In my weekly “Ask Manny” post, I answer questions from actual parents seeking advice on challenging issues and topics. Last time, I talked about yelling. If you have parenting paradox of your own that you would like Manny to weigh in on, write to me here. This week, an anonymous reader asks about for help with her stepson’s problem behavior:
My stepson and husband love video games. For hubby it is one of many hobbies, but for his son it is an obsession, staying up all night playing and sneaking out of bed to play on the TV or computers. It has gotten to the point that he stole a credit card and charged $200 for games on his DS. He also eats everything, like 1lb bags of pretzels, cans of peanut butter, cokes and takes things that we ask him not to. He is 10 and does what we ask him to (cleaning, etc) and is generally a good kid. He did not seem fazed by the punishment (grounded) or by what he did. His father says rules won’t matter, I think he needs boundaries. Where do I start?
Since you asked where to start, I’m going to cut right to the chase: the first step is that you and your husband need to get on the same page about how to manage Junior’s behavior.
You are absolutely right that he needs rules and boundaries, and you can tell hubby I said so. Not only do kids need boundaries, they like them. They crave order and structure. Out loud, they’ll deny it up and down, but inside, that’s what their developing minds and bodies truly need.
Today I’m going to flip the script on you. Instead of “Ask Manny,” today I’m going to ask my readers a question that I need advice on and we’ll see if we can crowd source our way to solution. First, a little back story.
Two days ago, I arrived at Yoshi’s summer camp at a local elementary school to pick him up for the day. He had to leave early, so all his peers were still in a story circle, and they saluted him with a group “Goodbye!” as he left.
On his way out the door, Yoshi turned to respond. He singled out on child in the group by pointing and said, “I’m not gonna say goodbye to you!” Then he waved to the whole class, and out we went.
Behavior 101 is an ongoing series about the principles underlying human behavior, and how to apply those to changing problem behavior in children, teaching children skills and maintaining positive behaviors. This installment: functions of behavior.
Have you ever watched someone — child or adult — do something very strange and then wonder to yourself, “why on Earth did he do that?”
(That sound is every parent of every 2-year-old ever, all nodding in unison.)
In the realm of behavior, the term for the answer to that question of “why” is the function of the behavior. Function is the motivation for our actions, the reason we do the things we do and act the way we act.
Because we think of human behavior as being so complex, this idea of function seems at first like it would be terribly complicated. When you get down to it, though, people really only do anything for one of two reasons: