As many of you know, Dr. Dave Rabiner's newsletter ADHD Research, has become a part of the new Attention.com Website. Over the next few weeks, I will also be joining Attention.com and ADDed Attractions will also be available through the www.attention.com website as well as www.adhdnews.com .
If you haven't checked out www.attention.com be sure to do it soon. Attention.com is free to readers and offers information from experts in various fields of ADHD. You will also be able to access ADHD Research and other valuable information.
I have been receiving a lot of requests for information on the new medication for ADHD, Concerta. If you'd like to talk to other parents who are currently using Concerta, there are several on ADDtalk. ADDtalk is an email support group where parents exchange ideas and share information and experiences on medication, education, behavior problems and other issues. If you would like to join ADDtalk, send a blank message to email@example.com.
You will also find an article on Concerta at http://www.additudemag.com/Health%20Medicine%20Psycology/concerta.htm and http://pharminfo.com/pubs/druginfoline/druginfo2_103p.html . For information on Concerta and other medications used to treat ADDult ADHD please visit http://www.ncpamd.com/NewADD_Meds.htm
Articles on ADHD
Julia Rosien has written some articles on ADHD that offer some valuable information. They are:
What's Wrong With My Child: An Overview of AD/HD http://preteenagerstoday.com/resources/articles/addpt1.htm Is Ritalin the Only Way? http://preteenagerstoday.com/resources/articles/addpt2.htm What is a School's Responsibility? http://preteenagerstoday.com/resources/articles/schlrspnsblty.htm
Windows of Opportunity
By Howard Glasser
Before we start describing our first technique, take a few seconds to contemplate the following two short stories. They embody two important attitudes that will form the thrust of our approach.
One of the many in the delicious series of Chicken Soup for the Soul books, At Work 2 * , features a fantastic story describing the truth about how Shamu, the talented 19,000 pound whale, was trained to jump over a rope 22 feet in the air above the tank.
Shamu may well have been a fantastic jumper before he arrived at SeaWorld. However, it is unlikely that this whale, weighing nearly 10 tons,could have jumped over a rope stretched high over the water on com-mand.He wouldn't draw the big crowds week after week if his trainers gave the signal and Shamu jumped an hour later or on the other side of the tank, away from the rope.
Shamu was not with the Peking Acrobats prior to coming to Sea World. Shamu's secret is his trainers and their approach to accomplishing their goals. They have the intelligence and the skill to know that you can't start the training by hanging a bucket of fish 22 feet high and by commanding Shamu to jump. Even though Shamu may want the fish, the properconnections have not yet been linked up with the sequence of development of Shamu's natural talents. These connections are not automatic. They evolve and they are developed.
His trainers started with the rope under water, at the bottom of the tank. Most people guess that the rope was lower in the training process, but very few people figure out that the rope was actually under the water. Shamu was appreciated, patted, loved and rewarded when he first happened to cruise over the rope accidentally. More than likely, Shamu didn't even know what a rope was when he first arrived at Sea World. He just moved randomly about in the tank.
It was only after the many times it took for Shamu to make the connection and figure out that the good stuff came when he went over the twisted thing "we" call a rope that the trainers were ready, slowly and incrementally, to raise the rope. Hallelujah! The willingness of the trainers to start with the rope at the bottom, creating successes that would not otherwise exist, directly leads to a "faster" path of learning and a level of attainment well beyond what would normally occur.
You are setting out to build a very similar connection for your child. Once your child finally understands the link between the internal feeling of success and your response in terms of the energy and emotional reaction you have to give, she will begin to seek and integrate success into every aspect of life. A pail of fish is not required. The best part of working with children, in contrast to whales, is that the child will know when to help you raise the rope.
The Dance of the Tollbooth Attendant
The story of the Oakland-Bay Bridge tollbooth attendant has come our way through several different respected sources. One person, a college professor ** recalls an early morning trip from San Francisco to Berkeley involving a most interesting journey over the Bay Bridge. No other cars were on the road. As he approached the tollbooths, he rolled down the window and heard the glorious sounds of old rock and roll dance music blaring away from a nearby radio.
