Here’s a strategy to use with an uncooperative youngster that lets her THINK her way back into compliance. Best of all, it comes out looking like HER idea.
Oppositional and defiant sons and daughters already think they are equal to the task of playing compliance games with their parents. And, more often than we’d like to admit, they’re right. Here’s an idea for setting up a situation whereby the youngster decides the best solution to the problem is to DO what needs to be done.
It applies across most any tasks, but let’s say Dad has already had a discussion with Sally about rolling the trash container out to the street on pickup day. It’s a quick and easy task she can do before she goes to school. She has even agreed to do it; no problem there.
The problem is the chore is NOT being done. The container is brimming over, as is Dad’s frustration in Sally’s neglected chore and a broken promise about doing it.
If Dad confronts Sally directly about the chore, he knows she could turn the whole thing into an uncomfortable argument. Here’s one thought on how he might approach it. Keep in mind the chore could be anything; the trash container is just an example.
Sally, I’ve noticed that the trash has not been moved out to the street for a couple of weeks now. It’s becoming a problem. You promised me you’d put it out every Wednesday morning before you went to school. So far, it looks like the plan isn’t working very well.
Let’s do this, Sally. Let’s see what happens with the trash in the morning. If it doesn’t get put out, we’ll meet tomorrow evening to work on a different plan. Sally, what would be a good time for you to meet with me tomorrow night? Six o’clock? Six thirty? Seven? You pick it, Sally. What time would work for you?
Although it’s very possible Sally will say she will take the trash around in the morning, Dad should continue to press for a time to meet the next evening. She only has to give him a time, and she can pick it.
Sally quickly realizes that, although the time is set for a meeting tomorrow night, it can be avoided completely. All she has to do is PUT OUT THE TRASH in the morning. (Of course, the fact that she has already set the time to meet with her father “helps” to move the trash around.)
One benefit of this intervention is that it approaches the issue as a problem to be solved rather than a confrontation. Additonally, it puts Sally in complete control of making certain the meeting DOESN’T happen … by complying!
(Teachers: This same approach could also work with a difficult and “forgetful” student, also.)
Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His newest book, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem, is to be released soon.