To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Dr. Ray Guarendi tells how to turn bad behavior good using the mysteriously effective “If-Then” method.
BY Dr. Ray Guarendi
p>When it comes to discipline, my kids tune me out. Any ideas for making myself heard?
Talk — it sounds like discipline, it feels like discipline,
it may at times work like discipline. But talk alone is a fraud. It’s the grand
illusion of discipline. And kids know it. They realize it somewhere before
their second birthday, or about the same time we parents are closing in on our
100,000th disciplinary word.
After only a few months, those who live near an airport
become oblivious to the roaring jets passing overhead. Likewise, kids who live
near roaring parents grow deaf to a stream of words passing overhead.
To talk less and be heard more — nearly every parent’s
discipline dream — you can practice “If-Then” talk. Instead of repeating 16
variations of “Jay, quit putting oil in the bird bath,” try saying one time,
“Jay, if you put oil in the birdbath, you will clean it and spend the rest of
the day inside.”
If-Thens are flexible, too. They can promise privileges as
well as consequences: “Gardiner, if the lawn is mowed before dinnertime, we may
have time for ice cream afterwards.”
The If-Then is a logical proposition. It tells the kids what
you’d like and what will happen if they choose to ignore you. If-Then-ing is a
skill that gets better with practice.
If-Thens short-circuit the escalating spiral of harsh words
and emotions that inevitably result when parents and kids become locked in
verbal wrestling matches.
If you can’t think of thens as fast as your kids present you
with ifs — a normal parent-child state of affairs — you have two options. One,
don’t say anything until you’ve thought of a then. Or two, make a list of
all-purpose thens to fall back on when you’re temporarily stumped: a half hour
in one’s room, sitting at the table with head down, 15 minutes of chores.
The If-Then isn’t fancy. That’s one reason it’s an extremely
effective disciplinary technique.
Dr. Ray Guarendi, author of
You’re A Better Parent Than You Think! and Back To The Family, is online at drray.com.