Here it is, the much-anticipated second part of my discussion/review of the book "Transforming the Difficult Child" by Howard Glasser. I'm almost halfway through the book-on-tape now, and have gathered some more thoughts to share with you.
Lots of the things he says hit home for me, but here's one that really struck me hard: He asks the listener to think about a time when someone's complimented you, on your hair, or weight loss, or clothes, etc. For most of us, if self-esteem is any kind of issue for you, compliments are very hard to take, and they end up "hitting our radar" as he says. Meaning, those inner voices of doubt jump up and argue against the kind things that others say......."she said I look nice in this dress, but I know I really look fat in it", or "what do you mean my hair looks nice today? Does it normally look crappy?" etc.
He wants the things we say to our challenging kids to "fly under the radar", meaning that the statements are indisputable facts, not opinions that the child can argue or disagree with (even in his mind). I don't think I'm explaining this well, but I'll keep trying..........
He gives the example of an art teacher, who walks around the room making 2 or 3 sentence comments to each child, something like this: "I see you've taken crayons and used them to create a rainbow pattern. With some of the colors, you pressed down really hard, and with others you only traced lightly. Now, it looks like you're starting to make some pink and yellow flowers. See ya later!"
The premise behind this, according to Glasser, is that so many of these challenging kids are used to being singled out and having attention and energy focused on them when they are "bad"/misbehaving/acting up/breaking rules/causing trouble, whatever. Consequently, they end up believing that this is the only kind of attention they can get, or are worthy of. So, if you (in trying to remedy this and being positive, etc) go overboard with compliments "I LOVE your picture, it's beautiful, it's fabulous" etc, the radar will go off in their minds because they "know" they're not good artists, not worthy of praise, etc.
But, the things the teacher said above were just facts, not compliments. But she spent time, energy, attention on the child in a way he couldn't argue with or dispute. And if the theory proves true, over time with repeated interactions like this, the child begins to realize that he can receive attention and energy in a positive way and he will strive for it once he is "retrained" to do so.
I'm trying, slowly but surely, to integrate some of these things into what I do with the boys at home. It's tough, because it's completely opposite of the way I've always handled things, both at home and at school in my teaching. I'm trying very hard to catch those moments when Energizer is 1) actively doing something positive, helpful, cooperative, etc or 2) avoiding a negative behavior, resisting the urge to do something that he might otherwise do but I've told him not to (i.e. hitting etc).....and then to say the appropriate Glasser-ism when those moments arise. And saying it with high energy, lots of positive attention and specificity.....not just "Good job" but more like "Good job, E, I love how you were so flexible with Mr. L and shared your treat with him, that was very sweet and thoughtful" etc. Sounds and feels dorky when you first start it, but it's getting a little easier now.
To be continued again when he reaches the part of the book which tells what to do and how to react when your child, despite your positive parenting interventions, still has wild, manic, even violent outbursts, can't or won't listen, etc. This oughta be good...........