In a quick scan of the area, he noticed that the tollbooth attendant several lanes away was out there grooving to the beat and having a great time. The driver quickly made his way over to the dancing attendant's lane and commented, "It looks like you're having the time of your life." The tollbooth attendant's response was, "Of course. I have the best job in the world and the best office in the world." The driver asked him what he meant and the attendant replied: "Well, I get to be out here listening to my favorite tunes, doing my own thing and meeting nice people." "Besides, what executive do you know who has an office with four glass walls and a view that comes even close to this one. I can look west and just about see the ocean. I can look north and south and see beautiful views of the bay, and I can look east and see the mainland. If I work the early shift, I can see the sunrise. And if I work later, I can see the sunset. With all these clouds, the view is different everyday. Nothing can compare to this. Besides, I'm going to be a dancer, and I'm getting paid to practice."
The professor then pointed to the other tollbooths and said "What about the other attendants? They don't seem to be having the time of their lives." The tollbooth attendant replied, "Oh, those guys in the stand up coffins! They're no fun." Obviously, everything is subject to how we choose to view it. How easy it is to forget that we hold that option card. Is the cup half-full or half-empty? It's our call. We can easily imagine ourselves in both situations: with the incredible attitude of the tollbooth attendant as well as without this vantage point of awe, dreading another day of annoying pollution, noise, traffic and headaches.
It's not only our choice, but we get to choose at any given moment. How are we going to view the world and the everyday events that comprise our lives and the life of our child?
The techniques that follow will supply you with practical ways of putting both these lessons into action.
Video Moments If you're going to change the wiring you need to get to the wire box. Here is the initial hurdle. How are we going to initiate taking the first stand, pulling our child toward successes, while avoiding the traps of giving "energy" to negative behaviors?
"We are not going to let you pull us into giving more response for your negative behaviors. We are not going to fall into the trap of fostering more experiences of failure. We are going to pull you into a new pattern of successes."
Remember, conventional ways of being positive hit the radar and activate defenses. Whatever tactic we use must come in under the radar in a way that will really be felt as psychological nutrition and be encoded as success.
The most efficient way that we have found to get this process under-way is through the use of an active form of verbal recognition. This strategy involves describing back to the child what the child is doing, saying or presenting. We call this method Video Moments because of its playback-like quality.
These recognitions are like verbal snapshots of what the child is doing or how he may be feeling, almost as if you had an imaginary blind companion for whom you were describing your child's actions out loud. Video Moments need to be actively and frequently given throughout the child's day to establish a process of profound acknowledgement through which positive statements are encoded in the child's psyche as successes. "I notice that you're working hard on your drawing. It looks like a fancy car with green stripes and a red top."
"I saw you dribbling the ball up to the hoop. You looked disappointed when your shot bounced off the rim."
Being noticed or recognized is much more powerful than one may initially imagine. It offers significant opportunities to account for life events that might otherwise pass by your screen as unworthy of comment. They are every bit as important to your child's feeling worthy of your esteem and eventually their own as are other more recognizable high-water marks of achievement.
In a way, they are more meaningful. How many adults enter therapy at some point, sick of perpetuating a pattern of trying to please their parents, spouses or associates? Typically these people were only noticed in their childhood for the home runs and the high grades on the report card, if that. They have been forever hooked into seeking their parents' (and now others') mostly unavailable approval.
This technique is a remarkable way of showing your child that you notice and care about many aspects of her life. The moments to choose to describe are indeed the everyday moments that tend to be ignored. Video Moments provide a powerful way of underlining and documenting that you really value the child for who she is. It is not only a way of feeding her emotional reservoir, but of proving that she is not invisible. Indeed, many children feel they are invisible unless they are either going to the trouble of acting-out or doing something exceptionally well. Video Moments call for describing what the child is doing, saying or presenting in an active, in-the-moment way. It simply involves feeding back to the child what you see her doing or saying at that moment, without any kind of evaluation of what you see, or as little as possible. Here are some examples:
"I notice you're using many thick, curving lines in your design. Now it looks like you're coloring the bottom section with your brown crayon."
"I see that you have the first six math problems completed and now you look like you're busy thinking. I see the effort you've made."
In many ways, the moment is all we really have. In our hurried lives, it is oh so easy to become consumed with the past or the future. The magic, however, is in the moment. The moment is proof positive that we really exist. For the child who is desperate to be noticed, recognition of his everyday actions, expressions and feelings is an anchor to his spirit that needs to believe his life really matters.
Some parents have said it is like giving the child a verbal "Kodak Moment" or verbalizing for the child your awareness of her feelings, behaviors or wishes in a kind of verbal video playback. The practical application of this technique requires several unconventional communication dynamics on the part of the parent:
The first is to use non-judgmental language when describing what you see. It is the neutrality of the message that allows the child to digest the recognition without feeling prickled by criticism or having to brace against praise.
