|He enjoys energy and attention. He seeks energy and attention
from you too (e.g., your being animated, arguing, lecturing,
getting angry, threatening him, etc.). Unfortunately, he has
discovered that you are much more energetic, attentive and
interesting when he misbehaves.
Attention-seeking children are not out to get you as a parent.
They are out to get your energy, intensity and attention
though. They want you to be exciting to them. Unfortunately,
you are much more exciting when things are going wrong.
So, whenever you use a "traditional" parenting strategy (like
arguing, lecturing, getting angry, threatening), it is actually a
reward to your kid -- he gets what he wants -- your energy and
attention! He is able to push your energy-producing buttons
...AND THIS IS EXCITING TO HIM !
Therefore, try very hard not to show any emotion when
reacting to the behaviors of your intense, attention-seeking kid
(put on your best "poker face"). The worst thing to do with this
kid is to react strongly and emotionally. This will just make her
push you that same way again. You do not want the kid to
figure out what really bugs you. You want to try to remain as
cool as possible while she is trying to drive you over the edge.
This is not easy. Once you know what you are going to ignore
and what will be addressed, it should be far easier not to let
your feelings get the best of you.
Put On Your Best Poker Face--
Do you like to play cards? How about poker? Have you watched
any of the poker game shows on T.V? If one of the players has
a terrible hand, he looks no different than when he has a
winning hand. His face is blank and emotionless. Why? Because
if he gives any facial cues at all, he sends a loud and clear, non-
verbal message that he has either a bad, mediocre, or great
hand – and the other players will use that information against
O.K. I know. You’re asking yourself, “What does playing poker
have to do with parenting.” Keep reading.
As a family therapist who works with frustrated parents of
strong-willed, out-of-control kids, I often hear the following
“I’ve tried everything with this kid, and nothing works.”
“I never treated my parents this way.”
“My other child never treated me this way.”
These parents often feel hurt by -- and even afraid of -- their
child’s behavior. They try their best to come up with solutions
to their child’s emotional and behavior problems, but with little
or no success. It seems that the harder the parent tries, the
more their child “acts out.”
Eventually these parents begin to feel helpless and hopeless
and may even want someone else to take a shot at controlling
their child (e.g., the child’s other parent if divorced, a relative,
the cops, a probation officer).
If you have an out-of-control child, allow me to cut through
the confusion and provide some insight regarding his or her
motivation and resultant behavior:
Your child is not out to get you as the parent, but he is out to
get your energy (e.g., your being animated, arguing, lecturing,
threatening, getting angry, etc.). Unfortunately, he has
discovered that you are much more energetic and intense when
things are “going wrong.”
Another unfortunate phenomenon is that "traditional" or
“conventional” parenting strategies produce the very intensity
these children thrive on.
When parents use a conventional parenting strategy (e.g.,
arguing, lecturing, questioning, threatening, getting angry,
etc.), it is actually a reward to the out-of-control child. He
succeeds, once again, at pushing the parent’s buttons that
never fail to produce desired intensity.
The intensity-seeking child will look to see how the parent
reacts in the middle of conflict in order to ascertain whether or
not he’s going to get a “payoff.” Thus, to avoid accidentally
rewarding negative behavior, the parent must put on her best
poker face whenever things are “going wrong” (e.g., child does
not take “no” for an answer, refuses to follow a rule, displays
If, for example, you give your child no clue that you are upset
and angry, he will not know whether he has won or lost the
“intensity-seeking game.” He will attempt to “call your bluff”
(i.e., to see if you are faking your lack of emotion) by frantically
pushing as many buttons as he can. But with your continued
blank expression, he will eventually grow tired of the game and
throw in his cards – fold!
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t issue a consequence for
misbehavior. But it is very possible for you to discipline your
child without providing intensity.
Here’s your recipe for success. Over the next several weeks,
1. Provide no intensity (i.e., no expressions of emotion) when
things are going wrong, and
2. Provide a lot of intensity (i.e., compliments, acknowledgement
and praise) when things are “going right” (e.g., child completes
a chore, does not “back-talk,” actually returns home by curfew)
In this way, you will satisfy your out-of-control child’s appetite
for intensity, but in a way that both rewards good behavior and
avoids rewarding bad behavior.
|Can't see the video? CLICK HERE