Are you tired of listening to whining, put-downs, excuse giving, back talk, exaggeration, interrupting, teasing, gossip, or other unproductive behaviors on the part of your children? Have you had your fill of watching them talk with their mouth full; use their hands instead of silverware to eat; hit or kick siblings; waste material; or leave their belongings scattered around the house?
If so, the One-Minute Behavior Modifier is for you. This quick and highly effective discipline strategy is a verbal skill designed to modify and eliminate negative behaviors in your children by helping them learn to replace those behaviors with more desirable ones.
Chauncy, age five, and Letrell, age four, sat on the picnic table sharing a Coke. Nearby, their grandfather tended to the bonfire he had burning in the fire pit.
Unintentionally, Chauncy took a few more turns with the Coke than did his younger cousin Letrell. And when the can was nearly empty, Chauncy chugged the remaining liquid.
When Letrell picked up the can to take his next turn and realized the soda was gone, he quickly launched into a behavior he had used many times before, one that had been extremely effective for him in the past. He assumed the victim stance and began to whine.
“Chauncy drank up all the Coke,” he complained to his grandfather in a whiney tone. “He had more turns than I did. It’s not fair.”
The boys’ grandfather never hesitated. “Letrell,” he replied, “that is whining. Whining doesn’t work with me. It doesn’t work with me because I have trouble hearing and understanding what you want when you whine. What works with me is to talk in a normal voice, using a normal tone and normal volume. If you do that, sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don’t, but it’s your only hope.”
Having never been talked to that way before, Letrell’s eyes got big and he stared briefly at his grandfather before he changed his tone and stated in a normal voice, “Chauncy got more turns than I did and I didn’t get very much.”
Letrell’s grandfather replied, “Thank you for choosing a normal voice. That makes what you want clear to me. Sounds like you’re still thirsty.”
“I am,” said his young grandson.“Then let’s look at some options for how to solve that problem,” his grandfather suggested.
After brainstorming several possibilities, Letrell decided to go to the house and get another Coke.
This grandfather used verbal skills that were effective and time efficient. His grandson stopped whining. Both boys learned that whining doesn’t work with their grandfather and that sometimes you can solve your own problem. This successful conclusion was orchestrated by an adult who was aware of the One-Minute Behavior Modifier, as well as how to apply it with the important children in his life.
Brandon Everman was having a problem with his teen driver. Emily, his daughter, was taking the car on weekend nights and returning it with an empty gas tank. Several conversations about the matter did little to affect the outcome. Despite the conversations and pleading, Emily regularly returned the car with less gas than it had when she took it.
Brandon decided to employ the Dynamic Discipline Equation.
“Can I take the car tonight, Dad?” Emily asked during Friday morning breakfast.
“Yep. Sure can,” her father told her. “You have the opportunity to use the car tonight and any weekend night that I’m not using it. You also have the responsibility to return it with half a tank of gas or more. As far as this car goes, opportunity equals responsibility.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that if you choose to return the car with half a tank of gas or more, you have decided to use it again Saturday night. If you choose to return the car with less than half a tank of gas, you have decided not to use it tomorrow night. There is a responsibility that goes with the opportunity to use my car. If you handle the responsibility well, the opportunities will keep on coming. If not, the opportunities will dwindle. How often and how much the opportunities dwindle depends on you and the choices you make concerning the gas responsibility.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“So you can be in charge of how often you take my car and so there is gas in it when I need it in the morning.”
“Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“How about saying it back to me so we can both be sure that our understanding of the situation is the same.”Emily then gave a perfect paraphrase of the “opportunity equals responsibility” speech her father had made moments before.
The next morning Brandon jumped in the car to go get a newspaper and a doughnut and noticed the gas gauge was below half. It wasn’t a lot below half, but the arrow clearly indicated that the tank was less than half full.
When Emily entered the family room later that morning, her father stated calmly, “I see you chose not to have the car tonight.”
“What do you mean, I chose not to have the car tonight?” Emily shot back.
“You know our deal about gas. If you choose to return the car with half a tank of gas or more, you’ve decided to use it again Saturday night. If you choose to return the car with less than half a tank of gas, you’ve decided not to use it. I noticed the gas gauge was below half.” Brandon suspected a flurry of defensiveness and begging would follow, but he was determined to follow the guidelines of the Dynamic Discipline Equation and give no second chance. He resolved to remain firm and calm.
“Dad, I didn’t notice that I needed gas until it was real late. You’re always telling me to be home on time. I didn’t have time to do both. You have to make up your mind. Do you want me home on time or do you want gas in the car?”
“I want both.”
“Dad, please? I promised my friends I would drive tonight. I’ll go fill it up right now.”
“What if I wash the car, too? It’s really important to me.”
“Dad, you’re not being fair. There isn’t another parent in the whole neighborhood who would do this to their kid.”
“You’re probably right.”
“Can I take it then?”
Emily then turned and stomped up the stairs and closed her door loudly as she entered her room.
Brandon did not follow. Instead of letting himself get hooked into turning the situation into an extended argument about slamming doors, he returned to the garage to finish a project he had begun the night before.
Brandon Everman demonstrated a classic rendition of the Dynamic Discipline Equation. He spelled out the equation and its implications before he limited car driving privileges. He did not cave in when his daughter whined, told him he was unfair, made excuses, or pouted. He gave no second chance and, much to her chagrin, she did not get the car that night.
In addition, Brandon did not make his daughter wrong. He did not make her bad. He did not make her cheap, forgetful, lazy, or irresponsible. He simply made her someone who didn’t get the car that night. And he did it with love in his heart.
The following weekend Brandon Everman gave Emily a second opportunity. He created an identical proposition. He told her, “You can take the car tonight. Remember, opportunity equals responsibility. You have the opportunity to use the car this evening. Your responsibility is to put gas in it. If you choose to put gas in the car you’re choosing to have it tomorrow night. If you choose not to, you’re choosing not to have it tomorrow night.” Then he stood back, let her choose, and once again gave her whatever consequence she asked for.
If Emily puts gas in the car, it’s perfect. Brandon doesn’t have to do it and he can feel good that his daughter is learning about following through on responsibilities. If she doesn’t put gas in the car, it’s perfect. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to demonstrate for his daughter that her choices have outcomes that affect her life. Brandon is prepared to repeat this same process as many times as is necessary. Once again, he will give no second chance, and he is prepared and willing to extend many opportunities.
This article is excerpted from The Only Three Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need: Essential Tools for Busy Parents by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. (Personal Power Press $14.95 http://www.personalpowerpress.com/)
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
CHICK MOORMAN and THOMAS HALLER are the authors of The Abracadabra Effect: The 13 Verbally Transmitted Diseases and How to Cure Them. They are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish free parent and educator newsletters. To subscribe to the newsletters or obtain information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com.