Even when I’m angry I can still think!

A couple of years ago I attended a training on play therapy. The trainer had years of experience and had some excellent tools in his tool-box, including a couple of stamps that I jumped on. These stamps were:

Even when I’m angry, I can still think

It’s OK to be MAD it’s not OK to be BAD

My mouth can’t say everything my brain thinks

Good Face, Good Voice, Good Words

 

These seem simple things, simple ideas that we want out children to learn. I have found that teaching kids these concepts is actually relatively simple.

Kids can understand that when they’re mad they do things they get in trouble for and regret later. When they learn that they are in control of their anger; no one has a button that someone else can push and “make them angry” and no one has the reigns to their feelings then they start to be able to understand to following two stamps.   They start to understand that being mad isn’t wrong; we all get mad, but that what we do with it is what can be bad. When they add an understanding that they still have to take a breath and think even when they’re mad, anger management starts getting easier for them.

When they learn that their relationships are compromised when they are mad and say something hurtful or inappropriate they learn they have to think about what they are going to say or do before they do it. They learn pretty quickly that being mad isn’t a pass for horrible behavior and you don’t get to shut off your brain just because you’re mad.

Kids really get it when you remind them that usually the reason they get in trouble with adults and friends is because they didn’t follow the last stamp. They made mean faces, they had ugly words, or sarcastic words with an ugly voice. Kids learn quickly that when they have the good face, good voice and good words that they are actually more likely get their wants, wishes and would likes met, even when they are angry. When the combine all of them, especially when they are mad; remembering to think before they speak, they are still accountable for their actions, they have control of their face, voice and words, they get the concept of anger management pretty quickly.

Then we get to adults. Whether we learn a sense of entitlement, a sense that anger means an all out pass to be a jerk and other people are required to step lightly to keep us from getting angry, or we see that people around them get to use the “anger” defense again and again, we forget that we really are more in control of our anger than we think. We forget that we are always accountable for our actions, and high emotion does not give the right shove your words, your fist, foot or car in to someone.

It is OK to be angry. It is a natural human emotion that we all feel in many variations. There is irritated, frustrated, bitter, contrary, exasperated, flustered, aggravated, ticked, grumpy, fuming, mad, burning, angry, boiling, enraged, incensed, infuriated, ballistic, livid etc. Little to big, we all find a place where we are angry at some point. Like any emotion, it isn’t OK to lose yourself in the emotion so far that you are no longer in control of your actions.

We need to find a place where “you made me mad” is not an excuse. I have seen an adult reply to the “why did you (insert behavior here)?” question with “Because you made me mad!”. And? When did making someone mad give us the right to treat other people or their belongings with cruelty, disrespect or violence? When did we lose all accountability for our own emotions and our response to them?

These very simple lessons are something we need to start remembering as adults.

Even when I’m angry, I can still think

It’s OK to be MAD it’s not OK to be BAD

My mouth can’t say everything my brain thinks

Good Face, Good Voice, Good Words

 

I am in control of my own emotions. I don’t have an anger switch, or a happy button that someone else can push for me. My triggers are mine and no one is required to walk on eggshells to keep from hitting them. I need to be aware of my triggers so when someone unsuspectingly comes across them I don’t explode like a land mine and destroy everything in an emotional radius around me. When I can slow down and keep the above lessons in my head, even when I’m angry, I will have a good grasp on anger management. When I remember that I can’t control other’s emotions, and that while I should be sensitive and not intentionally jump on their triggers I can’t always control when I hit them, I probably won’t be as reactive if they aren’t in control of their anger as I would like them to be. Just always remember, Good Face, Good Voice, and Good Words and you’ll do great.

 

The Peter Pan in all of us

There’s no one with intelligence in this town except that man over there playing with the children, the one riding the stick horse. He has keen, fiery insight and vast dignity like the night sky, but he conceals it in the madness of child’s play.”
Rumi, The Essential Rumi

We spend so much time being adults. We’re grown-ups following the rules. Pay your bills, go to work, eat right. Our guard is up all the time. The moments in which we can let it down and forget we are grown-ups are all the more precious. If you find the people that you know that are the happiest they know this rule. They may not own a Fortune 500 company, but they also don’t have ulcers either. They may not have 2.5 million in the bank, but they have relationships and experiences that bring them joy.

I saw a “brotip” that if your child hands you a plastic phone and says it’s for you, you answer it, no matter how much of a Gangsta you think you are. This silliness lets us drop our grown-up guard and play for a moment. In that moment we hopefully remember that we are playful, fun-loving, caring creatures. We can take a lesson from our pets in this. My 15 year old cat will still chase a string when it is dangled in front of her, and overall she is one of the happiest creatures I know.

What are the metaphorical stings that are dangled in front of you that you are too “grown-up” to play with? We worry about what we would lose if we played with the sting, but we forget to think about what we would gain; a moment away from the seriousness of being “adult”. We all need a little bit of play-time and childlike abandon.

Accepting what is

Radical acceptance is letting go of judgment and completely and, even lovingly if possible, accepting a situation. We face situations of radical acceptance every day. We face it while driving in traffic accepting other drivers or the snarl of traffic in front of you that isn’t going to change no matter how you honk your horn or yell at your steering wheel. We face it when fixing our hair in the morning and struggling with that one lock never just does what it is supposed to (what we want it to). We face it when we look at that mole or freckle that we just hate.

Radical acceptance is being OK with what is. Those of you that have injuries or problems with knees or your back know how difficult of a struggle this is, especially when you used to be able to do certain things that you can’t now. We struggle to let go of what was and accept what is. We face it as we get older and see our bodies and faces change. We face it when we are injured and a scar is left that will stay with us.

Emotional injuries can leave lasting scars that we struggle with. We can feel as disfigured as if a physical trauma caused a visible scar, but a physical scar can be easier to accept. The scars left from emotional injuries are difficult to understand for the person scarred. They are even more difficult for those with them that don’t understand sometimes how the internal scars change things. This makes accepting the internal scars even more difficult.

We do so many things to avoid accepting life as it is. We try plastic surgery, we try denial, drugs and alcohol to hide. People in traffic try to run from lane to lane to move faster, people contort their hair to get it to lie the way they want (admittedly I’m one of them, I color and flat-iron my hair). They sometimes scream and yell trying to ignore what is.

One place where we just accept what is, is the weather. We bundle up when it is cold and wear loose flowing clothing in the summer. We don’t try to fight the weather, other than heating or cooling our immediate spaces around us. We do try to fight the realities about ourselves.

When I chose radical acceptance I chose to accept there are parts of my past that I don’t like, and remember that they only define me as far as I let them. When I chose radical acceptance I accept that I am getting older and my body doesn’t work the way it used it. I accept that I can’t do the things I used to the way I used to anymore. Sometimes it means saying goodbye to what was, something that was important to us. That is often the most difficult part. With the weather, it is something we have always known. We are ready for the heat of summers and the chill of winters and so we accept it. When life changes and turns what is in to what was and we fight it we suffer.

Accepting what is is not always easy, but it does make life less painful in the long run. It lets you quit fighting what you wish was and find what can be awesome now.

Hills and Bridges

I was listening to NPR the other day and I heard an interview that struck a chord. Unfortunately since I was driving I wasn’t able to write down the name of the person being interviewed, but his message held a lot of meaning.

He is a professional cyclist, and he was talking about the zen lesions he had learned while cycling. The first was: Climb the hill you are on. I have yet to meet a person that is confronted with only one problem at a time. We generally have several things thrown at us at any given moment. Between the different facets of our life we may have multiple problems in different life areas. We are only able to do one thing at a time though. When we try to focus on multiple things we become scattered and distracted. When we try to focus on multiple things at one time our body interprets this as an attack and responds with stress hormones, which make us gain weight, increase anxiety, decrease sex drive, and decrease focus even more.

