect process unless they’re prepared to not back down, regardless of how extreme they anticipate their son will react. (This doesn’t mean that parent’s must respond to every incident. Sometimes it’s better to “look away”, as I’ll discuss in the next article). If they begin to react and are forced to back down, the children will see their victory as proof of their being able to do what they want. Don’t begin any of these processes unless you’re confident that you can follow through to the end.
How should parents react to their children’s “upping the ante”. Parents must remember that their children have two goals. The first is to get the parents to “give in” by bombarding them with abusive and, if necessary, escalating, bad behaviors. The second (in case the first one doesn’t succeed), is to get the parents angry. Both allow the children to control their parents.
To be continued…
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