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Parents: check attitude before you expect change in kid’s behavior

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Benjamin Brayfield/The World/AP

(Read caption) Breaking the cycle of action and reaction to children's negative behaviors is based on parents being open to changing their own attitude. Here, Rod Barnts diffuses a dispute between his foster daughter and his former foster son in Coos Bay, Ore. on May 16, 2012.

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Ever wonder why you yell at your kids, take away privileges and put them in time out and nothing seems to change? It’s because you are spinning the endless cycle of action and reaction instead of stopping it. You are expecting your child to make the change and be the grown-up first.

A father I am working with has established a deep cycle of resistance with his eight year old daughter, who is a very strong-willed child and says things to her father like, “You don’t love me”, “You’re mean”, and “It’s unfair”. She has a little brother who is easy and flexible and gets his parents approval because of it.

Dad complains, “She says no to everything, even something she knows is coming up and she is supposed to do. For instance, I told her when we got home it was time to go up to bed – twice. Calmly. But when we walked in the door, she went directly over to the table and started to draw. That started it.”

When this dad, like so many parents, is faced with a child who doesn’t do what she is told, what is expected of her—even the simplest no-brainers—he feels disrespected and ignored and therefore reacts accordingly. The key is in changing his perception of his daughter from, “She’s doing this on purpose to disrespect me” to something like, “She’s being resistant to what I have asked which means she’s probably feeling unheard.” But to get to this type of understanding, he must first unload his baggage and defuse his buttons.

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