I’ve discussed that meditation is about focus. It is about learning to be present with yourself and what you are doing. When moving through a problem we tend to not want to focus. We want to get done and get past. This means that sometimes the problem in front of us didn’t get what it needs because we are focused elsewhere.   The author uses the not so metaphorical metaphor of riding a bike up a hill. If you get lost at how far you have to go, in how many hills you have to climb before you’re finished you will get overwhelmed. It is easy to feel hopeless.

Think of all of the tasks you need to get done today. One of them, right now, is to finish reading this blog. Is there a part of you that is processing the rest of what you’re doing today? Does that affect your ability to take in the message you are reading? Will you read with part of your mind, note bits of it, and then move on, or will you read and be present with the concept of being present?

When you are in the middle of a large project, do you start to feel overwhelmed with the hugeness of the task? What does this do to your motivation, to your confidence? Your first big life-goal took 13 years of your life. Because it was broken down with small periods of break and distinctions between small steps it didn’t feel like it took that long. School was one of the first places we learned to have long-term goals while breaking it in to smaller, more digestible chunks. We learned there to focus on the semester in front of us, not the fact that as a freshman in high school you have 4 years to go. We focus on the hill we are on, the part of it we can see instead of the whole race.

We also learned to not compare one year to another, because each task is going to be different. It is easy to see in K-12, because there is physical and mental growth that allow for different tasks. Even though we stop physically growing at about 22-24, we never stop mentally growing and learning. Even if you took the same class again as an adult, or read a book you’ve read before, you will get something new out of it because you aren’t the same person you were before. One hill won’t be the same as the next, or the last. You may have climbed this particular metaphorical hill many times, but each time is different, even if just a tiny bit.

We can forget these lessons as we get older. We can become more impatient with ourselves and others, wanting life to come to us quicker and avoiding lessons, goals or tasks that seem painful, huge or will take a long time. We become more impatient with ourselves when we don’t finish tasks as quickly as we would like, and start focusing on what’s coming up next.

This leads us back to a simple rule. The author of the book discussed climbing the hill you are on, I prefer the quote; “Don’t cross bridges until you come to them”. Take care of the problem in front of you, and let go of the next one until it is in front of you.

Something to help us as we struggle with the problem we are in the middle of is the author’s next point; Each hill has another side, There will be a downhill. There will be a period of rest, release and calm. Be present in these moments. Yes, of course use them to gain momentum for the next moment, and at the same time let yourself be refreshed. Trust these moments of relaxation. Yes, they will end. Everything ends, just as the problem will end. Let yourself be OK with the in-betweens and the peace they can bring.

Overall, work to let yourself be OK with yourself and your life even in the middle of the problem. It is easy to forget. Those of you that do cycle know exactly what it means to get lost while in the middle of a difficult hill. You know what is to become frustrated and feel like it will never end, to judge yourself for getting tired and frustrated. Remember in those moments to see the joy and wonder of the fact that you keep moving when others may have given up. Remember to be present when you are in those moments of peace, not getting lost in the next struggle, losing the quiet moments.

The Stories we tell!

We all have a story, and most of us want to tell it.  Many people think therapy is all about telling their story.  They often come in thinking that emotional vomiting will create happiness.  If that were the case, we wouldn’t need a therapist as our friends would be perfect,  we tell them our stories all the time. 

Have you looked at your stories?  Have you looked at who you tell your stories to, the tone, and the direction?  Are your stories told to get pity?  Are they told to entertain?  What is the goal of your stories?  Have you ever thought about what you want people to hear when you tell your story?  When you tell of your abuse, do you wish for people to hear your pain?   Or do you want them to hear the story to distract from your pain?

