Episode 108 Transcript

TRANSCRIPT: Your Parenting Long Game Episode 108 – How You Can Influence More Positive Behavior In Your Child


Hello. It is Rachel. And welcome to episode 108 of Your Parenting Long Game, where I’m going to talk about the role you have in improving your child’s behavior. I’ve talked about this before, about how we can’t make someone else do something. You can’t make your child stop being disrespectful and you can’t make your child stop bossing around their little sister. But even though you can’t make someone do something you can increase or decrease your positive influence. And I’m gonna tell you how to do that today.


I wanna remind you though, if you do like the tips and action steps that I give in these episodes, please subscribe and rate this podcast. You actually have influence here too. Your ratings and your subscriptions are what allow me to reach other parents with these tips, which I hope are valuable for everyone. So I’m gonna start to talk about your influence by explaining a basic principle about behavior.


We humans listen to and we behave better for people we feel have our back and people who seem on the same team as we are. We are less likely to listen to, and we won’t behave as well for people we feel don’t have our back — people who don’t seem to be on the same team as us. And there’s actually an evolutionary reason for this. Long ago, we, humans were part of tribes and we listened more and we were more loyal to people in our own tribe — People who clearly had our back and were willing to protect us. All of this, got baked into our DNA. So now when we, as a human feel, someone is aligned with us, we are going to be more loyal. When we feel that someone is not aligned with us, they have less of a positive influence over us.


I mean, think about this too from your perspective: imagine someone who’s had a true, positive influence in your life. Actually think about this person. Did you believe, or do you still believe, that that person has your back? Do you believe they are on your team, that they’re on your side? Chances are pretty good that you do. So if we want to influence our children, if we want them to listen to us more, they have to believe we’re on the same team.


Now I wanna point out now that being on the same team and having someone’s back does not mean that we are nice to them all the time or that we are permissive parents. In fact, being a permissive parent, I would say is not really “nice” to a child. And if you think about that person who influences or influence you, they probably aren’t nice to you all the time. In fact, they probably had, or have pretty high expectations of you and maybe even some tough rules to follow, but even as they let you know what they expect, they do it in a way that supports you rather than way that is critical or judgemental. And that’s going to be very relevant with your kids.


Again, think about it this way: Let’s say you have 20 interactions with a friend in one week, and let’s say 15 of those interactions with your friend are negative. They’re complaining about something you’ve done. They’re telling you what they’d like you to change. They’re asking you to do things you don’t want to do. If 15 of the 20 interactions you have with your friend are negative, you probably don’t wanna listen to them or do anything for them. But let’s say that 15 of those interactions are positive. They’re connecting with you. They’re asking you about how you’re doing. And they’re talking to you about things that you both care about when you’ve connected and things are a little bit more positive. How likely are you to want to do something for them? How likely are you to wanna listen to them?


Now let’s say you talk to your child 100 times a day. If 75 out of those times are negative — maybe they’re about something they have to do (“Clean up!” “Do your homework!” “Make your bed!”) or maybe they’re about something you want them to stop doing (“Stop being so loud!” “Stop talking to your brother like that!” “Stop getting up out of your seat!”) or maybe it’s something you don’t like that they’re doing (“you didn’t brush your teeth very well, did you?” “I asked you to put your dish in the dishwasher!”) If 75 of 100 are in that negative zone and only 25 times are either neutral or positive, they’re going to see you as someone who is not on their side and they’re going to be negative when you ask them to do something. And of course this creates a vicious cycle that you likely find yourself in. Because if you are negative, a lot of the time, they’re going to be more resistant, which is going make you more negative, which is gonna make them more resistant. And a lot of people are in what I call this cycle of yuck.


