Behaviour org uk

How Parents Create 'Badly' Behaved Children
And How To Reverse the Process


            Home    |   Parents    |    Teacher Training & Inset     |   Our Work on TV     Contact Us

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Restoring Childhood
How We Create 'Badly' Behaved Children
©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016
(Copyright Unedited Beta Version)
(To be read online only)

Book One

Chapter 4

Parents still making up their minds

Many parents believe that homes should be democratic places. They resist being unilaterally categorical. They resist establishing a principle that there can be no negotiation in key areas. They are reluctant to do this even in the areas that directly affect their child’s safety. They believe that it should be possible to equate the training of children with the running of a country. They assume that since the best form of government for a country is democracy, it follows that in each area in the home some form of democracy will work. If they believe this and try to stick to it, they create a serious problem. The problem is that democracy does more than just insist that each view is heard: it also insists that each view has the possibility of being accepted. It trusts that majorities will tend to make the right choices.

But there are no majorities in the home, just the sometimes conflicting views of a parent and a child. With just these two, the injunction which states that each view should have the possibility of being accepted becomes dangerous. In the absence of a majority, this criterion will quickly turn into who wants it most.

The fundamental dilemma

The prime objective for parents must be that, in key areas, a decision is right, i.e. safe. Democracy does not concern itself with this, or worry itself about outcomes. It trusts that majorities will come up with the right outcomes. Parents do have to worry. Some outcomes are so harmful and unsafe for our children that they cannot be risked to any system that might allow them. In some areas, parents cannot accept the possibility of an outcome they do not want. If what the child wants threatens his or her safety, then parents cannot even allow discussion. Discussion will involve a lie: it will suggest that a democratic process is being used, when in fact the child will never be allowed to win.

This is a parenting truth that many parents find uncomfortable and some refuse to admit. The incontrovertible fact is that, in a key limited area, a benign and loving dictatorship cannot be avoided. It may only be required in a very limited area, but it is the only way to provide children with the safety and security they need. Parents are reluctant to dictate to children who still do not accept their reasons. They are reluctant dictators. This makes parents vulnerable because, for a child still in primary mode, dictating is their natural form of communication. If, in a key area, the parent does not dictate, i.e. does not take the lead, then the child is more than happy to fill the vacuum.

Many of the parents I have spoken to think that a form of democracy can be preserved in the home by explanation. They think that, in disputes, children and teenagers can be persuaded to function like reasonable adults. They think that discussion and the child’s natural common sense will combine to make children give up any unsafe goals. When they have to be categorical, they think that common sense will enable their children to understand why they have to be categorical.

The child does not have to approve your decision

When parents relate the conversations they have with their defiant children it often becomes apparent that they do not just want their child to decide to comply. Their conversations are about why compliance is the best choice for the child. In other words, their goal is that their child should accept their reasons for asking for compliance. This desire is usually at the heart of endless, fruitless conversations. Parents do not just want the child to allow themselves to comply, they want them to approve of the parental view. This goal turns parents into hypocrites, because the only reason the child keeps listening and talking is that they think they have a chance of changing their parents’ mind. Of course parents should always give a brief explanation of why they have to insist on something, but persisting with explanation, in the child’s mind, turns explanation into negotiation.

Categoricals can never be established by discussion

Counter to what many parents think, the categorical part of their statements can never be established by discussion. If the categorical quality of an instruction has been established by discussion, it cannot really be categorical. Why? Just ask, would I have allowed a different conclusion to the discussion?” If the answer is yes, then what was established was not categorical. What if the answer is no? Well, if I would not have allowed a different conclusion then I was being hypocritical and was only pretending to have a discussion.

Failing to convince your children you know best

Children are developmentally pre-programmed to be interested in now, in this precise moment. This is as true for difficult teenagers as it is for 4-year-olds. Parents love their children so much, they are convinced that they must know it. They are certain their children will understand why they have to disappoint them when they tell them:

• Now is the time to go to bed
• No, you can’t have the cake 2 minutes before dinner
• You have to stop what you are enjoying and come in now
• Your homework needs to be done now
• You cannot go to the party at your new friend’s house if you will not give me your
    friend’s address and/or their parents’ phone number
• The way you said that was rude and needs to be said in a polite manner

Relying on something that does not exist

©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016

Despite having had years of contrary evidence many parents continue to think they can convince an obstinate child that their disappointments are necessary. The fault in their parenting is to think that their child or teenager is mature enough to accept that parental desires carry more weight than childish ones. Unfortunately a child’s reality is never concept based, it always based on evidence. A child will never be convinced that parental desires carry more weight if last time they held out longest and ended up getting their own way. This is particularly true when no resulting consequence was applied.

It does not work the way struggling parents think it does. They think that the intellectual or moral point is won first and then the child concedes with physical compliance. This is to completely misunderstand children. No child will ever concede their parents intellectual or moral point of view whilst what actually happens corresponds to their own view of what should happen. No parent will ever persuade a child that they should not do or get something that they are still actually managing to do or get.