One of the problems with stories, is that when told often enough, or when a similar theme is told enough, they lose their meaning.  Even more, they lose their value.  In the end, a story is only words anyway.  Either written or spoken, the story is still only words.

If I am not careful I can get lost in the story as well.  I get lost in trying to solve the problem of the story, and get lost from the true problem.  In reality, stories create a distraction.  Telling our story is a good way to move us from the pain and difficulties we truly feel.  There is a value in the story.  It helps us share, communicate, and remember that we aren’t alone in our pain.  Therapeutically it helps set a stage, though once the stage is set, it is time to get down to the dirty work.

It isn’t the story that matters, it is where the story takes you.  Remember, for every person there is a new response to an event.  There tends to be patterns overall, but what sets one person up to be angry and bitter sets another up to be despondent and depressed.  What do you keep from the story?  Do you keep the lesson, the joy, the pain?  It is important to get to what’s at the heart of the story.  When the story starts distracting from the true meaning and keeps you from moving forward, then it is time to loose the story.

Work to keep the story from distracting you from the true meaning.  Stories have value, there is no question in that.  It is important to keep from getting lost in the story, to keep the story from allowing you to find the true message and meaning, and to keep you from finding peace.

I am who I am, and you are who you are, wait…who are we?

“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

 

I don’t know who I am.  Have you ever found yourself saying those words? Generally when I hear those words it isn’t because of a lack of identity, it is because a lack of liking the identity they think they have. The definitions the person has set around himself or herself is that they are unlikeable and un-loveable to the extreme. It isn’t that sometimes they do things that aren’t that loveable, or that they make mistakes, but that they, as a whole, aren’t loveable.

 

How do you define who someone is? How do you create a definition about who you are yourself? The truth is we are never always a specific trait. I am at times kind and loving. I am at times strong and confident. At other times I am none of these things. My goal is to be a strong confident kind loving woman. I have clients and friends that at times are hurtful angry people. At times I am a hurtful, angry person. These things to not define any of us, or put us in a box that says “this is who we are”. At any time any of us can be anything we want to be.

 

When we put ourselves in a box with a label, that is generally who we will be. If we decide we are un-loveable, hurtful, angry, weak or any other number of painful descriptions, that is who we will be. If we put someone else in a box and label it as “that is who they are” then even when they aren’t we will see them as being that way.

 

When we put a person, a group of people, or ourselves in to a box with a label and a definition we do a disservice. No person or group of people is always one thing. That label and definition keeps us from seeing the rest of ourselves, the people around us, or even groups of people, and seeing whom else they can be. It keeps us from seeing all of who we can be. We don’t fit in boxes, so let go of the one you’ve placed yourself in, let go of the labels others have given you, and be the you that you want to be. Let go of the labels and definitions you’ve given others and see them for all of who they can be.

Rewards and Punishment part 2

Punishment is using a consequence of some sort to stop or decrease a behavior.  People who speed (and are caught) are initially punished with fines, defensive driving, a raise in insurance, etc.  Two incidents of this punishment was sufficient to keep me from speeding  (well, more than 5 mph over).  Had it not been ( and I had been caught again) I would be subject to loosing my license, loosing my insurance, and multiple other consequences all the way up to jail.  Punishment and fear of punishment for the crime of speeding is enough to make me careful about my speed, though I would prefer at times to go much faster.  We have several means to punish those that break laws in our society, and if our values and morals don’t keep us from breaking these laws, society hopes that a desire to avoid the punishment will.

 

The problem with punishment is that it often requires fear to be effective preventativly, and fear can be overcome with the right motivators. If we are angry enough, or hurt enough fear goes right out of the window, especially if the behavior that is going to be punished is rewarding enough.  There also has to be a belief that they will be caught in order for punishment to work, and if you are training a kid or a animal (or a spouse) the likelihood that you will be there when the behavior is committed is unlikely at times.

