As a teacher, a psychologist and a parent, I’ve always felt that youngsters sometimes dismiss what they hear or read. Those messages often don’t soak into a child’s or teen’s consciousness quite enough, especially if they are weary of adult “advice,” or if they are just waiting for the advice to end.
How many good lectures have gone unheard, let alone unheeded?
(One teacher described this phenomenon as the “Charlie Brown Effect.” The teacher might be speaking to the class or to a student, but often what’s being heard is “Wah-Wah, Wah-Wah-Wah, Wah!” And, of course, parents share in that experience, also.)
A Life-changing Experience
I recently came across a story from a man that recalled an experience going back to the fourth grade. It had to do with his voicing of what he mistakenly thought was something humorous. This particular experience turned out to be a life-changing one for him.
He shared how he drew a less-than-flattering cartoon figure of his teacher while she was working at the board. He then included a number of descriptive comments about the teacher on the page, and then he showed it around to his classmates. The teacher caught him, took up the paper, and instructed him to stay after class was over.
When it was just the boy and her in the classroom, she calmly pointed to the paper and asked him to read aloud what he had written on the paper. He shared how he felt the pain and sting of every word as he read them back to his teacher. He was shaken to the core.
There was no other discipline, nor was it necessary. He had punished himself, and he never forgot what he learned from the episode.
Making Conditions “Stick”
On a less convicting note, have you ever put a series of conditions to a privilege for your child, like going on a sleepover to a friend’s house or taking the car out for the first time? My guess is kids will agree to just about anything to get the privilege, but, when you ask them to repeat the conditions, they can’t.
In a situation like this, consider prefacing your conditions with something like, “Yes, I will let you do that, but with three conditions that must be met. Before I tell you what they are, I want you to know I will ask you to repeat them to me right away, and then again before you leave the house.”
Give it a try. There’s something about a youngster stating terms of compliance in their own voice and words that helps to make them stick.
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the author of The Changing Behavior Book: A Fresh Approach to the Difficult Child. He is 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, http://www.DocSpeak.com.