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Easy Behavior Modification (yeah, right!)

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2009

Easy Behavioral Modification (yeah, right!)
Usually, I delete those unsolicited emails offering tips on anti-aging superfoods (acai berries! no, tofu!, actually, now it's quinoa!), positive thinking ("send this to 5 supportive friends, and something amazing will happen in the next 9 minutes!"), and income ("Yes, you can turn your journalling into a 6 figure book contract!"). But one popped up the other day which I couldn't resist, promising 'Brand New Ways to Banish Bad Behavior for Good!' (Come on, the only person who could resist that title is the supermom down the block, you know, the one whose perfectly-dressed kids ASK for extra chores and love broccoli, the ones who've never heard of Burger King?)
So I read the article, which said that our culture gives kids too much of a sense of entitlement, and the only way to improve their behavior is to teach them gratitude, expressing thanks and by noticing small blessings. (This is brand new?) I can just see some harried mom, pulled over for speeding with 2 screaming kids in the car, doing her deep breathing and saying, "Justin, Ashleigh, let's say thank you to the nice officer for doing his part for our community." Or a frazzled mom breaking up a fight with "Boys, tell each other how grateful you are that this time neither of you actually drew blood."
I mean, come on. Kids act up, no matter what we do, and you can read 5,000 articles with tips on influencing their behavior, and have the exact same results. I've tried the gratitude thing - we say grace before meals by having each family member say two things he or she is grateful for. Usually I get a sullen, "I'm grateful for, food and family, um, do I HAVE to eat the tuna casserole?" Or the boys use the ritual as an excuse for pushing an agenda: "I'm grateful mom MIGHT let me stay up and watch Family Guy, and I'm grateful that Ben isn't been as annoying as he usually is."
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for trying to limit this entitlement thing, where kids feel the world revolves around them. I give them regular chores, I'm sticking with being (in their opinion) the meanest mom in the world because we only have one television set in the house, and I not only make them do their own homework, I have never yet referred to a school project in the first person plural. (You know, "WE got a bad grade on the science experiment . . . ") But beyond that, I guess I sort of feel like bad behavior is part of childhood, and part of what we get to make them feel guilty for when they're grown.
Besides, if there really were brand new, fail-safe strategies for making kids behave perfectly, there wouldn't be such a proliferation of articles and web tips and emails advising us - the articles don't really help, but they do provide outside work for a whole bunch of moms who are probably thrilled to have something to do besides trying to make their own kids behave!
As far as I'm considered, my strategy for dealing with my kids' unpleasant behavior is 1) trust my gut instincts, 2) remember that the bad moments will eventually pass, 3) take the advice of the Wicked Witch of The West, when she used her broom to sky-write "Surrender, Dorothy,", and 4) remind myself that the authors of those behavioral guides are probably the same moms I see with kids who behave even worse than mine!

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