 

The punishment also has to have meaning.  As a kid my mom would ground me to my room for an evening.  Since I love to read and had oodles of books an evening in my room was of little to no consequence to me.  There was little to no fear of this punishment and it rarely changed my behavior.  Lucky for my mom I was a pretty good kid in general.  For several people in prison, prison has little to no meaning as a punishment.  For some it is seen as a badge of honor to be sent to prison, and for some it is seen as a means of survival.  For some it just isn’t a sufficient punishment to deter them from committing the crime.

Punishment must be enforceable.  This means that if you ground your kids, you’re grounded too.  If you ground your kids and you leave, your kids aren’t going to comply with being grounded.

 

When used incorrectly punishments have little to no effect and can actually make behaviors worse.  Incorrectly used punishments confuse and frustrate both animals and people, and often create only bitterness and anger.  A good example of this is the incorrect usage of “Time Out “.  Time outs are used to remove a child (young children and toddlers) from a behavior that is incorrect, giving them time to pull their behavior in to check ultimately returning to the activity (not the negative behavior though).  It can also be used to give parents a moment to manage their anger before consequences (punishments) are put in to place. Time out’s are used instead as the punishment itself.  The time out should be used as a quick “whoops!” to redirect the behavior, not to eliminate the behavior.  Punishment is then implemented after the time out, such as losing the toy they were playing with, or saying they are sorry to the playmate.

 

It is also necessary to know the difference between a threat and a warning.  Threats often just breed resentment.  Warnings are very different than threats. A threat is a plan to use verbal or physical violence if a behavior is continued.  A threat is also a plan that isn’t carried out.  A warning is a marker of a behavior with a notice of a consequence that will follow if the behavior is continued.  For example a threat is “You keep that up you’re gonna get it!”.  A warning is “It isn’t OK to take your sister’s toys.  If you take another toy play time is over”.

Punishments need to fit the crime and need to have meaning to the one being punished.  Taking away a cell phone because your teen cursed at you is an example of the punishment not fitting the crime.  Charging kiddo a quarter every time he curses,  or refusing to comply with requests made while cursing is an appropriate punishment.  I once worked with a family that used a belt to consequence a child because she wouldn’t wear a jacket.  This is another case of the punishment not fitting the crime.

 

Don’t read this and assume I believe that negative behaviors don’t need consequences.  When consequences are used correctly they teach what is OK and what isn’t to children that are still learning.  With adults consequences can deter. We get in to trouble though when we want a behavior to increase (such as cleaning a room) and we use punishment only.  Remember, punishment is to decrease a behavior.  We have to supply positive reinforcement to get the behavior we want.

 

Try to avoid punishing in anger as then the meaning is lost, especially as it is harder to set a reasonable punishment.  Punishments should create an understanding that the behavior was wrong, not that the punisher is a jerk.  This can be difficult when you are directly in the situation.  You enter a room to find that your kid just colored the walls with crayon and you’re probably going to get a little steamed.  At this point you are the one that needs the time out, the time away from the situation to regroup and come back in a healthy way.  When you are calm you can set a realistic punishment such a losing the crayons for the rest of the day and helping to clean the walls.

 

Some of the best punishments are natural consequences of a behavior.  When I was 8 I broke a neighbor’s window playing with a ball.  I had to tell the neighbor what I did, and do work to earn money to help pay for the window.  I was more careful when playing with a ball the next time.  We ultimately want to teach kids that there are natural consequences for their actions.  I don’t need to punish my kid for not wearing a jacket on a cold day, I just look at her when she complains (well, and with my sense of humor tell her how warm and toasty I am in my jacket).  I don’t need to punish my kid for not bathing or brushing their teeth, their peers will make it clear that kiddo isn’t accepted if they stink.  I don’t have to yell or switch my kid for a broken window, I need to make them pay for it themselves.  If they actually get in trouble with the law, I sponsor them as they move through the system, but the court system will punish them sufficiently for me as long as I don’t rescue them.

