Writing: Blogging and Child Behavior Modification

10 05 2010

If you follow Floppy’s blog, you might have noticed that today he blogs about “good choices” and claims that we parents are allowing him to do whatever he wants as long as he makes good choices.

We’re trying an experiment — Mountain Mike’s Magic Parenting Trick for rearing self-managing children, specifically. You might think that as a Ph.D. in psychology and faculty in psychiatry at an Ivy League university I probably should find better sources for parenting advice than Mountain Mike (he’s a butcher). Furthermore, I’m not a big consumer of parenting advice in general: I think my child is perfect, and when he isn’t I think I’m perfect as a parent, and when neither of us are perfect I generally rely on repeating my parents’ and grandparents’ mistakes. In fact, we’ve bought just two parenting books ever before — Dr. Sears baby operational manual and a PESI manual that I never read or implemented past chapter 2 (neither of those chapters were all that helpful).

But I prefer to think of all this as evidence that Mountain Mike’s advice is just that compelling. My initial reaction to Amberlee’s version of the Mountain Mike story was to be let down — surely this insight was not all that remarkable. But she seemed so impressed we had to try it, and 48 hours in to the Mountain Mike experiment, I’m impressed.

Floppy seems to be responding much as Amberlee’s kids did, but the parts I find most striking are A) how much he seems to enjoy it, and B) how it changes my behavior as well as his.

For his part, he is not only more cooperative, he feels he’s been let in on a great privilege. He seems to see himself as an independent person,  privileged to make all his own decisions (so long as they are “good choices”) and rewarded with free agency and “whatever I want” (so long as it’s a good choice) for behaving well. He seems to feel that he’s been granted grownup-level freedom, and he’s reveling in it.

His response to negative feedback is interesting, too. In the past, when we got upset with him, it often engendered an angry power struggle as he tried to get us to help him with some problematic situation he’d created. But now, when we warn that he seems to be making “not such good choices,” and therefore refuse to cooperate with him, he makes an immediate effort to fix the problem himself and right his behavior so that the next request will be honored.

But even more interesting is what it seems to be doing to me. I make an effort to say “yes” to all requests that occur when he is “making good choices,” even if I’m busy or it’s an inconvenience to me. It makes me more attentive to him, and more polite. He’s hollering less, and cooperating more, but so am I.  He says “good choices bring peace to our family.” So far, he’s absolutely right.

I’d be curious if you try Mountain Mike’s Magic, and how it works for you.

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