Tag Archives: managing defiant behavior

Humor Can Help! (Dr. Doug Riley)

BTAboutThemHere are two scenarios. Ask yourself; which is better?

Scenario #1: You get into a lengthy argument with your child that results in yelling, screaming, time out, and hurt feelings over typical things she does to cause tension in your home (such as leaving half-eaten plates of chips and cheese on your nice coffee table, leaving clothes strewn all over the house, trashing her bedroom, and so on).

DRileyScenario #2: You engage your sense of humor (which has been quite dormant due to the stress of parenting wars) and calmly tell your child what will happen unless she changes her ways immediately, but with this catch: The methods you intend to use will strike your child as being so odd and so strange that she realizes you are no longer playing.

If you choose Scenario #1, you will rapidly find yourself limited to coercive methods of talk, reasoning, and logic that have failed to work with your child. This keeps you pinned down to using grounding, taking away preferred objects and activities, and time out. And, as I frequently ask, if time out works so well, why do you have to use it six thousand times on your child before she finally goes off on her own?

But suppose you choose Scenario #2? When your child ignores you yet again when you give her a directive to clean up the place, you now have an entire new range of techniques to use. As an example, I once worked with a teenager who so routinely trashed her room that her parents joked that she didn’t know if her room had a hardwood floor or carpet because of the layers of clothing on the floor. Her clothing storage strategy was what I came to refer to as the “horizontal closet.”

Her parents assured me they had exhausted talk, reasoning, logic, bribes, rewards and punishments, all to no avail. Her father said, “It’s her room, let her live like a pig if she wants to.” Her mother’s position, however, was that no child of hers was going to exit her house without having learned to keep her room in a civilized manner.

I sat down with the family and thanked the girl for being willing to let her room be a laundry hamper. I explained to her that, from now on, everyone in the family was to throw their dirty clothes into her room. She gave me that look teenagers reserve for adults they think are morons, and replied, “Whateverrrr.” The outcome? After four days she promised to keep her room in better shape.

RileyBookOnce you decide to use your sense of humor, you also have options for managing other problems. Does your son argue with you too much? Tell him that, unless he stops, you will ground him from his mouth. For one hour he cannot talk, eat, drink, or make sounds of any sort. If he does, the hour starts over again.

Does your daughter make you ask her fifty-seven times to put her book bag some place other than where you will either step on it our over it? If so, tell her you will be willing to ask her twice to put away her bag, but reminders after that will cost her twenty-five cents each.

The key to using your sense of humor to get your child’s attention amounts to using techniques that are harmless to your child’s self-concept and are not driven by guilt or shame. At the same time, the techniques you come up with have to be something you absolutely will follow through with if your child calls your bluff and continues to ignore you.

The end result of using your sense of humor is something most parents find quite surprising. First, your child is likely to find the techniques funny, and this can break the ice. Second, even though talk, reason, and logic have not been working, when your child finds you are willing to go far outside the box to intervene, he or she often quickly regains the ability to listen and do as asked. Finally, your child is likely to come to see you as someone who genuinely is funny. Kids are drawn to funny, humorous adults, and it is precisely this attraction that helps you engage them in a way that is warm and loving. Result: You won’t regret you choice to become a parent in the first place!###

Dr. Doug Riley‘s latest book, Dr. Riley’s Box of Tricks, has more ideas on using humor and other strategies with a difficult child, For more information about Dr. Riley or to order the book, CLICK HERE┬áto go to his website.



Handling Behavior: Think Like a Video Game (Howard Glasser)

BTAboutThemPlease know I am not a fan of video games, but there is a secret to the programming of these games that seems to stir youngsters at a level of greatness and, fortunately, the magic is completely transposable.
As a psychotherapist, I have heard versions of the following many times:

Why can my child be so darned focused on his video games, yet he can’t be a fraction as focused on the important stuff like his chores and his school assignments?


HGlasserphotoAs you know, these kids don’t just play these games, they play like stars. They not only play to be the best in the world, all they want to do is achieve level after level of success, mastery and accomplishment.


Why Kids are Drawn to Video Games
Here’s what these games have in common that differs drastically from much of what kids encounter in real life:

1. In video games the incentives of a game are crystal clear and timed precisely always to be transmitting the energy of success. All these games have deliciously energized “time-ins” or, as I now prefer to say, “games-on.” These games never forget to confront the player with the juicy energies of success. Score, score, score, and all the bells and whistles let you know about it; the game never misses an opportunity. The successes are always connected to discernible experiences that the child can link to events of the game done well.

videogame2. These games are always in the moment, never in the past or future. The game never claims to be too busy to notice success; success is the default setting. Even if a rule is broken the child is right back into the game after the consequence is over, and the game always resets to seeing and expressing the energy of success. It never holds a grudge about a rule that was broken in the past or for an anticipated rule broken in the future. It is always present, and it always delivers.

3. The rules and consequences of these games are super-clear and super-simple. When a child breaks a rule, even a little bit, the game delivers a consequence every time. The game never looks the other way, nor does it cut any slack for the child just learning. The game’s programming never gives warnings, only consequences. We look at these consequences as puntive and drastic, such as heads rolling and blood spurting, but who’s back in the game a second or two after it’s over? This is so different from real life where time-outs are only considered to count when they are one minute for each year of a child’s age.

Kids play these games with passion and verve. All they want to do is go level, level, level of greatness. They want to be the best in the world, and the game’s programming is what consistently inspires this. The child comes out of the ridiculously short time-outs even more determined never to break that rule again, and even more inspired to go further into mastery and accomplishment.

“Game-on”/”Game-out” in REAL Life
The secret is that “game-on” is so powerfully energized that “game-out” feels like an eternity, even if it’s just a second or two. In the parlance of the Nurtured Heart Approach, we call this kind of time-out a “reset.” Even tough teens thrive with short resets. The advantage is that, because it’s over so quickly, the parent or teacher can jump right back into the truth of the moments that follow and express gratitude that the very same rule is now not being broken.

“Game-on” simply translates to being radically appreciative when rules are not being broken, and appreciative for every kind of successful choice and value that can be called out in the context of recognition: “Sarah, that was so thoughtful how you moved your shoes into the hallway. It shows me how considerate you are of the space your brother needs to do his assignment. I appreciate how collaborative you are being.”

The other secret of the video games is that, by always delivering a consequence when a line is crossed, even a little bit, these games avoid the trap of giving energy to negativity. This translates to a little bit of a broken rule, a little bit of arguing, a little bit of disrespect, a little bit of noncompliance, and a completely unenergetic time-out. The child will feel even an extremely sort reset as a consequence (with no time for all the other stuff). Just like in a video game, even a few seconds will feel like an eternity if the “game-on” is powerful and inspired.

Go for the Gold. Game-on!

Howard Glasser is the coauthor of Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach, and he is also the founder of the Children’s Success Foundation in Tucson, Arizona [link].