 

Punishment is only effective when used as an adjunct to positive reinforcement.  Used alone you will set both yourself and your trainee up for failure.   When you find yourself resorting to punishment frequently you will find that you are angry a great deal of the time.  When this happens you should probably take a step back, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate what you are doing that isn’t working.  Notice I said What YOU are doing, not what your trainee is doing.  Rigidity, should’s and must’s are your downfall when doing behavior modification and only sets you up for frustration.  It is better to find a behavior that you want to increase and reward that as much as possible than to punish everything you don’t want.

Rewards and punishment part 1

We always have things we want from other people or animals.  The best way to get someone to change their behavior or give us what we want is to give them something nice when they do what you want.  We all have heard “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar”, and that is very true with people.   Rewards are much more successful at changing a behavior than punishment is.

Very basic positive reinforcement is about catching the behavior you want and giving a reward of some kind; attention, food, objects, when it is done.  Positive reinforcement is about specificity and timing. I have to make sure my rewards are actually rewarding, and I have to make sure it really is a good time to train. This means knowing your trainee, if your girlfriend doesn’t like jewelry, then buying her a braclet when she doesn’t what you want won’t mean much because it doesn’t give her the brain “zing” that makes her want to do the behavior again. If you’re in the middle of a stressful time, it may not be the best idea to train your partner to give you more massages (or even to do the dishes). The training is about catching the behavior when it happens and rewarding it. Not 30 seconds later, not the next day, but when it happens.

 

When teaching a dog to sit he gets a reward every time his but hits the floor. This is when things get tricky, I have to make sure the bottom actually hits the floor, because in the case of my dog it will sit about three inches above the floor, and that isn’t want I want.  I can’t wait for 30 seconds after it hits the floor because by then he has moved on and won’t understand what it is getting rewarded for.  I need to be specific in my goals and my rewards.  If I don’t catch the sitting or I punish it, I will confuse the dog and set myself back.  The thing to remember about training is if the trainee isn’t getting trained it is the trainer’s fault, not the trainee.  If my dog isn’t learning what I want it to learn, it is because I am not teaching correctly, not because the dog is bad. I’m not catching the behavior correctly, I’m not using something that the dog finds rewarding, I’m training at a bad time, whatever.

When you have a large goal it is often best to use shaping.  Shaping is reinforcing behaviors that move your dog, cat, or person closer to doing what you want through the concept of “successive approximations”.  This comes when you have a large goal you are trying to work toward, and you break it down to smaller goals and using positive reinforcement to reward each lesser goal when it is met.  Think of the game “Hot and Cold”.  The “hot” is the reward, letting your subject know when he is moving in the right direction.  The “Cold” the equivalent of “whoops!, nope that isn’t what I want, try again!”.  The “Cold” is not punishment, but giving the message in neither a positive or negative manner that isn’t what I want.   For example:  Teaching my dog the “beg” command (sitting back on his haunches with his front paws in the air).  Because he is a lab and bigger dogs don’t do this easily, I had to start small.  In the very beginning I would reward him every time he lifted both of his paws off the ground.  Then as he became more comfortable with that level he had to lift his paws higher and higher to get the reward.  If at any point he hit the ultimate goal or begging I would “jackpot” him, and make the reward large to know that he did something I liked.  As he moved forward to the goal he stopped getting rewarded for doing the lesser goals. If he missed the goal he would hear me say “whoops!” as a marker that he didn’t do what I want, without punishing him.

 

The above example can be used for potty training a dog, potty training a kid, or ever training your partner to give you massages more often. For example;  If your goal is to get your partner to give you more back-rubs, When your partner puts his hand on your shoulder or on your back you can smile at him, say “It feels good when you touch me”, etc. Once he realizes (consciously or not) that you’re nicer to him when he touches your back, he will touch your back more. Then you let go of the reward until he is actually lightly rubbing your back. Once he does that more often, you let go of the reward until he massages with pressure.   When you have him rubbing your back regularly, always reply with at least a “thank you” or “I really enjoyed that” as a small reward, and at times give a bigger reward to keep the motivation up.

