Kentucky Bankruptcy Law

Counsel with Care

Parenting challenging children:

In my former careers as an outpatient therapist for children and then during my years doing child protection for the state, I learned that there is no one formula for behavior management that will work for every child. It is unfortunate when a person new to the social services and clinical fields have educated themselves and focused on a particular theory and technique to the exclusion of others. This is because it is easy to presume that if a parent claims to have tried the technique, but the child continues to act out, then the parent must not have been compliant. Sometimes this is true, but often it is that the particular technique simply had no impact on the child. Rather then question the technique or theory, it is easy to blame the parent.

So many factors effect childnren’s behavior. Having three daughters of my own, I know that each is born with their own biological strengths and weaknesses as well as different personalities and mental/emotional constitutions. The same discipline does not work with each.

Also, environmental circumstances affect children in different ways. For example, going through a divorce presents stresses on everyone involved, especially children who lack the adult experiences to know how to cope with their lives being turned upside-down. This stress can present as withdrawal when a child internalizes their emotions or it can present as behavioral problems when the emotions are externalized. Neither coping strategy, in the extreme, is healthy.

The only thing professionals can really say for certainty is that one must have a variety of techniques and stategies to try. Even when you find one that works, a few months down the road, it may no longer be effective and you will have to pull another parenting tool out of the tool box. To that end, I found this ticket system propounded by John Rosemond to be a great tool to have handy. He points out in this article that basically well behaved children respond to time out, while unruly children do not. In my 15 years of working with children, I found that to be very true. I have quoted the heart of John’s system in case the article cannot be accessed:

    Tickets can either supplement time-out or substitute for it. You’ll need a magnetic clip, three to five “tickets” cut from colored construction paper and a list of no more than five problem behaviors, as in “refusing to do what I tell you to do,” “ignoring me when I speak to you,” “yelling at me when I do not give you what you want,” and the like. For pre-readers, simple drawings can substitute for word descriptions, but if parents are consistent with enforcement, this isn’t necessary.

    The method is simple enough for most 3-year-olds to grasp, but with children younger than 42 months, I recommend starting with one “target” behavior and five tickets. When the initial misbehavior is under control, a second can be added to the program. The target behavior(s) are posted on the refrigerator. The tickets are put in the magnetic clip, which is also affixed to the refrigerator.

    Every time the child exhibits a target behavior, the parent on the scene takes the child to the refrigerator and says, “(The behavior) is on your list, which means I’m taking a ticket.” The parent takes a ticket out of the clip and places it on top of the refrigerator. If the child will cooperate, a time-out of five to 15 minutes also can be enforced. Certain outrageous behaviors — hitting, for example — can result in the loss of more than one ticket at a time.

    The child begins every day with a certain number of tickets. When they have all been lost, the child spends the rest of the day in his room and goes to bed one hour early. The next day, the proverbial slate is wiped clean — all of the child’s tickets are restored and the procedure begins anew.

    The success of the program depends on parents observing the “Referee’s Rule”: no threats, warnings, or second chances. When the child misbehaves, it is essential that parents not say things like “Do you want to lose a ticket?” or “If you don’t do what I just told you to do, I’m going to take a ticket.” Also, lost tickets cannot be earned back with good behavior or acts of service.

    As the child’s behavior improves, the number of tickets can be gradually reduced so as to keep pressure on the child’s progress. Generally speaking, full rehab takes six to 12 weeks, after which the child will be perfectly behaved, forever.

I hope to provide additional tools from time to time because making it through a crisis such as divorce takes more than attention to the legalities.

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May 9, 2007 - Posted by | Family Law, Parenting

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