Why won’t he behave?

Teenage Boy Standing Between Parents Who Are Ignoring Each OtherBefore you can change your child’s behavior you must have a relationship with them.  It is imperative that they know on a deeper level that you care for them. Without a relationship, there will be no behavior change. The term that we use in my office daily is “Rules without Relationship = Rebellion.”


Back during my internship a grandmother brought her 7-year-old grandson into the clinic.  She stated that her grandson’s behavior was awful and that his mother, her daughter, was not being a competent or kind mother.  The 7-year olds mom made it very clear that she didn’t want to be a mother and found her son not only a hassle, but a burden.  The grandmother brought her grandson to see me hoping that I could work on his behavior and get him to behave better.  At that point, hopefully the mother would be more accepting of him if he behaved better and she would “like him”.  The grandmother was under the impression that if a dog is better behaved, then the owner will be nicer to the dog.


As sad as it was, I had to tell the grandmother that her grandson was not “the dog” in this situation and that I couldn’t help him behave better by therapy alone.  He was misbehaving because he felt his mother was rejecting and negative with him.  The problem was clearly that his mother did not want to be a mother and have the responsibilities and burden of parenthood.


Being around someone who does not like us does not bring out the best in us.  We tend to act best around people who judge us fairly or positively.  Around people who judge us negatively we tend to be avoidant, obnoxious or cruel in defense.  As stated before, relationships are nine tenths of the work with these difficult children.  Without relationships we have nothing.


Building relationships with high maintenance or strong-willed children can be difficult. They tend to misbehave at a higher frequency, make the same mistake repeatedly, and defy your directives. In all, they don’t make themselves as loveable as they can, but they aren’t doing this on purpose most of the time. Often the problem is that they don’t have the emotional skills to deal with their anxiety or control themselves. They may have the intellectual skill to do high level school work, but they are immature and lack the ability to identify and control their emotions. Hence, they need to be taught these skills.


More on this later if people are interested. Let me know.


For more information on a skill building technique called the “Practice Academy” see the audio CD’s on:


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