The key is using the reward consistently at the beginning until the behavior is understood. Until it is understood that a reward is possible either the task isn’t understood, or it is undesirable enough that it is avoided. After the task is understood, or trained enough you can slowly remove the reward, randomizing when it is given. The use of random rewards (never knowing when a reward is going to be given) is the single best way to encourage a behavior.   This is why gambling is so addictive.  It uses a reward or the possibility of a reward and randomly gives smaller rewards to encourage us to work harder for a big one.  Once it is understood that a reward is possible often the trainee will work twice as hard for the reward.

Don’t ever remove the reward completely or you will extinct (allow the behavior to die) what you just “trained”.  When training something like cleaning of rooms for children (when it is a new expectation), start with them something small, such as putting laundry in the bin.  Every time they do so, they get a reward.  As they move forward toward keeping a cleaner room, start only rewarding for doing most, then all of what you expect.  At this stage it is important to avoid using punishment as much as you can, as it will set your progress back.

The use of food as a reward should be used sparingly, as well as physical rewards. The reason for this is simple; especially with children the use of food or objects as a reward externalizes the reward system so that kids loose the ability to find intrinsic rewards through success, as well as the possibility that food rewards can be a cause of obesity. Verbal rewards actually still release the “happy” chemicals in the brain the same as money  or food can, and teaches that rewards don’t have to be physical (today it seems that the younger generations are only in something for what they can get out of it, they don’t care for the accomplishment. I personally find this rather annoying).

 

You can also use rewards and punishment to train yourself. I personally hate unloading the dishwasher. If I get a small reward after I do it, maybe just a small piece of chocolate, I will be more willing to do something I don’t like to do because I enjoy the reward. There is an alarm clock that will take $10 out of your account and give it to a fund that you hate every time you hit snooze. If you’re a Democrat, think of giving $10 to the Repulican National Party or the Coch brothers every time you hit snooze. Talk about a punishment.    Giving yourself little rewards of a small (you did catch the word small, right? Not 30 minutes) abreak on FaceBook, or a small piece of chocolate or a nice massage when you reach a goal then you get the “zing” and will want to meet the goal again.

Parents argue that they don’t want to give rewards for behaviors that a kid should be doing anyway.  There are two parts to the response to this.  First; they aren’t doing it in the first place and punishment is used to teach people to avoid something, and thus is not good when you want to teach them to do something.  Second; We as adults get rewarded for doing what is expected all the time in the form of a paycheck.  It is an expected reward, but a reward none-the-less.   Final rewards once a behavior is learned can be in the form of an allowance, thus “payment” for work completed.  When teaching something that isn’t being done already, if you want it to work you need to use rewards, plain and simple.

As working through the “training” of your partner, child, employee or dog remember: patience is key.  In the above example of teaching my dog to “beg” it took about three months to get the complete behavior.  It was incredibly important to “catch” the behavior I wanted and reward it, even when I wasn’t specifically asking for it.  If I missed him offering the behavior it confused him as to what I wanted and he would take longer to learn.  In the example of teaching a child to clean his room, if he at any time he picks up his plate after dinner, picks up his room, cleans more than you expect make sure to “catch” him and reward the behavior.  Believe me, he will notice if you don’t and begin to wonder why he should bother.  This is not an easy fix, or a quick process but if you stick with it you will find that results last longer and you will overall be happier with yourself and your child, dog, partner etc.

Welcome to the new My Broken Child!

For those of you that are faithful readers, I apologize for the quick transition.  If there is something you would like to find that you can’t, shoot me a quick email and I’ll make sure it is available.  There will be a few hic-ups as I transition and learn the new system so I thank you for your patience!