Breaking the Negative Behavior Cycle -- Part 1

I've seen enough kids with negative behavior to tell you how the cycle goes. Read this and see if it triggers a deep, inner need for Advil.

You tell Johnny to turn off the T.V. He ignores you. You tell him to turn off the T.V. again. He makes an ape-like noise and continues watching. You raise your volume level, on the faint chance that somehow he didn’t hear you the first two times. Johnny replies, “Just a minute, I'm still watching.” Armed with this new piece of valuable information, you continue to repeat your request, getting louder and more aggravated each time. Johnny starts to argue along the lines of “Why are you so mean?”, and “No other parent in the world makes their child turn the T.V. off.”

Just before reaching the point of insanity, you tell Johnny to turn the T.V. off or you will do it for him. He barricades the T.V. with his body, but using your tactical combat skills, you evade his defenses and get to the T.V. You send Johnny to his room, and he responds with the logical question, “Why don't you go to your room?” You threaten him with the loss of every electronic game known to mankind and he reluctantly sulks off, muttering something which you suspect is probably not a Bible verse.

For some parents, this cycle happens several times a day. Not a month, a day. These parents often feel guilty and blame themselves for doing something (they’re not sure exactly what) wrong. How else could their child have turned out this way? I call this the negative behavior cycle. Everything in this example of Johnny and his mom perpetuates the pattern: the parent's ineffective style of giving commands, Johnny's negative responses, harmful parent/child communication, and the gradual damaging of the parent/child relationship.

A negative behavior cycle can be broken and replaced with a positive behavior cycle. In our last blog, we talked about the importance of your respectful, self-controlled example in setting the stage for a positive behavior cycle. In Part Two, I’ll show you a simple way to interrupt the negative cycle and kick the positive cycle into gear.

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