Here’s the thing that you need to know though: Human brains, including your child’s brain, we actually keep track of how people treat us and how people make us fee — whether they’re on our side or against us. So our brains actually track whether people are making what I call deposits or withdrawals. And when your child’s brain senses that you have made more deposits than withdrawals, you will be put in that category of, “this person is someone who has my back” and your child is more likely to listen to you. They’re gonna wanna do what you ask. But If their brain senses that you have made more withdrawals than deposits, it’s going to put you into the category of “that person doesn’t have my back” and the opposite will happen. They’re less likely to listen to you at that point.


The good news is, is that you can have expectations of your child and still motivate them to listen if you show them that you are on the same team. (And again, this is not just about being nice to them all the time. )So I’m gonna give you specific ways to do this. And I’m gonna use an example of a mom named Carmen and her daughter Rena.


Carmen told me that her daughter Rena listened when almost anyone else asked her to do something. But if she asked her to do the same thing, Carmen would either ignore her or be disrespectful. She said that she could ask in the calmest tone and Rena still didn’t listen. What we found when we dug a little deeper is that Rena actually knew how to do the things her mom Carmen was asking, but that Carmen and Rena were together a lot. And because mom Carmen was burnt out from being with Rena all the time, a lot of her interactions — in fact, most of her interactions — with Rena were negative. They were about something Rena had to do or were about something she wasn’t doing. She just didn’t have enough positive deposits. So Carmen realized that she was making way more withdrawals than deposits, but she didn’t know what to do.


So the first thing that I suggested that she do was to show that even when she had expectations of her daughter, which was absolutely appropriate, that she was still on her side. The way you do this is by setting a boundary. And then — care about how the boundary affects them. Once you’ve done that, HELP them meet the boundary rather than trying to MAKE them meet the boundary. So many of you, when I asked you to think about who was influential in your life, you may have thought of a teacher or a coach. Great influential teachers and coaches actually do this. They set expectations for their player or for their student, but they take the time to care about how their expectation affects the player or affects the student. And then they teach them how to meet that expectation.


So Carmen and I actually did the same thing. Carmen was able to set her expectations for her daughter,Rena, but then we talked about how she could ask Rena how those expectations affected her and she could help Rena be successful. So there’s a process that I taught her.. and I’ve done an episode on this strategy. It’s called the Joint Problem Solving strategy. And this strategy actually incorporates everything that I just mentioned. It incorporates setting a boundary for your child, but also caring about how they feel about it and how it affects them and teaching them how to be successful. So I will link to the episode where I talk about Joint Problem Solving, because it’s an important strategy to have If you want to set these boundaries and still have a positive influence with your child.


Another thing I talked to Rena about, and you can do as well, is to “make deposits” on a regular basis. Deposits are things that you do that improve your relationship with your child or things you do that improve how your child views themselves. Now this isn’t just about spend one-on-one time with them. And it’s definitely not about making them happy all the time. It’s not about buying them things or taking them places.


Herere are some of the deposits Carmen decided to make, and she told me that they have made all of the difference in how Rena listens to her. In Carmen’s situation her deposits revolved around something that interested Rena — the game of Minecraft. Honestly, mom Carmen didn’t care about Minecraft one bit. And every time she implied that to Rena, it made Rena feel more negatively toward her mom. That was actually a withdrawal. So Carmen decided to shift things around. And even though she didn’t care about Minecraft, she cared about her daughter Rena. So she used Minecraft to show her that. One example of a deposit that Carmen started to use was she would talk about things that Rena cared about. So she would ask her favorite things about Minecraft and what successes she had. She listened to a couple of things that Rena talked about and she would ask her about those a couple of days later. She would show her that even though she didn’t care about Minecraft, she cared about how Rena was doing because she cared about Rena. That is an example of a deposit.


And it does not take very long to do another similar deposit that Carmen started using. She started to talk to Rena as if she mattered, even when she didn’t agree with her. So even though she didn’t really like Minecraft, she actually said, “Hey, you know what, Rena, I have a friend whose daughter also likes Minecraft, and I know you lot about it. So can you teach me what I can tell my friend about it?” Whe was actually talking to Rena as if she mattered — as if she was an expert in something. She made her feel like her point of view mattered.


