Sometimes your child commits an act which shakes you to your very
soul. Perhaps your child has broken one of your explicit rules
or has done a foolhardy act which put himself in great danger.
Your first reaction may be anger. You may feel that he has betrayed
you - turning against you and your values, the careful teachings
you have brought him up with. You naturally feel a great disappointment
in him but also in yourself for having raised a child who could
do such a thing. Your confidence as being a worthwhile parent
is undermined if you could produce a child that could commit such
an act. Your complete confidence in him is shaken so badly that
you wonder if you can ever trust this child to make worthwhile
again. You feel a need to monitor his actions, to ground him and
to keep tight rein over the possibilities of his future acts.
a very sensitive time for both you and your child. His emotions
may be as high if not higher than yours. He may feel anger for
being found out and embarrassment because you are now subject
to what he thought was private to him. He may feel angry for
not being allowed to make his own decisions and be rebellious.
This is a dangerous time for him. He may completely withdraw
from you. He may act out further -- doing the very thing that
you are objecting to! While you certainly have the obligation
to express your disapproval and lay down the logical consequences
of punishment and setting forth the guidelines for future behavior,
you don't want to do anything which will have the boomerang
effect of more inappropriate behavior.
an extremely delicate time for the both of you because the previous
trust that you felt towards your child has been violated. You
can take steps to insure that in all your dealings with the
child, you convey the attitude that he is a trustable human
being. He is a person who is capable of making the right decisions
for himself. This is difficult to do when you have a child who
has not demonstrated this ability to you in the past. Try to
convey the impression that his foolish actions are part of a
phase, a part of growing, a part of learning to choose and to
make decisions and simply a wrong decision at that time. Helping
him see his mistake as part of the learning process will help
him forgive himself for the misdeed and regain his inner belief
of himself as being a worthwhile person.
the purpose of mistakes in our lives? Much of our learning does
come from making a mistake; we try out a certain way to act
and then suffer negative consequences. If we're smart, we put
the cause and effect together learning from them trying to vary
our behavior in the future so that we get better consequences.
Children who are brought up to believe that mistakes are made
so that we can learn better ways to act in the future are more
have better self esteem. With the philosophy of errors are made
to be corrected, your child will be much more comfortable taking
responsibility for his transgressions. You can instill in your
child that he can learn from mistakes that he has made. You
can ask him, Now, what have you learned? to determine if he
sees cause-effect relationship.
to the child when you make mistakes and how you resolve to change
in the future. Learning from his mistakes will become a natural
process for him. He will learn that it is allowable to make
an occasional wrong decision as long as some positive comes
out of it.
child to make mistakes and then learn from them. This says to
him You don't have to be perfect. Asking a child to be perfect
is one of the biggest loads that parents can lay on an already
confused youngster. By admitting our humanity as parents, by
saying, "hey, I'm not a perfect person, sometimes I really goof
up," we allow our child the freedom to grow.
try on many ways to acting to see which ones fit them. The process
of finding one's own identity is to try many new behaviors and
roles. Some will be good and some bad. Hopefully they discard
the foolish, inappropriate ways - that is they will if parents
let them. If we can show our trust that they have the intelligence
and good sense to learn from their errors, they will come through
to become the son or daughter that you expect them to be.
will become what the parent expects him to become. If the parent
calls the child lazy, dumb, or a liar, a sneak, or a bitch,
the child internalizes this negative label. He comes to believe
he is that negative expectation that others place on him. That's
why it is important to distinguish between what the child did
and what he is. Help him distinguish between the unacceptability
of his actions and the acceptability of himself. For example,
you might say, For a smart person, you did a dumb thing. You're
not dumb, but boy did you goof up!
of trust then is the goal for the parent and child. You could
explain to your child that because of your disappointment it
will take some time for him to rebuild the faith that you had
in him. You can mention certain things that he can do to help
rebuild that faith: being where he says he'll be, doing what
he says he will do, speaking the truth at all times, and staying
away from the situations that caused him to get into trouble
in the first place. Again, parental reinforcement is needed
to further emphasize these positive new ways he is trying out.
Statements like, You're an alright kid. I knew I could count
on you. You're one person I can trust. I appreciate it when
you are above board with me. This will help him realize the
importance of keeping your word and doing what you say you will.
With these positive techniques in mind, parents can breathe
a sigh of relief and know that they are instilling in their
child positive expectations for change.
PREDICTIONS FOR BEHAVIOR CHANGE
open the channel for change for your child. In every avenue; from
your underlying subconscious thoughts to your direct conversations
with your child. BELIEVE that this is a temporary stage in his
life. That this is something he will outgrow; that he will change
for the better.
communicate to him that you know things are tough at present
but they will get better as he grows older. Things will change
because he will make a conscious decision to change.
make this decision because it is right for him. Not because
someone (Mom or family) wants it, but because it is time for
him to move on ... to grow.
make that decision for change when it is right for him, not
when it is right for someone else. Only for himself, not for
others ... He will do it for himself alone. If others are negative
in their opinion of him and want to assign a permanent label
on him (dumb, criminal, irresponsible, or a failure), you must
help him deal with these people. The danger is that he may accept
their negative label of himself. That's why you label his present
state of mind a temporary one. You say, in effect, Sure you're
having trouble with school/friends/the law/drugs/etc. right
now but a lot of people go through this. The difference is -
you will change, you are strong enough and smart enough to get
through this. You are too smart to keep doing some of the dumb
things you've tried lately.
how hard the change will be for him and let him know you appreciate
his effort. Growth and other important things in life never
come easy. But whatever effort it takes, it is worth it ...
because he is worth it! He is worth everything it takes (money,
resources, time, and effort) to get through that bad time of
his life. The payoff is worth the price and you let him know
it. It's another way of saying, I value you -- no matter what
you are doing now; I still believe in your ability to change.
You are my child and I will always stand by you during your
If he denies
he has a problem put the responsibility back on him. Say, You
may try to con me, but you can't con yourself. Listen to your
inner self. It will tell you what you need to know. A man who
tries to fool himself is a fool. You're too smart to be a fool.
William Glasser's book on Reality Therapy explains this concept
well ... no denials or excuses for bad behavior are accepted.
an attitude of optimism and hope that a parent can portray when
all seems hopeless. By getting professional help for your child
you are saying, I care. Through professional help (therapist,
tutor, etc.) you give him the means to change. And the use of
this attitude says to your child, I Believe in you. It's a positive
prediction for the future. You give him the attitude that positive
change is possible. Say it over and over!
MORE FOR PARENTS
To Angries Out