I was having a casual chat with my teenagers a while back and we started talking about some of their past childhood behaviors. One of my children said something that struck me as interesting–she explained that when she was little, she did not realize that she could simply choose to STOP doing something–a behavior or activity. She said that it came as quite an eye-opener to her when she realized that she had the choice to STOP being friends with someone, acting a certain way, getting angry at a sibling, etc. While we had a good chuckle about it, I realized that this can be a reality that we parents forget–we get so frustrated and upset trying to motivate and control our children and it may be that developmentally, they do not realize how much control they really do have.
When you are asking yourself why you find yourself repeating demands and asking your child over and over again to stop doing something, or wondering why on earth a certain behavior is hanging around longer than you’d like. It may just be that the child hasn’t realized that she can choose to stop. Think of your own “bad habits”–we feel trapped by our habits until the day it dawns on us that we can make a choice to get rid of them.
I think positive reinforcement is the key here for parents. Acknowledge and the praise the things we DO like instead of focusing in on what we don’t. The more the child receives the praise and positive “strokes” for desired behaviors, the less likely she will be to do those things we don’t like. Bad habits and unsavory behaviors have a tendency to disappear without attention. Also, the day does come when a child will realize how much personal control he has over his behavior choices.