Archive for July, 2011
Co-parenting is a term that is heard alot lately since divorce has unfortunately become so prevalent in our society. Parents often struggle with making joint custody of their child or children work and co-parenting is imperative for the best interest of a child. Parenting in a cooperative manner provides stability for children, which means that both parents have to put aside their own anger and hostility and put their children first.
However, this is often very difficult for parents to do as a result of parent’s dealing with their own anger issues that likely caused their divorce in the first place. Remaining amicable with each other is absolutely imperative!! When parents place their children in the middle of their fighting, it forces the child to feel as if they have to “pick sides” or have to be careful what they say to either parent and they end up playing the mediator role. Often heard from children that are in therapy is, “my parents bad mouth each other and I just want to be left out of it, I don’t want to hear it.” For children, it becomes a virtual tug-of-war and they feel like the rope!
Of course co-parenting is not an easy task and one or both parents make the task that much more difficult by acting in an immature fashion throughout the process and by exhibiting petty; childish behaviors. While the marriage is over, the fact of the matter is that your job as parents is not and your children have to come first. Children that have parents that work together and are amicable towards each other realize that their parents are putting aside their own differences for their best interests. Believe me, children really appreciate this! If a child is confident that both parents love them and are cooperating with each other, then children feel safe and secure. Children that feel secure are happy children that are not riddled with anger and anxieties.
The goals of co-parenting are for both parties to have consistent rules, discipline, and to problem solve issues together for the best interest of the child. Parents are modeling for their children that people that disagree with each other are able to work together in a healthy way. Children do not need to receive conflicting messages from parents as it results in children learning to manipulate their parents and it also causes children to have difficulty adjusting to their parent’s divorce.
Every child has one or more behaviors that parents/teachers would like to change. Whether a child is displaying mild behavioral problems or very serious ones, each child could benefit from a simple behavioral plan to change the unwanted behavior. Behavioral contracts, which is a signed contract between a child and their parents or teachers, helps mold or change the behavior/s of kids that are disrupting either the classroom or the home environment. Typically, the unwanted behaviors comprise one of the following areas: not listening or having to repeat yourself to your child a thousand times a day (ie..will you pick up your room, will you brush your teeth, will you please do what you are told), physical aggression (hitting, throwing things, punching, kicking, or pushing other kids including their siblings), and anger or attitude problems (ie… sighing heavily, rolling of the eyes when you are talking to them, refusal to do what they are told, or talking back). Now there are a vast number of either behavioral problems that are specific to each child, however most unwanted behaviors fall in one of these three categories.
So, how do we change a child’s behavior through a behavioral contract?
A behavioral contract sends the message to the child that whatever particular behavior is written on the behavioral contract is an unwanted behavior that the parents or teachers want changed as soon as possible. First, we need to write up an agreement between you the parent and your child. Pick a particular behavior that you want changed and then write up the consequences for not obeying the rules. For example, lets say that you want your child to quit hitting or pushing his eight-year-old brother every time your head is turned. The behavior is you want physical aggression to stop in your home and if your child can go a week for example without hitting/pushing his older brother than he gets a reward that you determine (ie.. taking him/her to McDonald’s, going to the park, etc…). However, the consequences for not following the behavioral contract is also determined by you and for example you may decide to not let your child watch television or ride his bike for 3 days.
Each behavioral contract is customized to your child and whatever behavior you would like to change. The key to a good behavioral contract is to only pick 1-2 behaviors to change at a time and be consistent in rewarding them for good behavior and consistent for handing out consequences when their behavior is bad. Do not give up on your child, be patient with them. Most likely your child will mess up and make bad choices, but keep with your behavioral plan until you start to see more positive behaviors.