[Excerpted from When the Labels Don’t Fit by Barbara Probst, MSW, LCSW Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Probst, MSW, LCSW. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.]
Editor's Note: In When the Labels Don't Fit, Barbara Probst suggests analyzing your child's behavior and finding out how to stop problems before they start. Often, that involves changing your own ways of thinking and doing things, an easier task than changing the understanding and needs of an inflexible child. Among the many tips offered in the book are some "behavior management" techniques for parents to use on themselves. Here are two to try.
* * *
You get three tokens each day. You can use them when you believe you need to coach, assist, remind, or rescue your child. Each time you help, put one token in a cup. If you run out, that’s it. There are no more tokens. You can do the exercise mentally but it works better if you use real poker chips or paper clips.
How will you spend your tokens? Each time you feel the impulse to do something, stop and decide if this moment is worth a token. What would happen if you waited?
After you’ve tried this exercise, you can do it in reverse by giving your child three tokens and asking him to pay one token each time he asks for your help. How are the two versions different? When is help necessary? Who decides?
Catch Yourself Being a Good Parent
Remembering to “catch your child being good” is a useful way to shift the emphasis to positive moments. You can apply the principle to yourself, too.
Keep a notebook and record one moment each day when you felt like a good parent. “Being a good parent” doesn’t necessarily mean your child was behaving well. It might be a moment when he was falling apart but you handled it the way you think a good parent would. It shouldn’t be something you do anyway, like reading a story or baking his favorite cookies, but a time you were able to struggle with a habit like sarcasm or nagging. It might even be a moment when you just waited without doing anything until your child was ready to come to you.