Over time, this type of communication provides a foundation for the development of basic trust. The basic trust is derived from the child's feeling convinced that she is "seen" for who she is… and that this kind of validation is real and here to stay.
Psychotherapists use similar techniques, at times, to build children's trust, ego strength and ability to take in information about themselves and their behavior. Your use of this technique expands its power because a parent has so much more healing influence. Being noticed when things are not going wrong becomes a daily anchor for the child and solidifies the enormously important dynamic of the parent as nurturing and supportive rather than adversarial and critical.
This technique is also a jumping off point from which the techniques that follow move to step up the child's sense of excitement in relation to positive behaviors as well as her sense of competency in moment-to-moment choices.
Being very specific is a second key quality of Video Moments. General or global statements like "that's great" or "good job" or "wow, that's beautiful" often do not contain enough information for the intense child. They can easily be ignored or distrusted by the child as untrue. For this reason, specific recognition has much more impact.
It is the detail that is convincing to the child. This kind of feedback becomes the child's positive proof of having been witnessed or seen: "You have a very proud expression on your face. It seems like you are excited about the tower you are building." "I heard you asking for an extra treat… I can see that you were disappointed when you were told 'no' and I sense by your tears that you are sad. I also notice that you're using your control to handle your strong feelings. Keep up the good work." The true power of these Video Moments is in their ability to create recognition and success messages that the child can take in and metabolize.
By "freeze framing" what you notice and by verbalizing this back to the child, a new flow of energy is catalyzed. The child feels noticed and perceives this recognition from the parent as a success. It's the neutrality of the message that gets under the child's "radar" because it simply describes the reality of the moment and is perceived by the child as undeniably true. The child cannot refute the documented evidence of having been seen.
Going "under" the child's sensitivities about criticism allows the success message to flow right to the heart, the emotional "wire box"- where messages about one's self resonate. By expanding the detail of the description, the child feels the certainty of being truly appreciated, which all children seem to need. It is the details that make this intervention hard for children to reject or defend against. Instead, they feel cherished and validated.
This intervention also gives the parent an opportunity to expand his or her repertoire of positive attention enormously. Many parents have said at our initial meeting that they saw few, if any, positive things to get excited about. This may be true from a traditional point of reference.
However, from our non-conventional vantage point, there are an infinite number and variety of potentially potent positive events. Video Moments energize everyday ordinary events. Remember the tollbooth attendant's beautiful way of seeing things.
"The color you chose for your project is very bright and glittery. I see you combined the purple with some orange." "I can tell you are hungry. You ate your potatoes in a hurry!" "I enjoyed seeing you ride your bike. You really seem to have the hang of making those quick figure-eight turns and those fancy stops."
All it takes is a visit to your child's room. Instead of getting caught up in the past (the storehouse of shortcomings and resentments) or the future (what isn't complete and needs to be done), you simply stay in the moment and describe exactly what it is that you see. "Jason, I notice that you are trying to get the battery cover off your radio. You look very focused. See you later." "Alex, I see that you are stacking the wood blocks and trying to make them balance. It looks like you're trying to straighten out the ones that are wobbly."
These parents have simply described the truth. Such comments cannot be blocked. Ten to 20 seconds total: a great utilization of their time. And they resisted the tendency to tack on remarks that Jason or Alex would absorb as representing failure. Instead they creatively down-loaded successes. If a Jason or an Alex were intensely habituated to negative attention and strongly refused positive attention, he may tell you to stop the comments and take a hike. This occasionally occurs as a form of temporary resistance. You can simply continue your stand by refusing to get drawn in and thereby provide another success: "I can tell by your voice that you are annoyed and that you want me to leave. See you later."
You've generated even more success simply by describing the truth of the moment. Another tactic in meeting resistance is to use humor or a light touch: "I don't know what has gotten into me. I can't seem to stop making these comments. I'll try to stop, but I don't think I can. I just enjoy noticing you. Anyway, I can tell by your tone that you want me to stop." Or, you can just be completely straight and meet your child's resistance or inquiry head on:
"I can tell you're thrown by the comments I've been making. You're right, I am being different. I realized that I mostly notice all the things that I think you do wrong. From now on I'm going to notice a lot of the good things you do. It's only fair. I'm liking it and you'll get used to it."