Children - big surprise - are in fact children. In short, they will never be persuaded of the importance of a parental preference if last time the parent failed to get that preference to actually occur. They say to themselves, not unreasonably how vital can these strictures be if my parent allowed me to win last time? Spending a whole evening explaining why something is non-negotiable should be a logical impossibility. Parents can give the best arguments in the world, but all it tells the child is that they are still talking and therefore there is still hope. Changing ‘bad’ behaviour is not about being better, more logical, more persuasive during discussions, it is about avoiding fruitless discussions altogether. Parents often quote their children’s reasons why they should get their own way to me and I sense that they secretly think their child has a point, and, of course, children often do. But does the fact that from their perspective the child has a point alter the fact that, say, homework has to be done? Should it weaken the strength of the father’s categorical insistence on it? The answer has to be ‘no’ and parents cannot afford to continue to be their pragmatic, pre-child, open-minded selves. Children need parents to be certain and categorical. Anything less and every single child in this world will begin an inexorable push to persuade and wear down.

The fait accompli

Parents who try to be ‘fair’ by listening to their children and trying to make concessions are actually being unfair. They are robbing their children of the stability and calm acceptance that only comes with the certainty of loss. A fait accompli is the only way that most children ever come to terms with disappointment. If a decision is truly categorical, it also has to be a fait accompli. Its existence has to preclude any continuing discussion. Children can never be certain about a parenting categorical unless their parents are certain. It is dishonest for parents to hint – and any discussion they allow will be perceived as a hint – that they will accept an alternative option to something that is categorical. Parents are being cruel if they allow their children to waste their time arguing over an issue that they will never concede. Alternatively, if they do concede, they negate their parenting role and selfishly, short-sightedly, allow their child’s short-term pleasure to override a far more important longer-term gain.

Parents need to explain their reasons clearly, but also make it clear that they are not going to continue to discuss them. Continued explanation quickly becomes discussion. Discussion will not help to get the child to comply. Discussion suggests a compromise which is impossible in key areas. Any compromise that moves a child closer to a childish goal will move them away from safety and their long-term best interest. In the key areas any compromise will encourage them to immediately seek a further compromise. Parents with ‘badly’ behaved children have this same parenting principle demonstrated to them countless times every day for weeks and months and years, yet they still fail to grasp it.

They fail to grasp that obstinate children will never understand why they have to be disappointed while parents allow continued discussion about it. It is the discussion itself that makes it impossible for children to accept their decisions. No obstinate child, in the middle of fighting for what he or she wants, will ever be persuaded of the importance their ‘not’ getting what they want. Children are children and are entitled to a childish view of what is important. When they show that they are not going to be convinced, we need to accept it quickly. We need to stop attempting to change their view. If we allow continuing discussion, it will provide the child with false hope and lots of rewarding attention.

The sad truth is that a categorical becomes less categorical the more we speak about it. The verbal battleground is a no-win area for parents. Talk is the child’s main way to avoid compliance. For a child it is victory enough to still be talking and for the parent not to have noticed how rude they are being. Parents cannot take part in these verbal battle grounds and win. Obstinate children do not accept the moral reason for change and then change. They need to first accept the fait accompli and only then they will begin to accept the reasons for it. They need the objectivity of no longer being in a battle. They are children very much based in ‘now’ all attempts at using words to instil a moral sense about behaviour they are already enacting or get them to worry about the future are doomed to fail. When I speak to audiences of parents with seriously misbehaving children, I often ask them if they continue with their verbal battles because one day they want to hear their child say:

“Oh yes, Dad [or Mum], now I see what you are trying to tell me. You want me to do so and so … I’m so sorry I did not understand you before, but now I see what you mean! Of course I will do it now.”

I say this and the response is always the same: the parents laugh. It is laughable. There is no way that children in continual dispute with their parents are ever going to say or do this. Children never, ever, say this, even after years of argument and explanation, and the laughter shows that the parents know it. For months and years these parents have tried asking their children, reasoning with them, nagging them, telling them and shouting at them, only to be met with being ignored, being interrupted, rudeness, back-talking, and even louder shouting. They cannot continue to think that, miraculously, the hundredth or thousandth time the talk will sink in. I do not advise parents not to explain: I advise them to stop when it becomes clear that it is not working. Parents think they are explaining a decision they have made, but the child, not unreasonably, thinks the discussion is about whether the decision should be made or not. Every moment that parents spend in prolonged discussion about a categorical decision it becomes less and less categorical. All this counterproductive nagging, reasoning, asking, interrupting, telling cannot continue without the parents’ active participation. Parents do more than just waste their time – they reward and perpetuate increasingly defiant behaviour. They aim to convince the child of the rightness of their decision; however, all they actually do is convince the child that the decision has not yet been made; they convince the child that their parents are in a perpetual state of indecision, and are still making up their minds.

Previous           Next

©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016

            Home    |   Parents    |    Teacher Training & Inset     |   Our Work on TV     Contact Us