Creative Child

True Behavior Change Begins Here

by Rebecca Eanes

I used to have a lot of tricks up my sleeve for bringing my son’s behavior into line. I used behavior charts, stickers, counting to three, rewards, bribes, and time-outs. I thought these methods were the best and most effective way to teach my son to stop inappropriate or annoying behaviors. The problem was that none of my tricks reached his heart, and so none of them led to lasting positive change in behavior. The change happened when I stopped punishing his actions and started looking for and treating the cause of those actions.

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How often do we simply look at and treat the symptoms? Wouldn’t we be better to discover and treat the cause? Are we parenting a whole human being or are we just on Behavior Patrol? Because I can tell you from experience that when we operate as Behavior Patrol, we miss a whole lot about the human being.

I believe we need less “go to your room” and more “how can I help?” Less “you’re grounded” and more “I’m listening.” Less behavior management and more heart to heart talks.

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Do you know what I’ve discovered when I looked past the action for the cause? I discovered my three year old wasn’t “defiant,” he was sad. He had a new brother and he was feeling overwhelmed. The mommy who was all his last month now belonged to someone else – at least in part. He had big feelings and an immature brain that couldn’t process them. His behavior was his distress call. If I’d have continued to punish the actions, I would have missed the pain. We can’t heal what we don’t see. When I healed the hurt, his behavior improved. No punishment in the world would have fixed the problem. He needed connection. He needed to know he still mattered – that I was still his.

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