Parenting: Changing Your Child's Attitude (cont.)

"Attitudes are learned. Children use them because they work. Pretend you're Colombo and figure out what's going on and why the child is using the attitude."

MEMBER QUESTION:
I thought this might be able to help me with my son. He is 12 and I can't get him to do anything. He is very lazy. It has gotten to the point that he will take his clothes off anywhere and leave them. What are a few things that I can try with him? I have taken all of his free-time things away from him and he just doesn't care. Is it OK to take all the extras way from them or does that just feed the fire that they already have?

BORBA:
It feeds the fire. Set the consequence to the clothes on the ground, because consequences should be natural. Consequences have to fit the crime. He's lazy, he won't pick up the clothes. He's learned that leaving them on the floor works. There's no consequence to it. You set a new rule: "If I pick up the clothes, you don't get them." What happens after a while (the first few he won't care) is he won't have anything left in the closet. Pick your battles wisely, and after a while, to get the clothes back he has to fold them and do his own laundry to get them.

A big recommendation: buy earplugs, because it's going to be a battle for awhile, but stick to the battle. You have to follow through, because he will test you. Keep up with it until he realizes you mean business.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Should I start to give his things back to him one by one or just give them all back and say something like, "Here are all your things back; lets try to start over?"

BORBA:
NO! You don't give it back until the child turns his attitude around. Your job is not to turn your behavior around but his. At age 12 you can have him sign a contract of what he'll do differently, like his own laundry or picking up his own clothes. Create new rules of engagement. Because the other part didn't work; he simply didn't care. The consequence must be fair, clear, fit the crime, and be consistently enforced. So for a 12-year-old, writing a contract ahead of time with both of you signing it may be helpful.

The final part is that you have to be calm when you do it. No more nagging, no more lecturing, because that will also feed the fire.

MEMBER QUESTION:
My child is very controlling with her friends and wants to boss them around. How can I make her see that she is turning them away?

BORBA:
Ask yourself, why the need to be controlling? That's a big secret to how you will turn it around. Is it because she's insecure; doesn't know how to be a friend; her friends are passive? Has it been modeled after someone else?

The second step is "The Talk," where you sit down and describe the reactions of the kids. "Did you see how Sally didn't like that; that she was looking kind of unhappy that she was here?" Don't assume that your child sees those cues.

The third step is that you need to teach her how to be more considerate, and for a demanding, controlling kid, teach her old-time gimmicks like, "If you come to my house, the guest gets to choose first." That's one rule. Another rule is the sand timer. Your guest gets to play for five minutes; then it's your turn. You have to ease control from your child so there's more control for the other kids. You can even teach rock, paper, scissors, or even flip a coin.

Then the final step is to demand she be more considerate. If those things don't work, then the friends have to go home early, because eventually this will backfire and your child will lose the friend.

Kids pick up attitudes because they work. They start around the age of 3. All attitudes are learned because kids figure out that they work. The little manipulator at age 3 charms Daddy, and still does it at age 10.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Our 5-year-old is often rude, selfish, and belligerent despite the application of various timeouts, loss of privileges, and spankings. He will disobey despite warnings of consequences, which vary according to each situation. He always gets three warnings. After the third warning, if the behavior repeats consequences are immediate. There are never more than three warnings and consequences are consistently applied. Why does he continue to misbehave despite the warnings?

BORBA:
I hate warnings. First of all, for any rude child you don't get three warnings. You struck out the first time you're rude. The child is upping you. So you need to get back into control of the child. They are humans, and they will test. They want to see how far they can go. You wouldn't be able to get away with doing that as an adult; don't let your child.

"The best approach to any flippant kid is to refuse to engage. Just simply turn and say, 'When you can talk nice, we can talk.'"

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have a 16-year-old daughter. She is negative about everything. I am constantly reminding her that when she was young I told her if she has nothing good to say, don't say anything at all. Will this pass? It's to the point I don't even want to speak to her!

BORBA:
You are not alone. More and more kids are becoming very cynical, and negativity is learned. To change a negative thinking pattern, help her learn to catch her thinking. So stop nagging it. Use a signal. The secret is, she has to be aware of it. There's a great book called The Optimistic Child. It is wonderful for how to change negative thinking patterns. That's the first step.

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