Sunday, July 13, 2008

a behavior management metaphor

OK. I talk to parents daily and discuss behavior management. I try to teach to ignore certain things that aren't good if they aren't trends in that child's behavior but are more just episodes. But I couldn't/hadn't come up with an analogy until just the other day. And it really applies in several areas.
Our new employee lives in an apartment complex. They have assigned parking spots. They have the right to call a number and have a car towed that is in their spot. They pay for that right in their rent. So, someone parked in her spot. Once. It was a big truck. She debated calling the number for the tow, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. One, it may have been a mistake or ignorance on the part of the big truck owner. Maybe he wasn't informed of the policy, maybe he had an emergency and the seriousness of that superceded the importance of the policy at that point. Maybe, if she talked to that person, she would find out. Her choice was to call or just deal with it and park somewhere else. But, even though she considered the possibilities above and chose not to call, another reason for not calling was that she was afraid of the response of the person driving the truck. He would know who called because the spots are assigned, and he might cause her some trouble if she exercised her rights. So, she didn't report it and let it go. And it's only happened once. Did she make the right choice? Yes. Were her motives good? Yes and no. Or maybe just yes. However, if the truck continued parking in her spot because of her lack of response, if it became a trend rather than an episode, she needs to report it and take it to the next level. Regardless of the possible ramifications? Maybe. She should definitely consider these and make plans to control them to the best of her ability, and she should find out who this big truck's owner is and why he's parking in her spot. Then, if he is just doing it because he can, and he refuses to cease and desist, she must exercise her right to the spot and take the necessary actions.
Can you see the analogy between this and a child's behavior? Maybe he forgot to take out the trash like you told him to. Maybe she didn't remember to make her bed, or to call when she got to her friend's house. But if these things continue, and the rules are spelled out and communication has occurred and the behavior begins to be a trend rather than an episode, the parent must take action. Action taken when it truly is an oversight or accident is counterproductive and often results in the attitude of "heck, I get in trouble no matter what I do, so I'll just do what I want because my parents are controlling jerks and yell at me when I make a little mistake". Whereas, if the episode is overlooked and the child later realizes it, and is remorseful ( I know I'm asking a lot of the imagination), then great strides in trust and relationship have been made. 
So...it's ok to find another place to park every once in a while, even though it is your spot and you have every right to claim it for yourself. You may end up with a new friend or a relationship that you didn't expect, because the owner of the truck really didn't mean to park in your place and he's really surprised and grateful that you treated him with respect despite his behavior, or his perceived behavior. Motive is the key. Many are looking for reasons to get mad, to exercise their rights, because they see the affront as being toward them vs. an honest mistake or an episode of behavior. Parents have to be grown up enough to distinguish between episodes and trends, to be willing to park elsewhere if needed, or to call for a tow truck if needed, and to not be afraid of the child's response to this and the damage that child could do if called to account for the behavior. But boy it's easier to call for that tow truck if you'd made every effort to communicate with the child and only have them towed if they are unwilling to fix their problem. Maybe on another blog we'll discuss what to do when the tow truck is called. 

1 comment:

Summer Lashley said...

Amen! I need grace daily so I should be willing to give grace to my children.

ANother blog post - sleep episodes: what to do about sleep walking, night terrors, nightmares, etc... I need help here!