The habit theory

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Sep 12, 2011.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I have developed a theory :) Perhaps I can work this up into a self-help book: The Habit Theory, or how to turn your difficult child around by fostering good habits... I can see it on the shelves now :)
    Seriously, though, I realised that I am working to a principle with J that I haven't seen written about anywhere (bound to be - there's nothing new under the sun) even though it is rather obvious.
    As I have described, J is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde character (Mr Hyde is the baddie, of course). Depending on how I act with him, he is either sweet, co-operative and quite mature, or he is defiant, choleric, abusive and aggressive. So... since I seem to have the power to change the course of events, I am working to the notion that the more often he is peaceful and friendly in his reactions, the more he is creating this habit - and the more he creates the habit, the stronger it will be, and the weaker the tendency to act in unsocial, destructive ways.
    What do you think? :)
  2. confuzzled

    confuzzled Member

    proven theory: it takes 30 introductions of something to ingrain a habit.

    i'm trying here too....and i'm shocked how hard it is for *ME* to be consistent (life happens, you know)....i hope you are better at it than i am, lol!!

    but whatever it takes--the result will be well worth the effort.
  3. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I say, try it- you have nothing to lose. Although consistency is the best approach, there are many ways in which to approach consistency and if this way works for both of you, or all of you, then why not? You should document your approaches, situations, and J's responses, both good and bad...for that book of yours!
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Confuzzled, that doesn't work with-chocolate. All it takes is once. :)

    Malika, good idea. I would also use direct words of praise, such as, "You are so calm today. You're doing a good job." or "Thank you for opening the door for me. That is being a true gentleman."

    I have read about hormones and synapses in regard to bipolar, and how you can learn to boil over more quickly the more you lose your temper, but I don't know if that works for other things. I would assume so. Building brain connections can't be that much different from building muscle groups in your arms and legs. It's a good theory, in my humble opinion.

    I will warn you, that no matter how often you repeat something, just at the point when he seems to "get it," he'll turn and snap at you, "WHY am I supposed to do THAT? What's the POINT?" and then you'll wonder if he has Alzheimer's or something.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
  5. keista

    keista New Member

    Malika I believe it's true. I've always emphasized the positives and ignored or redirected the negatives. I especially pointed out positive behavior when it could easily have become negative. It was most difficult with DD1 because she had the most naturally occurring negative behavior.

    All 3 kids are "good kids". They have their hiccups now and then, but know what is expected and model the good behavior more often than the bad. The "bad" keeps popping up not because they want it to, but because it's part of their illness or disorder.
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    There are some things where there is no "down side".
    That is... even if it does not work as well as you want it to, there shouldn't be any negative results either.
    And even a partial positive result... is success.
  7. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I'm not so sure that this theory isn't a tad bit of the logic behind TEC. By reducing the number of frustrating situations, you keep the child "even keeled", and allow "even keel" to become the norm. And as that becomes the norm, you work towards maintaining that "even keel" as you introduce more things that previously frustrated the child, building on the behavior that, hopefully, has replaced the "habit" of exploding when frustrated. Maybe not...but that's been my take on it, and with Wee, its worked wonderfullly.
  8. keista

    keista New Member

    Shari, I'm sure it is. However there are thousands of books out there that just restate what previous books said (in every category - Westside Story, Romeo & Juliet anyone?) Malika can write her book and credit all of us for helping her brainstorm! :)
  9. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Ah, no book in the offing, I'm afraid :) Maybe when I've got 10 more years of experience at this, and really know what I'm talking about...
    I was interested (and heartened) to hear that you reach an even keel with your son, Shari. Does he mostly avoid explosions these days?
  10. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I think you're right for kids and parents. Having a predetermined schedule for bath time, laying out clothes, eating dinner together at the table, getting to the bus stop, turning off TV's etc. and especially getting in bed were hugely important in getting control of my household when I was a young Mom. For me I had to get in the habit of not raising my voice, speaking softly/slowly and with authority etc. We are all creatures of habit and when youngsters "know" what is going to happen at a certain time and under certain circumstances it definitely breeds acceptance...and sometimes peace. Heck, I even posted the week's menu on the refrigerator so everyone knew what to expect for dinner.

