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Parenting Series: Love Motivating Your Child (& Every One) Toward Good Behavior

Here is a simple seven step system for motivating your young ones (and sometimes for motivating the ‘child self’ in an adult) toward the actions desired and seen as good.

It is a love empowered system which tends to help love relationships grow as guidance is given, boundaries are set and discipline rendered.  It is a system that has been found to work with a vast array of very different types of youth and others, and could be the system most likely to work for you because it works for so many others.

It is best used for fairly major things you really want a child of yours to do but it can be used for even small improvements in a child’s behavior.  For many it is thought to work better than lots of other systems because it is seen as relying on the input and intermix of strong, healthy real love and on behaviors known to express love well.  In brief outline form the system works like this.

When you want a child’s behavior to improve or change do the following seven steps:
1.  Spend 30 seconds meditating on being love-centered and love-focused before bringing up what you want of your child.  If what your want has been initiated by something your child did that was disappointing, anger producing or in any way negative spend one full minute meditating on being love-centered.

2. Organize your thoughts in a behaviorally exact way concerning these three things: first what you want, second what reward you will give your child for doing what you want, and third the penalty if what you want is not done by your child.  Start by thinking about what you are really wanting from your child, and then exactly what specific observable behaviors your child will have to do which represent doing what you want.  When thinking about this do not rely on vague abstract terms like “be more respectful, thoughtful, polite, honest”, etc..  You will need to get exact behavioral examples ready to say to your child.  An example would be saying things like, “I want you, dear Amy, to say the words “thank you” in a soft tone of voice and with a smile the next time your grandmother hands you a cookie.  Will you practice doing that for me right now”.

Hearing the words “thank you” in a soft tone and seeing a smile are examples of observable behaviors.  Without this kind of exactness your child is likely not to get a clear enough picture concerning what is wanted.  When it isn’t clear you’re not likely to get it because they don’t get it.  It’s best not to tell a child what you want them to — stop doing, not do, never do again, etc. without telling them exactly what to do in place of the undesired behavior.  Without a replacement behavior old behavior is much more likely to repeat.  An example would be don’t say “stop making all that noise”.  Do say “I want you to be absolutely silent for the next 42 minutes” (odd numbers work better).  Then you must get behaviorally exact about the reward you will offer for doing the desired behavior.  Will it be hugs, kisses , smiles, praises, compliments, thank you’s, candy, toys, privileges, opportunity or what?

After that think about exactly what penalty you are going to render for not doing the desired behavior.  Will it be withdrawal of a privilege, denial of an opportunity, confiscation of a desired toy, having to deal with your displeasure, sitting in a time-out chair or what?  Unless you are able to get behaviorally exact about these three things you are not likely to consistently get improved behavior.  It is important then when you are talking to your child about these things that you are firm and loving in your demeanor.  You may want to mix in some praising or complimenting statements and a thank you for past good behavior.  When talking about the penalty you can be more matter-of-fact and when you’re talking about the reward more upbeat or joyous.

3.  Take 20 or more seconds to think out your love tactics.  This means give thought to how you want the tones of your voice to convey your message with love.  Consider how you want your face to express love and perhaps show sincerity while you talk to your child about the desired behavior.  Voice and facial expression can be more important than the actual words you use.  If they are loveless you may be self sabotaging.  Check to make sure you’re conveying love in some manner or another perhaps with loving touch involved.  Check out timing factors, possible distractions and the effect of others being present, along with detractors like tiredness, hunger, etc..  You also may  want to remind yourself how you don’t want to come across to your loved child.  It’s usually best to avoid things that would be seen as anti-loving or non-love oriented like anger, judgmentalism, guilt trips and demeaning statements.  Remember all things can be said with love (see ‘Say It With Love’ blog entry).

Finally decide whether what you want will be delivered as an order or a request.  Things work better when it is clear that parental ‘requests’ to a child can receive a refusal or a “no” reply from the child without penalty.  Orders require penalty when disobeyed.  Disobeyed orders are usually best handled with penalties which are rendered without much emotion.  Penalties delivered with lot of anger and upsetness frequently don’t teach anything except fear of the parent.  Be sure you and your child don’t confuse requests and orders.  And be sure your expressions of love will be especially strong at the beginning and end of what you are going to say to your child.  Therefore, your tactics using this system are to convey love and avoid anti-love, nonverbal or expressional messages.

