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Opinion & Essays - Jan, 2000 Issue #65 

Will My Child Succeed When He Returns Home?
By Thomas Carter, PhD.,
Shamrock Educational Academy
Newman Lake, Washington

The answer to this question lies in part with what the child brings home from the program. Whether the child reverts back to the old behavior depends both on the new values and morals they bring back to household, as well as on the changes the family makes in his or her absence. When the family makes appropriate changes, then the likelihood of the child maintaining good behavior is exceptionally high.

Parents frequently ask me about what consequences they should have in place, should their child have a behavioral problem. I advise them not to set any forth, prior to misbehavior. Why? Because the child may use that information to decide if the potential misbehavior is worth it, given the consequences. I recommend keeping the child guessing by not communicating what the consequences would be. If the choice is made to act inappropriately, then of course it is necessary to take consistent, disciplinary action. What most undermines any attempt to discipline is for the child to sense a threat, which is often interpreted as a meaningless, idle one. Don’t cave in! Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally blackmailed. Remember that if you are doing what is in your child’s best interest, then you are doing the right thing. Be strong!

Parents need to show a united front – if they are not a team, they soon are split farther and farther apart. The best way I have found to show a united front is to make decisions together. For example, when Dad is asked if the child can go out Saturday night, Dad replies “let me talk with your mother and WE will get back to you.” The child will then soon realize he is dealing with parents together, making it difficult to manipulate a particular parent.

So what do you do if you make a mistake? Though easy to resolve, many find it difficult to say what is most effective: “Son or Daughter, I was wrong and I apologize for my mistake,” followed by “See, even we can make mistakes.” This builds trust and respect for you as real people and parents in your child’s eyes.

It is important to remember that you are being a good parent when you are acting in your child’s best interest. Stay strong and in touch with realistic expectations for your child and his or her future; you are the teachers and advisors, as well as the parents. As your children grow and finally begin to understand what you’ve been trying to teach them, they will be amazed at how much smarter you have become!

Here are some rules that can unite parents to assure the child the best chance of doing well at home:

  1. Be consistent with your parenting. If you decide to make rules and guidelines, then use them.
  2. Don’t threaten; if you say it is going to happen, then make it happen. At the same time, don’t paint yourself into a corner, always leave your child a way out, a way to see light at the end of the tunnel, a way to succeed.
  3. Set good standards with strong consequences if the standards are not met. It is important to remember that if the consequence is not strong in your child’s eyes, then it is unlikely to effectively stop the undesired behavior. The child will carefully debate further misbehavior if he or she has experienced strong consequences the previous time.
  4. Don’t expect your child to understand the punishment. Most children say their punishment is too strict; in which case I suspect it must be working effectively to curb inappropriate behavior.
  5. In closing, focus on issues that will help your child have a productive life, centering on morals, honesty and good values. Your job is to be a teacher, advisor, and disciplinarian when needed. After all, this is what your child has experienced in their program, and this is how they have gotten back on track and ready to return home.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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