    Remembering to throw out an appropriate "thank you" when something was done unexpectedly or under duress also included the habits that helped our home. Yep, I agree with your theory. DDD
  11. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, well... there is theory. And then there is practice. Like I say, I am not writing any book yet. Unless it's one called Do As I Say and Not As I Do... Here's the thing. This afternoon was disastrous... Picked J up from the activity centre to go to tennis, which is in the same village as the centre. With hindsight, I should have picked him up earlier and reminded him, worked into the change because I think it was too abrupt for him (of course I had told him this morning that was what we were doing, but that was this morning...) He immediately started on about wanting a toy from the village shop - nothing too insistent, just gentle whining. That is where I broke my own theory. Instead of replying gently, patiently, humorously, whatever, I said in a really annoyed tone of voice "J I am not buying you toys whenever you want them". You see... after a few days, or a week or so, of J being really "good" as he has been, I start thinking he is like a easy child. He is not... He immediately reacted to my angry tone of voice and the crisis escalated. I eventually managed to get him to calm down enough to go in to the tennis lesson where, for the first 20 minutes, or so, he was fine. Did all the exercises with the other kids. Then he wanted to go to the loo. Fine. Then five minutes later he said he wanted to go to the loo again and when I said no, he didn't need to, he started crying and making a scene. The other kids came up asking what was wrong... He just started going ballistic about wanting this wretched toy and I found myself getting really angry, talking to him in a reallycold and impatient tone of voice. This demand for things really pushes a button in me, I stop seeing a young child with issues but a spoilt brat... Things got worse and worse until we both ended up in the car, me really shouting at him and him crying furiously saying all his stuff like "I'm going to tell Daddy and he's going to hit you!" Horrible. I think I kind of got to a point where his behaviour just seems so unreasonable that I stop knowing how to deal with it sensibly... and this is related, I do see, for my continuing desire for him to be "normal", not to be a difficult child at all... Of course I see all the uselessness and all the suffering of that but it doesn't stop it happening. We eventually calmed down enough to go and talk to the tennis teacher, who seemed quite sympathetic, said it didn't matter and he had seen that kind of thing before (had he?) and that we should come back and try again next week, to which J agreed.
    The worst of it is that... we ended up going to the shop and I ended up buying him the toy he wanted, which he is now outside playing with...
    I wish I could get some kind of clear and reliable diagnosis, really. At least I would have something to hang on to in my own mind for why he behaves like this. Scenes in public definitely touch off a raw nerve for me.
    Yes, well, the theory... how easy things are in theory... :hangin:
  12. chrisb

    chrisb New Member

    I've often thought that relationships have memory. You react to someone based on the history of the relationship, plus the current event, not just the event itself. This is something like habit I guess. When you have a great relationship with someone, you are always polite and helpful to each other, etc when that person acts rude to you, its easy to respond gracefully and take it in stride, the history of the relationship balances out the one negative act. But if you have a relationship where someone is constantly rude or mean to you, even polite requests can cause you to react negatively, because the heavy weight of the relationship overwhelms the request itself.

    I noticed this especially with my relationship with my mother. Being probably a difficult child myself as a child we had a horrible relationship, and we practically jumped down each others throats all the time. I moved away after college for about 7 years and moved close again after my kids were born. I think the time apart allowed us to reset our relationship and start over with new, better polite interactions. We now have a pretty good relationship.

    This is the problem I have dealing with my kids, I know intellectually they are just kids, they can't help it, they may even have issues beyond the normal, etc. but emotionally the weight of the many many times they have been rude, obnoxious, defiant, hit me or needled me just weighs on me and makes it very difficult for me to keep my half of the relationship the polite and civil example to them it should be. I know I end up snapping at them, barking orders instead of polite requests. And of course my negative interactions with them are making it even harder for them to respond nicely to me, so its a viscous circle.

    I think I really have to make a concerted effort to reset my half of the relationship, create a new habit like you said. I know this won't be easy. This has been an interesting thread. Thanks for sharing.
  13. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Yes... it takes time, but it does help when we get there. It will come.

