Parent Re-Boot

Nov 17 | Tony | No Comments |

When my electronic devices start acting up, I tend to get all worked up about how big the problem is going to be. When I call the help desk, they almost always start with, “Turn it off and unplug it. Wait a few minutes and then turn it back on.” Miraculously, it fixes a majority of the problems.

Embarrassingly, I often get so worked up about the problem that I forget to try this simplest of solutions. I forget the magic of the re-boot. As a parent, it can be the same way with our children. When they are misbehaving, we tend to focus more on their unwanted behavior than on simple solutions.

When a child is misbehaving or acting out, it is often a sign that they are not getting enough attention from you. Developmentally, children want and need attention. If they don’t get it in positive ways, they will act out to get it in negative ways. Either way, they are just trying to get what they need.

Tired of battling with children? Are you constantly correcting unwanted behavior? Want to stop playing the referee between quarrelling children? Here are three simple “parental re-boots” you can do to get things headed in the right direction:

Re-Boot 1: Give your child (each child separately) some undivided attention for just a little while each day. It doesn’t have to be for a long time – even just a little in the morning and a little in the evening. If time is tight, then do it once a day. Put your laptop and cell phone away. Shut off the TV. Ask your child what he or she would like to do with you for the next little while, and then jump in and have some fun with him or her. At the end, thank your child for the fun you shared. Tell him or her you are looking forward to more fun tomorrow.

Re-Boot 2: Eliminate the attention and commentary you give to your children’s unwanted behavior. Acting out is their way to get your attention. If no attention is given, the negative behavior usually gets a little worse at first. They are testing you to see what they have to do for the payoff (your attention). Just keep ignoring it. If you do not engage, the negative behavior starts to disappear. Pretend you didn’t hear it or see it. Get up and go into a different room. Remove yourself from the spectacle. If the referee leaves the room, the fights usually fizzle out, or they resolve it themselves.

Re-Boot 3: Catch them being good. Notice and praise only the good things. This usually produces more good behavior. “Thank you so much for cleaning your place at the table. You do great work.” “Wow, you are learning to use your quiet feet up and down the stairs! You go, boy!” “Let me see those teeth. Whoa, those are sparking! Show me how you scrubbed.”

Hey, it’s not rocket science. But then again, neither is turning your computer off and back on again. It just works. Maybe it’s time to re-boot.