Another example of a deposit was that she tried to give Rena a little bit more of a sense of control in her life. Carmen have rules around when Rena was allowed to play Minecraft and when she wasn’t, but she actually involved Rena in when that time would be. She said to Rena, “Hey, we’re gonna make a set time, but do you want that to be before lunch or after lunch? Do you want that to be on the mornings of weekends or in the afternoons?” Carmen was giving Rena a sense of respect and control. These are all examples of deposits. And again, they don’t take much time or energy. They’re basically just showing your child that you see them, you care about them and you respect them. And you give them some input in their lives that is age appropriate.


Of when it comes to deposits, we can’t always do everything proactively. I’m going to tell you what to do in the moment, but it’s actually not that different. In the moment you still want to have boundaries and you still want be on their side. You still want to care how your boundary affects them and HELP them do better. So when Carmen asked Rena to do something like picking up a towel on the floor… And let’s say Rena didn’t do it the first time. Carmen didn’t say, “Rena, why didn’t you pick up your towel? I asked you to pick up your towel.”That would just shut Rena down. Instead, she’d lightheartedly say to Rena, “Hey, I know you know that the towel needs to get picked up. I bet you weren’t thinking about it when you dropped it.” You can hear that Carmen is on Rena’s side. She’s not attacking her. She’s assuming Rena had a pretty good intention. So then she’d say, “Hey, come on over and let’s pretend it’s like a basketball and you dump it into the laundry basket.” So she’s giving her a strategy to be successful in meeting the boundary. This is an example of setting a boundary, being respectful and helping them follow the boundary.


Of course doing all of that in the moment is tough, which is why I always suggest that long game parenting is about doing things more proactively. It’s about using that Joint Problem Solving Strategy so the towel doesn’t get dropped in the first place. And it’s about making proactive deposits so that children are more likely to do what they’re supposed to do in the first place. But ultimately this really becomes about being on their side.


Now I do wanna set your expectations though. A lot of people will say, “Rachel, I’ve tried to make deposits. And my children resist me.” One of the reasons that children do resist us is that before we can move forward and be a positive influence, we often have to undo some past yuck. I’m going to be honest that this is often the case when I’m working with parents of teens. Over the years, the withdrawals we make in our relationship tend to add up. They accumulate and the deposits that we make right now, don’t offset that huge pile of withdrawals. It takes a little while we have to peel back some of those layers of yuck before our deposits actually have a positive influence. So our kids may resist our deposits at first because they are still in a state of you are not on my team. I do have an episode on how to start small. If your child is resistant to your deposits and you really wanna start with what I call “microdeposits.” Because when you keep trying with those microdeposits, once they start to sense that you are on their side, that’s when things start to shift and that’s when your influence will increase.


Here’s a reminder of the action to take: Think about the interactions you have with your child. Are most of them negative or are most of them ways in which you improve your relationship or their belief in themselves? If you want to improve your relationship or their belief in themselves, you want think about how you can HELP them meet the boundary instead of FORCING them to meet the boundary that you’ve set. You wanna show that you have their back. You also wanna think about what you’re saying. Is most of your energy and are most of your words showing them that you’re on their side or against them? If it’s mostly against them, think of ways you can set a boundary and show that you’re working with them. Again, the Joint Problem Solving strategy is a really good place to start with this. If your child is super resistant to this, start with some microdeposits and remember that you will have to undo some yuck before you can move to the more positive zone.


But when you have expectations for your children and you show them that you wanna help them meet those expectations, rather than finding a way to make them meet those expectations, they’re more likely to listen to you. And when you take the time to talk about the things they care about and show them that they matter to you as much as i– if not more than — their behavior, you are more likely to become a positive influence…one whose messages they internalize, even when you are not there to remind them.

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