Ask Ann:

"Bad Behavior"

(Ann Houck is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience working with at-risk children in the foster care system and in orphanages. Her childcare approach uses Trust-Based Relational Intervention, a framework for parenting children of trauma, developed at Texas Christian University.)

...got kids who are hitting, yelling, disobeying or being disrespectful? Try this technique in your home!

By Ann Houck • 3 min read

Ann says:

Where I live, the “rainy season” has begun. It is a wonderful time of year when the dust settles, the air smells fresh, and the hills wear a wonderful shade of green. It is a time of renewal, of beginning again, perhaps, maybe, of grand nature “redos.” Makes me think of a TBRI® correcting strategy known as The Redo. A chance to do it again; to correct mistakes; to practice positive behaviors.

Here at Oak Life we work at teaching and practicing Trust Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI). It is a model, a practice, an intervention, and a way of life that we believe manifests the teaching of Jesus. It provides children with a way of recovering from their trauma. The foundation that this practice provides for children of trauma leads to healthier, happier, more productive individuals. And who doesn’t want that for children under their care?

One of the practices of TBRI® is The Redo. This “correcting principle” of TBRI® is very useful not only for teaching our children, but also for use by adults.

According to an article from Texas Baptist Children’s Home—

“When it comes to behavioral issues, instead of immediately reprimanding a child after a wrong action, TBRI® encourages a redo. Redo’s can prove to be extremely helpful in teaching a child how to change their behavior. For example, if a child demands something, instead of telling a child what they did was wrong and leaving it at that or sending them straight to their room, try saying, “Are you asking me or telling me?” “Can we try that again, this time using nice, asking words?” The more this practice is played out in a child’s everyday life, the more likely it is to stick, and eventually, they will learn to speak like this without being directly asked to.”

Now, that doesn’t seem too hard, does it? When we are working with our children, asking them to try it again is an incredible technique. In response to “bad behavior,” we help them to practice using kind words, to be nice to their playmates, to be respectful, and to say “I’m sorry.”

But, what about when we need a redo? Are we, as the adult in the room, able to notice our mistakes and make amends? Do we find it difficult to admit to our mistakes?

Let’s look at a possible scenario: Little Lucy is playing with Little Sally. They are having a tea party. The party is going very well and you, the adult in the room, are only listening with one ear as you prepare lunch for the girls. Suddenly, you hear Little Lucy speaking very loudly and disrespectfully to Little Sally. “No, Sally, don’t touch that. It is my turn to pour and you can’t do it. Stop it right now or I will tell mom.”

You remember the IDEAL Response and move quickly toward the girls saying, “Whoa, horsey! Lucy, are you asking Sally or telling her? Can you try that again, a little softer this time, and ask her to please not pour the tea?”

Well, you guessed it, Sally looks at you and says, “I don’t want to mom; she wasn’t being nice.” And, you then very sternly look at Sally and wag the index finger and say something like, “Sally, do as you are told right now. That was not nice, the way you spoke to Lucy. I want you to apologize immediately.”

Now, who needs the redo?

Just looking at this scenario, I bet we can all see it escalating and ending up with mom being very angry at Sally and possibly sending her to her room, or at least into a time out. And most likely, it will decline into a power struggle that does not end well for anyone. Nobody wants that!

What if mom caught herself? What if she realized she was also not behaving well? What if mom stopped herself before escalating and demanding that Sally apologize? What if mom said, quietly and respectfully, “Oh my gosh, girls! I got angry, and I apologize for that. I am acting badly. What do you think I should do?”

Sally and Lucy might both say, “you need a redo, mom, just like us. Let’s all do a redo!” Kids learn positive behaviors by practicing positive behaviors. And, kids also learn positive behaviors by watching their trusted adults practicing positive behaviors. Maybe it is a good idea to be the changed behavior that you want to see in your children.

Takes practice, but it is worth the time and effort.

What do you think?

Ann Houck

Licensed clinical social worker; volunteer social work supervisor for Oak Life interns; experience working with children of trauma in child protective services and school social work settings.

Ann Houck

Ann Houck

Licensed clinical social worker; volunteer social work supervisor for Oak Life interns; experience working with children of trauma in child protective services and school social work settings.

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