4.  Start with the reward.  Let your first words to your loved child be about their reward for doing the desired behavior.  Examples: “How would you like to see me be really happy with you in the next 30 minutes”, or “Want to earn the chance to stay up later tonight?”, or “You’re about to do something that will get me to brag about you to your grandmother tonight, aren’t you?”, or “OK, here comes a chance to get a goody you’ve been wanting”.  Clear, exact rewards mixed with well shown, happy love motivate most youth better than anything.  Of course tangible rewards (toys, candy, presents, etc.) have to be something the youth wants and values, so be mindful of that ever-changing variable.

5.  Specify the desired behavior exactly and the ‘time goal’ for its completion.  Example: “Before you go to bed tonight I want to hear you praise your little brother three times”, or “Junior, I strongly desire that you get your room picked up, all your toys and clothes put back in their place, to my satisfaction by a 5:03 p.m. when I’m probably going to inspect it”.  When specifying your desired behavior it is helpful to avoid words that have probably become anti-loving, words like “need”, “should”, “must”, “have to”, “can’t”, “never”, “don’t ever”, etc. .  Clearly and lovingly restate the desired behavior at least once and then clearly, briefly and matter-of-factly, or possibly a little sadly announce the penalty if there is to be one.  Remember true requests have no penalty but orders or mandates do.

6.  Re-emphasize the reward the child will earn for doing the desired behavior.  Be sure to be lovingly positive while doing that.  Smile and be upbeat about it showing that you positively anticipate the desired behavior will be done, the earned reward will be delivered, and that you expect to share happiness with the child about that accomplishment.

7.  Notice the results you get, and consistently reward or penalize as previously indicated.  If you must penalize render the penalty either with emotional neutrality or some loving sadness, but almost never retract the penalty.  If the reward is deserved give it happily and with upbeat love.  Along with lovingly giving the indicated reward it is often good to brag and praise your child possibly in front of others.  Generally penalize only in private.  At the end of rendering a penalty it is often good to lovingly express that you too are glad the penalty is over or finished with, and you are betting that the child will do better next time.

Most parents have to practice this system for about a month before it gets easy and feels natural.  Positive results, nevertheless, often quickly occur, but not always.  Coordinated and planned parent team work to jointly remember and carry out this system often is a very positive way to achieve success.  Of course, there are a great many perfecting elaborations of this system which you can work to discover and create.  Parent guidance counseling often is very helpful here too.

Expect using this system to be kind of clumsy at first.  Furthermore, know that you may be in need of some ‘unlearning’ of whatever less successful approach you have been using.  That may take some additional consideration and work.  Also know that no approach or parenting system works for everyone or with all children.  However, this one when used well seems to result in many improvements for lots and lots of parents and children too.  Remember, the trick is to be loving throughout all seven steps.

It is to be noted that the same seven step system can be adapted for use with adults.  Furthermore, some people use this approach for self motivation.  It seems our own inner ‘child self’ can respond quite well to the same seven part approach via the use of ‘inner self talk’ between the ‘adult self’ and the ‘inner child self’.  It appears that our inner child self tends to naturally cooperate and harmonize with love demonstrations even when they come from another part of our self.  At least that seems to work well for quite a few people, if not everyone.

With children and adults it’s important to know no deceptions need be used.  This seven part system works just as well, or better, when everyone involved knows the system is being used.  There need not be any secrecy or hidden agenda aspects in the application of love motivating someone.

In the process described adults as well as children often grow to feel closer and more love connected, while many other motivational approaches (especially those based in fear, or authoritarian power, or just sheer reason) can have the opposite effect.

Review: 1. Center in love.  2. Get behaviorally exact about what’s wanted, the reward and the penalty.  3. Review your love tactics.  4. Start with reward talk.  5. Specify the desired behavior in an upbeat manner coupled with the time goal, and then briefly and blandly or sadly state the penalty.  6. Re-emphasize the reward.  7. Deliver the reward or penalty.

May you and your child, or children grow with love!

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
When you want something of or from a child, or from anyone you care about are you going about getting what you want in a more loving (i.e. love empowered) way than you used to.

Parenting Series

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