Doing What Works (And Quitting What Doesn’t)
People have a tendency to think that if something should work, but it doesn’t, that the next step is to then do that thing harder, more often or more intensely. (For example, when we run across someone who doesn’t speak English, we automatically speak slower and louder…as if that’s going change their understanding of our words.) We do the same thing as parents – when we have a parenting strategy that we think should work, we continue pushing and pushing that same strategy well past the point of realizing that it simply isn’t working.
Why do we do this? Well, it could be because we simply don’t know what else to do. If this was an approach that appeared to work for our parents – or was one that they used over and over again, even if it really didn’t work – then we may not have an example of anything else to try. And if the frustrating and imperfect result we get is the same one that our parents got, it might lead us to believe that even though it’s not exactly what we’re hoping for, it’s the best we can expect. Or, perhaps we might really believe that handling the situation this way is logical and reasonable, and that if it’s not working it’s because of a fault on our children’s part, not ours.
Are you familiar with the definition of crazy? It’s doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Or, as Dr Phil might say, the best indicator of future behaviour, is past behaviour. If yelling/punishing/removing privileges/whatever else you’ve tried isn’t working, then the answer isn’t to do it more. It can be tough to decide that we need to abandon what we’ve been doing and start from scratch, but if the evidence in front of you is showing that what you’re doing isn’t working, that’s what’s called for. Because sometimes what we’re doing to solve the problem, is actually not just maintaining the problem, but making it even worse.
This doesn’t mean that you should try something once and if it doesn’t work, just scrap it, because sometimes it takes a bit of time for relationships and behaviours to shift. But if you don’t feel that you’re at least moving in the right direction and you’ve given yourself an appropriate amount of time to experiment with the new way of doing things, then it’s time to make a change. What it really boils down to is, no matter how justified you feel in using a particular approach, or how naturally it comes to you, or even if you just don’t know what else to try, if you’re not getting the result you want, than that approach is not worth using…period. Use humour, do the opposite, ask for help – do anything different to interrupt the pattern that you’re in and get you on a different path. Take a deep breath, and test the waters with something new!