In part three of this series, I’ll be talking about how you can set more effective consequences particularly when your child is not doing what you have asked them.
Remember that coercive interactions usually involve some sort of threat, name-calling, or physical interactions between a parent and child in order to try to gain compliance. I can’t stress strongly enough how the key to overcoming coercive interactions are to help take the negative emotions out of the interaction while at the same time keeping a firm limit so that your child completes what was asked of them.
So, you can see this is actually a two-step process. The first one is to suck the negative emotion out of the interaction. The second step is to create enforceable limits and responses to a child’s noncompliance.
Let’s tackle the first step: sucking the negative emotion out of the interactions.
The first step you’re already working on will be helpful: creating a plan. Too often in these interactions, parents are trying to enforce limits under strong emotions both for themselves and for their child. You want to create a plan that will do the thinking for you rather than trying to do so when you are least capable to do this. What this means is that are you will be creating enforceable plan and step two to help give you the assurance that you have a plan that can work.
Another important factor is keeping your cool. I’ve written a number of posts on how to help parents keep their cool when enforcing limits particularly within oppositional child. My favorite strategy is the Teflon strategy. You can find it here: the basic idea behind it is that you will have a set of short words or phrases that you will say that make it difficult for your child argue back with since you are not providing resistance to their comments by justifying or explaining yourself.
The biggest trap in this cycle is that parent start explaining themselves to their child. The child of course does not agree with the parent’s explanation and offers their own assessment. They call this----arguing.
An important step that a parent can take is also not personalizing the experience with their child. Your child is trying to achieve a certain outcome: getting out of a non-desired activity. Everything they say and do will likely be in support of this outcome. Obviously, your outcome is different. Stay focused on that outcome rather than getting sucked into your child’s moods.
It is helpful to have some phrases you can say to yourself that help talk you through the situation with child. For instance, “I just need to stay calm and stick with my plan.” Or “I need to be in charge of the emotions in the situation not my child”. The more you focus on what you can control the better.
The second step of this process is creating enforceable limits. Of all the things I talk about with parents, they frequently mention this is the first thing they are wanting to cover when working on this issue. As I explained in part two, consequences for noncompliance should be the second thing you begin working on.
The first is increasing your reinforcement of the behavior you want.
That is not to say that creating effective consequences is not important.
Here are some things you can do to help make your consequences to noncompliance more effective.
Write out the rule(s) and place it in a public area outlining what your child will get when they complete what is asked as well as what will happen if they do not complete what is asked.
Now I can hear some parents thinking, “My child already knows what to do.” This is likely true, but what is not as clear is how you are going to both reinforce or consequence compliance with that behavior.
Remember you want to take the emotions out of the situation. If it is clearly written out, the writing should do the talking for you.
Don’t let your child avoid doing the task. As we talked about in part one, it is the avoidance of the task that tends to reinforce noncompliance from your child. I typically encourage parents to not allow their child to be able to get back the privilege they lost until the task is completed they were asked to do, even if they have to complete yesterday and today’s chore on the same day.
Make sure your consequence is enforceable. If you threaten a consequence and cannot follow through because it is not enforceable, it is not an effective consequence. What you decide to do needs to be able to be controlled by you not your child.
For instance, not driving your child to a desired activity with friends is something within your control particularly if your child is not driving yet. Turning off your child’s cell phone is enforceable if you have an app that you control to do this. If you must wrestle the phone out of your child’s hands, that is not very enforceable and could lead to physical conflict.
I also strongly encourage you to make sure all the adults in the home are aware of these rules as well. I’ve seen countless family struggle because extended family, spouses, or partners are not on the same page about how to deal with the child when they are not compliant. It will save you lots of headaches and pain by making sure there is an agreement on following through with the plan by all the adults that deal with the child day to day.
I hope you have found this series useful. This series was meant to help you better understand how the coercive cycle works and how you can begin to interrupt that pattern and get better results with your child in the home.
Feel free to post a comment or question related to this issue in the box below to keep the conversation going.