    Malika! Quit beating yourself up!

    Its not about theory... its about practice. And no, you don't have this new skill "mastered", you are still learning. So, expect some slip-ups. It takes time, and practice, and more time and more practice. Just keep reminding yourself... "I'm still learning".
  14. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Well, maybe I'm beating myself up a bit Insane... but you have to understand how strange it is living with a little boy who seems fine and "normal", if spirited, and then suddenly - you just say something to him in the "wrong" tone of voice and all these strange, howling cats come out of the bag. And I feel frightened, I think that's what it is if I'm honest, of something in him that is beyond reach of the rational, is beyond my ken... Does that make any sense? Maybe, if we want to get really psychological here, I am afraid of that same thing in myself...
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Two sides to this... the not-knowing of a problem you don't have answers for yet, and the feelings we get when we see ourselves in the child. This last one is harder for you, because he is adopted. But it is probably a good thing for him... because where others might take it as deliberate pushing of your buttons, you have some idea of where he is coming from or what he is feeling.
    Both are part of the "not easy" side of being a parent.
  16. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Insane (I have earned your soubriquet today :) ) I think you're right - the difficulty of the mirror... also a feeling of helplessness that comes up in me faced with J's irrational tantrums. And a feeling of frustration and annoyance that we can't do a "normal" thing like a tennis lesson with all the other four and five year olds... I suspect I expect too much of him at times.
    We have talked about it a bit. I said we did not do very well today, he said sorry (and, typically, asked that I say sorry to him too...) At bedtime, he gave me a great hug and wanted to rub noses, saying "See we're all better now..." He is now asleep, going off to sleep in two minutes, as usual.
    It's just an odd quirk of fate that this particular child should come into my life because it really takes me to the places that are most difficult for me, for various reasons... maybe we would all say that? An opportunity, therefore, but really a hard challenge too. Well, you guys know ALL about that...
  17. keista

    keista New Member

    Well, I can't understand how it is to live with a boy like that, but I do understand how it is to live with a girl like that. And yes, there were a few years where I wanted to be anywhere but around my own child. Seriously.

    But yes Malika, you are still practicing your theory. I'm still practicing it, and mess up more times than I care to admit, but I keep practicing and practicing, and I do see positive results. I'm certain you will too. What am I saying? You already have! Don't beat yourself up for being human.
  18. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Well, thanks Keista and everyone. Yes, we mess up and don't do things perfectly... How frustrating! :) Seriously, I think what concerns me is that I too have my own inner "boiling points" and that when they erupt, they do so quite violently - just like J... I'm the adult and have the responsibility of working on this - he can't yet... This morning when we woke up we had quite a long "talk" about what had happened. He's quite mature about this sort of thing, can discuss such subjects reasonably intelligently. Just like me :) I wondered whether we could have some sort of system in place to help us in practice when he is at boiling point so that we can try to avoid the meltdown of yesterday. At home this could be a "cooling off place" but outside...? I suggested (over ambitiously) to J that he could maybe "go inside his head" when he felt very angry and he found that very funny....
    Part of the problem for me is that J's difficulties are not constant, not every day (any more) - or, don't get me wrong, that's a good thing not a problem, but I realise it means I keep lulling myself into a completely false sense of security. I start thinking he is just a regular joe, any typical child. He isn't. I'm still learning to accept that. Part of the deal for me yesterday was my own upset and irritation that he couldn't be like all the other kids and do a tennis lesson for an hour...
  19. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Mind you I am far from a perfect parent so I don't have "the" answers. on the other hand I sure have tried most things in hopes it would make life easier for the family, lol. One thing that had some success for me years ago was apologizing to difficult child after the "dirt settled" by simply saying "I'm sorry I made a poor choice earlier today when I X. Sometimes it is hard for adults to behave properly just like it is for kids. Please accept my apology." With that difficult child it set an example that she later would follow in reverse. Did it solve all the problems? Heck, no. But it did help her reaslize that everyone has bad moments...not just her. DDD