- Joellen Monson
Talk to any family therapist and they will tell you that most of the parents that come in for treatment - be it intense group family therapy, requests for child therapy or parent education - and when offered suggestions for discipline for their children, the parents will say "But we've tried that." Most ideas are shot down with the conversation stopping "We tried that." And it can actually be surprising how many idea, tools and suggestions are repeatedly met with this same response "We tried that."
While most therapist's might not admit to looking to Star Wars characters for inspiration, there is an Episode V quote from the wise Yoda which every parent should remember to keep in their own parenting tool bag. When Yoda asks young Luke to raise his sunken speeder out of the swamps of Degobah. Luke responds by telling Yoda that he will try, at which point Yoda tells him "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try!" When Luke fails at his task and the small but powerful Yoda succeeds, Luke says "I don't believe it!" to which Yoda responds "That is why you failed."
The reason why this anecdote applies to parenting is because when parents "try" a technique - but don't really believe it will work, don't really put the conviction of their actions and intentions together to continue with their new behavior - it is bound to fail. Why? Because children are infinitely more patient than adults and generally more driven and ruthless in wanting to get their way. So they wait out the adults who give up and the child gets their way.
When a new therapist is "tried", a new technique "tried", when a new book's approach is "tried" and the children behave worse (because that's what they do at first whenever a parent works to take back control of a situation) the parent often gives up. They claim that the new therapist/technique/book didn't work.
Parents who make a commitment to stick with the new plan, outlasting the child's worsening behavior through an understanding that they are on the right track and that eventually the child will give up the negative behavior because mom and dad were actually sticking with this plan find success. When parents simply "try" something without conviction and then give up before sticking it out to positive results they are actually teaching their child an unintended lesson. The child learns that if they just make things really, really worse whenever mom and dad "try" something new that the parents give up and the child gets to keep doing what they wanted to do in the first place.
So, before you add something new to your parenting bag of tricks - decide. Do you like this idea? Does it make sense to you? Can you live with this way of being? Because your child will test you and test and make things more difficult and will try your patience. But if you decide to "do" these new skills in routine ways then you will own the power to make a change for the better. And accept the consequences - it will be harder than ever for awhile but then it will get better - for all of you.