Spoil the Rod; Will it Spoil the Child? (pt.2)

by Dr. Richard Primason

If you are a parent, you may find your mental health and happiness sometimes compromised during conflicts with your children. In the entry below, Dr. Primason shares a wonderful way to work through challenging situations with your children that will strengthen your relationship and result in positive mental health and happiness for both of you.

In a previous entry I talked about the hazards of punishment, and the seductive appeal of it as a “go-to”child management technique. In short, punishment really works if all you want is a compliant child, and if you’re willing to overlook some nasty side effects.

Fortunately, Choice Theory gives us an elegant alternative to the punish/reward parenting style. I think of it as the choice position, and it’s exemplified by Dr. Glasser’s profound observation about parent-child interactions:

… we can do things to our child, for our child, or with our child

–      and the first two have very little value (Choice Theory, 1998).

This third position, doing something with your child, is what I like to call the choice position.   spoilthechild

I look for the choice position in all my relationships, whenever a murky feeling tells me that a conflict is brewing. I try hard to shift my thinking away from…

I know whats best, this is how its going to be,

and instead think,

This really isn’t working well, lets come up with something better — something thats good enough for both of us.

A lot of folks find it really tough to assume the choice position, because they believe it’s their duty to point out the “right and wrong”of things to their kids. But you’ll find it’s so much more effective to respect that your child’s “bad behavior”was his best attempt at the time. From there, a connected conversation is possible; you can talk with your child about the choice she made and her options for the future.

Here’s one specific technique that operates from the choice position. I call it planning together; it’s basically an invitation to create a new plan for the future.

Neither of us are happy with this report card. Are you satisfied with how youve been studying? Im sure not. Lets come up with a better plan for this quarter.

Sneaking money from my wallet is a poor way to pay for things Ill  bet we can find a better way for you to earn some money around here.

This approach is very different from the control position,

        “Youve really messed up, now youll do things my way!

It also carries a wonderfully optimistic message, that you’re confident that the two of you can work this thing out.

Replacing punishment with planning together from a choice position is good for your relationship and it strengthens your child’s problem solving skills.

When I face a child behavior challenge, or any relationship challenge for that matter, I try hard to assume a choice position.  Planning together is a great way to do it. It resolves the present problem, it encourages my child to engage creatively, and it’s always good for my mental health and happiness.

1 thought on “Spoil the Rod; Will it Spoil the Child? (pt.2)

  1. I think this quote and subsequent adage got off to a poor start with its original interpretation. Many of the parables and analogies of the bible were taken from the lives and vocations of that time. The rod referred to here is not the tree switch our grandparents were exposed to but the shepherds rod as in “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” The use of the little black sheep that strays from the fold brings so much more meaning into the neglect of using the rod as a gentle prod to guide the straying sheep back on to the path or into the flock. How much less violence would we be seeing as our children grow if we were more involved with an inside out approach such as this adage was meant to convey? It might also be wise to redistribute the emphasis or accent on another verse often misinterpreted; Train up a child in the way HE should go, giving emphasis to his gifts and assets rather than melding him after our own image.

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