043 – Chapter 5 – Part 4


Step 1: Challenges in Specifying Expectation (continued)

My 11-year-old son, Jorge, moves as slowly as he can whenever we tell him to hurry up. We tell him over and over that he causes us to be late and also how much better his life would be if he’d move faster so that he has time to do other things he likes, but we aren’t getting anywhere. Ideas?

You have described an almost classic example of a child controlling his parents by dawdling. Jorge gets lots of attention and may get a sense of control by causing you to repeat “over and over” how he inconveniences you. While your reaction surely is understandable, it almost certainly is self-defeating because it reinforces the very behaviors you dislike.

The remedy is in the basics of the home program. Define success behaviors to address your concerns, including deadlines for each part. Your description suggests that you will have to start by accepting a fairly low level of progress for each item. As an example, you might consider an item as simple as:

Jorge, you are successful when you have your school backpack ready for next day’s school by your 8:00 o’clock bedtime.

And then you can focus on some of the steps necessary for him to be ready to leave on time in the morning, such as:

Jorge, you are successful when you are up and dressed by 7:00 a.m.

Once you have your list completed, be sure to reinforce successes each time they occur and also be sure to withhold reaction to his stalling behaviors. Once your program helps your son complete even one part of his morning routine, you can build on that to a second part, and so on. I hope you will find that some progress, however small, is more encouraging than it is to stay in a pattern that is likely otherwise to go on and on or even get worse.

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Anyone who thinks the art of conversation is dead ought to tell a child to go to bed.

                                                                         ~Robert Gallagher

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While you are working to replace your current style of frequently telling Jorge to hurry, with a program of reward for meeting your deadlines, you are likely to have days when you must leave the house before he has gotten himself ready. For this interim period, anticipate when this problem is likely to occur and allow time to intervene briskly to finish getting him ready. On a day when it is clear he cannot succeed, go to him and without any comment (turning yourself on “robot”), complete the necessary tasks for him. For instance, if he is not fully dressed, put him into the remaining clothes, then hustle him on to the next step and finally out the door. He is likely to protest, perhaps even loudly, and you must be prepared to remain calm and focused on simply moving things along. The point here is to assure your son is ready when you need him to be while avoiding meeting any of his needs for attention or control.

Because of the potential problems that can occur if your son achieves too much control over adults, I suggest you reread the discussion of control issues in Chapter 3.

Ravi is getting the trash out on time now, but we are getting tired of always having to remind him that the deadline is almost there. How can we get him to do it on his own?

While it is understandable that you want to assist your son, if Ravi is able to read and tell time, he has the basic skills to fulfill his own responsibilities. However, by reminding him prior to the deadline for completing the task, you are not allowing him the opportunity to succeed – or fail – on his own.

I suggest that you change your tactics. Start by telling Ravi that you are no longer going to remind him and that he is responsible to get the trash out on his own and on time. Since he has had your reminders as a crutch in the past, he may not succeed the first time on his own. If that happens, go to him very soon after the deadline has passed and tell him that since he missed the deadline, he no longer has a choice about when to do it. Then instruct him to “take the trash out now.” If he protests, help him to his feet and guide him through the process, providing as much supervision as necessary to get the trash out. Be careful in the process to interact as little as possible so as to avoid giving unnecessary attention to Ravi. This approach will make it clear that it is a responsibility he must fulfill and therefore it is in his best interests to do it correctly and by the deadline so that he can earn his credits.


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