Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nothing Works for All Kids, Except the Stuff that Does

It's not going to suit everyone's taste, but does spoofs on motivational posters that are seen in offices and cube farms the world over. One of their posters I enjoy is one that quips "You're unique...just like everyone else in the world." I enjoy it just for the sarcasm, but I also appreciate a truth that it gets at.

Sometimes when parents are considering learning some strategies for making parenting easier, they are concerned that there really aren't any approaches that are effective, because "Nothing works for all kids." Well they're right. Every child is unique. And there is no strategy or technique that is going to play out precisely the same way with all kids. And some will play out very differently with different kids. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why I think counseling and parent coaching can be so helpful. "Off the rack" parenting approaches found in books though often helpful, can frequently frustrate parents as their kids respond very differently than the book predicts. And that's not to mention that you can find books that recommend just about anything you can imagine, so there's little consistency from book to book. I work with lots of parents who have often read a at least a half dozen parenting books, and are well informed yet confused because none of the advice seems to mesh together.

So, yes, kids are all unique. And no particular strategy or technique is going to be helpful with all kids. But in my experience, there are principles that have proven to be helpful from classrooms to home and with kids of widely varying temperaments. It is in the particulars of the application that the principles need to vary from child to child.

Examples of Principles You Count On:

When limit setting and consequences become the focus of the relationship, and opportunities for connection aren't there or are too few, things tend to go down hill. 

Control is a basic human need. When it is shared with children in appropriate ways, kids are much more apt to be cooperative. 

Attention to approximations of behaviors you're wanting from your child tends to bring about more of those wanted behaviors.

Attention on what is going poorly will lead to more poor behavior, and will also lead to the desired behaviors decreasing as well. 

Kids who are given both verbal and "action messages" that they are capable, responsible people tend to behave more capably and responsibly.

So you can feel good that there are some proven principles that are helpful with kids across the board. And it is true that kids do vary in the particulars. For some parents, especially those with kids who have easier temperaments, figuring out their kids and how principles  like these might apply is pretty straight forward. For those parents who have kids with more difficult temperaments, or who find it more challenging to figure out how the principles might best be applied with their kids, then coaching and/or counseling can be helpful.

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