Masthead Image

Excerpts - Discipline

Excerpt from Dec 12, 1978 Workshop in Maryland*
(*Audience participation is in parentheses--notations in brackets have been added for clarification )

[While raising my kids, I was always looking for alternatives to nagging and punishing which made me very uncomfortable. Watching other parents with their children and inner reactions to my kid's behaviors created much frustration and confusion as to how to be an effective and loving parent at the same time. While transcribing I ran across one of Dr. Bob's ideas as to working with children. I might add that it can be used in other ways too if one is creative with it.]

How long do you hassle with your kids--for hours? So the not "I" [experienced as thought] comes and says, "You gotta raise that kid up right." And then after a while some day when you really got in the "lick" and the kid all upset: and [reacts by] running away from home or something; then another not "I" says "You really went wrong."

One of the most common statements I hear from a parent is: "Where did I go wrong," because the not "i" comes up and says "You did it wrong." "You messed up." "You goofed up." I will tell you, if you didn't get him trained before he was 12, don't try it at 20, honey.

(He was great until he got to be 18.)

Then he doesn't have to listen to you anymore. So when he becomes 18, there's another place for him to live down the road. But then a not "I" says "You can't throw him out in the street, after all it's your child."

(How do you get them before they're 12)

I don't know. I only raised a couple of kids. [Their mother was unable to care for them for a while and Dr. Bob took them in. The kids had a habit of getting sick when it came time to go to school.] We had discussions once in a while. I maneuvered around a little bit. They never were sick because I told them I would give them $2. per week for an allowance on Saturday morning. I wasn't going to give them money through the week. If they wanted to buy anything they had the $2. a week they could buy anything with. They would get it every Saturday morning, EXCEPT if they'd been sick through the week. In three years, they never were sick. I don't know if that had anything to do with it. They had been sick before they came to live with me.

Now I wouldn't go into bribing them, or control or anything; however, I do find that people do a lot more for attention and approval than they do for criticism. Now every person wants attention, that right? Now if I don't get a lot of attention and approval, I'm gonna at least get attention. I'm gonna do something so dramatic, you're gonna give me attention.

Now if I leave my clothes scattered all over the floor, the dishes dirty, you're going to give me attention. You're going to scream at me. Now I would only make a small suggestion to all these people that have kids that don't behave like they want them too--that you give them attention and approval for how you would like them to do, instead of what they're doing.

A lady came in very much like every other mother and she was ranting and raving--the kid was the source of it. The not "i's" were really having a fit about her daughter who was about 12 years old. She didn't keep her room clean--it looked like a hog pen. She never did anything at the house. She came in and fell in front of the "boob" tube, or she did something else. Then Mama came in and had all the work to do. So Mama came to me and paid her money to have some kind of suggestion. I said, "Well I would offer you some sort of a thing that you could experiment with.

I don't know if it would work or not, but let's experiment see?"

Several times a day--or whenever the child is around in another room (now you don't give her a compliment direct); but you pick up the phone even if you got your finger on the button or just letting it hum. Or if you're talking to one of your friends, you remark how wonderful little Dorothy's doing, that she's beginning to take a lot of pride in her room, her room is lookin' nice, she's a big help in the house and you are so proud of her.

"WELL, I WOULD BE LYING." Ok, you're lying, so what. I said if that's going to be a big sin, I've got a lot of them, I'll just add that to my list and they can burn me a little extra. So I'll take your punishment on--if it's wrong for you to do what I'm laying out--I'm the sinner, not you. After some 30 minutes which ran her bill up another $30, she agreed to it--she'd try it.

So I didn't hear from her for about a week. I'd told her to call me in a couple of days. She called and I said "What's going on."

She said "YOU'RE NUTS, AND THAT KID'S WORSE"--the house is immaculate, I don't have anything to do when I get home--every one of her clothes is hung up. She's done the laundry for the whole house, including mine.

Now does that give you any idea?

You see we wait until the kid does something nice before giving them a compliment, and we usually feel entitled to that behavior. When they make a little static, we scream and yell at them, is that right?

I know that I can get attention--I would like to have attention with approval which is appreciation, right? How many times have you received appreciation lately? Anybody come by and give you approval? You like that, don't you--and you'll work to get it again, won't you. It's a pretty good motivator.

Now you've had some criticism too--do you go back to get some more of that, or do you kind of dodge it? But if you have nothing, you'll try to get attention at least. If everybody's ignoring you, you're gonna do something to get attention. Well, at least I can holler and kick and I'll get attention.

You're little baby was crying last night and it was what--getting attention. And it carried on until it got your attention. Then it purred like a kitten. At that stage of life all we can do is complain. Now most of us carried it on with us [into adulthood]. We're still doing it. We're not carried around in a little basket any more--but we're still using the same method of trying to get things our way.

So if you want your kids to act somewhat like you would like them, let them at least overhear--it's better not to go straight to their face about it. Let them overhear you talking to somebody else--how wonderful they are and how proud you are they are taking a great joy in the household, and they've quit all this kid stuff they've been involved in, and how proud of them you are. It won't be any worse than what you're doing.

I fully expect that a lot of the misbehavior we experience from others is an effort to gain attention.