Okay, there aren’t really any guarantees with difficult youngsters, but this one comes close. The effectiveness of this strategy builds on the notion that the youngster wants what is connected to the compliance request. There’s also another benefit: Success in gaining any compliance from a child makes future compliance a bit more favorable. (Hey, one-in-a-row is a start!)
Dad gets it going on a Saturday morning by saying something like this to his daughter:
“Sarah, for some time you’ve wanted me to take you fishing. That’s sounds like fun, but I just looked at the tackle box. It’s a MESS! Everything is tangled and in a pile!
“Sarah, if you’ll straighten out the tackle box so we can use it, I think we could work in a little lake time later this afternoon after I take care of a couple of chores. If that’s something you’d like to do, have everything ready to go by four this afternoon.
“Also, Sarah, if you want me to show you what I mean about straightening the tackle box, bring it to me, and I’ll show you.”
What else does Dad say about it? NOTHING! That’s the best part.
This compliance request can be most anything, provided the payoff is of high interest to the youngster. For a young child, for instance, it might be a trip to the park with the dog and a Frisbee. For a teen, it might be some time to practice driving.
There are three very powerful advantages built into this “suggested compliance” request:
1. If Sarah doesn’t comply, no one else is bothered or inconvenienced by it. She might expect Dad to remind her, as that’s the way it’s been in the past. When he doesn’t remind her, it puts the responsibility on Sarah. She is likely to even test him the first time or two, at the expense of missing a fishing trip. But that’s part of the learning experience.
2. If Sarah complies, she gains a lot more than an opportunity to go fishing, doesn’t she? She gets some great one-on-one time with her father. She straightens out a tackle box and builds a memory. How powerful is that?
3. As I’ve mentioned, once willing compliance happens, the chances of it happening again go up considerably. Dad could top it off with a quick comment like this one (although it is important that he not say too much): “You know, Sarah, I had a great time. I’m sure glad you fixed that tackle box.”
A simple comment like this not only affirms Sarah, it affirms her compliance.
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is in demand for his expertise on emotionally and behaviorally troubled youngsters, and his skill for sharing it. He the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio program supporting young people and their families, and every month he publishes The Changing Behavior Digest, offering tips on managing difficult children and teens. Both resources (and others) are available at no cost through his website.