All You Want for Christmas
What is it that you, as a parent, wish for Christmas? New kitchen tools, golf clubs, iPad, new clothes, or perhaps good behavior from your child? That would be a great gift, if you could get good behavior from your child. It is possible with just a little bit of tweaking of your own behavior. And then, you can have All You Want for Christmas from your children anyway.
Let's start with Ms. Beasley. Her child is quite demanding, always wanting this and that, RIGHT NOW! Her daughter will complain, whine, plead, beg, and argue again and again. Ms. Beasley always responds to her daughter, attempting to assist with her daughter's understanding of the situation: Now, sweetie, you know it is not okay to slap me, and please don't throw my coffee on the floor again, and you need to clean that up, okay?" "But, Momma," says her daughter, "I want that new i-Phone for Christmas, and you'd better get it for me." What's going on is that the daughter is acting in a fashion that she has been taught is acceptable, solely because the mother was willing to interact with her. Asking your child "okay?" when what you mean is "DO IT!" is poor communication. The child hears your request as only that, a request. Whether or not her daughter gets the i-Phone, Ms. Beasley will have to make some changes should she wish to get what she wants for Christmas: her daughter's good behavior.
First, Ms. Beasley should always consider whether or not she wishes to observe this behavior in her child again. Should she not wish to, she should refuse to interact with her daughter whatsoever, nothing at all. No eye contact, no verbal response, just ignoring her. By refusing to engage with her daughter, Ms. Beasley enables the daughter to figure out that the behavior she is using with her mother is no longer working. "Now," says the daughter to herself, "what can I do to get my mother to be attentive to me?" "Maybe," she thinks, "I could act worse." Again, Mother ignores the daughter. She offers no reprimand. You'd think that it would help to tell the child to "stop" or say, "Don't act that way," but you'll never get All You Want for Christmas if you do.
Children are attempting to understand the world in which they live. If they can get a reaction from a parent, then they understand their behavior. When I do this, your child thinks, I get this back from my parent. What you need to understand is the child does not differentiate between yelling and frustration from a parent and a smile and a kiss. To them, it is all the same. The child's reward is interacting with her. By creating a behavior, the child attempts control of her world. If I do this, then I can make this happen. You will talk, argue, yell, and fight with me. And so, it is the parents who teach this to the child. A parent says: I will respond to you, no matter what it is that you do or say. The child becomes confused, "…to whatever I do or say?" And then, we show them when they display poor behaviors just what we will respond to when we say:
Stop hitting your brother *!@+>;*.
Don't look at me with that smirk!
Why aren't you doing your homework?
You got a D!??
You haven't cleaned your room.
Don't talk to me like that!
Ms. Beasley can state, "I'll be glad to consider what my daughter wants for Christmas, but first, I need my daughter to behave, be quiet, and be nice." Informing your child about WHAT she must do for you in order to see HOW she can get things is important, it is a road map. Your child will follow your rules and directives, but you must follow them as rules and directives first.
If we want children to be better behaved for us at Christmas, then parents must begin by withdrawing attention for poor behavior, while being attentive to your child for good behaviors. It is that simple. You have to 'get it' first, before your child can. Teach your child what behaviors work and what behaviors do not. Your home is where the child learns the rules for interpersonal interaction through her observation of how parents interact with one another and through parents interacting with the child. The lessons are offered daily.
The holidays may come but once a year, but you may be able to have your child exhibit wonderful behavior all year long. You must lead, and the child will follow. That way, you can get All You Want for Christmas this year and every year. Happy Holidays!