News & Views - Aug,
1997 Issue #47
BACK IN CONTROL
How To Get Your Children to Behave
by: Gregory Bodenhamer
(Simon & Schuster, 1983)
Darrel McOmber, Academic Dean
Gregory Bodenhamer’s Back In Control, How To Get Your Children To Behave
has been helping parents regain control of their children’s misbehavior for almost fifteen years. More than two hundred thousand copies
have been sold, and not just a few have been handed out to parents by wilderness programs. The foundation themes that Bodenhamer introduced
are all centered on what he describes as the differences between “mandatory” and “optional” rules. Mandatory rules must be obeyed.
Optional rules always give children a choice to behave as adults would like, or not behave. Like most parents and public schools,
most residential schools rely on optional rules to get children to behave.
Punishments & Rewards: Rules enforced by rewards and punishments don’t
have to be obeyed. If children are willing to accept punishment or forego rewards, they have the option to do as they please. So do
immature and impulsive children who don’t think about the consequences before they act.
Problem Solving (Bargaining, Negotiating, Compromising): If children learn
that they can frequently bargain, negotiate, or get adults to compromise behavioral standards, no rules exist. Everything is wind
Freedom to Fail: In this approach to changing children’s behavior no rules
are ever set and any child willing to accept adults standards of “failure” can do as he or she pleases. Many children are willing
to accept an “F” on a report card rather than do the work necessary to get a passing grade.
Reasoning: If adults use “reasoning” to change children’s behavior, and the
children disagree with their logic, no rules are set and the kids can do as they please.
Getting Tough: If children are told to follow the rules, or get out of the
house, they obviously have the option to do as they please if they are willing to leave.
Children are not genetically programmed to clean up after themselves, avoid
drugs, study algebra or control their sexual feelings. Like adults, children prefer doing what they want, when they want, and unless
there are structures with consistently enforced rules, they will act on impulse and emotion and do as they please. To emphasize his
point, Bodenhamer asks parents the following questions: If you don’t clearly state your rules, whose interpretation of those rules
are your children likely to use, yours or theirs? and, If you don’t effectively follow through and enforce your own rules, are your
children likely to follow through and enforce them on themselves? and, Are your children likely to be consistent in obeying rules
that you aren’t consistent in enforcing?
Bodenhamer makes it clear that whenever adults do not, or will not, consistently
set and enforce rules, children will see the rules as optional and progressively take control. Many of these kids eventually wind
up in residential treatment centers or wilderness programs. Unfortunately, most of them return to the same conditions that created
their problems in the first place. Parents and other adults in these situations desperately need a supplemental source of power and
control for their children. This book sets out the means and methods to do that.
(Gregory Bodenhamer is a key staff of Sage Schools, emphasizing working
with the parents of enrolled students. Much of the philosophy of Sage Schools is based on Bodenhamer’s work with families. A copy
of this book is available from Woodbury Reports - see the order form.)
Copyright © 1997, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced
without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)