Although a difficult or over-energized child typically has a very high need for recognition, the application or timing of this strategy can be challenging. Some high-needs children fend off or challenge any positive response, even when they are starving for it. Although this technique is simple in its form, a powerful and effective application requires that the parent take the following committed positions: I'm committed to doing what it takes to create a sense of success and competency for my child.
This position involves a pervasive viewpoint that one of the greatest gifts and responsibilities of parenting is to help create a sense of success and competency. This committed stance energizes an ongoing opportunistic outlook: finding situations for taking actions and creating experiences to make this come about. I'm not going to let you pull me into a pattern of failure. This position refers to a parent's absolute, immovable resolve to refuse to revert to nonproductive failure-laden responses-such as criticism, lecturing, admonitions, yelling or other ways of inadvertently energizing negative behaviors. This position's core involves maintaining acknowledgements and energized interest when rules are not being broken.
Determination is the key. Some children will challenge your determination. They need to see for themselves whether you will stick to your guns. For some children, testing your resolve by sending challenges your way, and seeing that they cannot derail you, is the only way they can arrive at the important conclusion that you will not revert back to giving a "payoff " for their negativity.
The Flow of Successes
Children who feel successful think and act successfully. Success is something that needs to be nurtured. It is an active, intentional stance. Video Moments begin the flow of successes to the child via nontraditional levels of appreciation and recognition. These comments can reflect any combination of physical actions and feelings. In addition to heightening the sense of acknowledgement, this combination helps to create a sense of positive self-awareness for your child. Examples:
"I see your excitement about the car you're building with your Legos. You're using mostly yellow and blue for the bottom and red and green for the top."
"I notice that you are flipping through your comic with a grumpy look on your face. You look upset."
"You have amazing control of your video game. You managed to avoid all the trouble. And I notice you have a proud expression on your face."
Judgments, interpretations and interrogations of the child's emotional state may hit the child's radar and may serve to close the child off from further receptivity. However well-intentioned any statements, all of us have observed a child shut down when what we have said has been perceived as criticism. It's clear when the child's information receiver short-circuits… lights out and nobody's home, so to speak. Without overstating or interpreting, you can, however, simply document your child's emotional status:
"It looks as though your feelings are hurt by what your sister said." "It seems like you feel disappointed about not hearing from Sally." "You look very angry. I can see you're making an effort to control your strong feelings."
If you have missed the mark, your child may give you the correct information or, having had his or her feelings acknowledged without judgment, may well discuss the situation further… the stuff of which excellent parent-child relationships are made.
Some parents have viewed Video Moments as containers that they attempt to fill with a little extra dash of excitement. This is purposefully done so that the child can begin to feel that it may not be necessary to go to all the trouble of acting out to get the fireworks. This is accomplished by modulating your voice or by putting more heart and enjoyment into your commentary. The beauty of this method is that every element of a verbal Video Moment is encoded into your child's psyche as a success, and a short and sweet snapshot for the child is absorbed easily. The speed of delivery also makes this strategy one for which there will always be time, despite the busiest schedule. Being noticed and recognized, at no matter how basic a level, is a powerful acknowledgement. It is exquisite emotional food every child needs for a fully balanced diet.
Any Given Moment
A great advantage of this method is that you can imbue your successes in your child at any given moment. You don't have to wait until some-thing spectacular happens. The basic idea is that your child begins to form a new experience: your energy is available when things are going well in an everyday sense. The child feels your interest and thus feels held in esteem. This is, of course, how self-esteem begins to take shape. The objective is to have your child begin to acclimate toward success until the feeling becomes second nature, like breathing. This forms the beginning of a new comfort zone around being successful. Recognition becomes like a soft pillow for the child. Pushing against it is soft, feels good and is not a battle. Practice will give you your own style and words with your child. Using non-evaluating, neutral statements may feel strange at first. Many of us grew up with models of parenting and education that were based on judgments, defining behavior as right and wrong, good or bad. Also, if you were not noticed particularly often as child, especially under positive circumstances, you may well come up against your own sensitivities in doing this technique with your child. At the very least, it may feel awkward and you also may find it hard for your brain to register the recognition and for the words to exit your mouth. Stay determined and clear about your purpose.
The shift to therapeutic parenting involves a conscious shift from the familiar or habitual to the non-conventional. You must trust your resolve to move away from ways that accidentally reward problem behaviors and toward methods that support and encourage your child at the core. Video Moments begin to give you empowerment as you see yourself as the relentless opportunist, both as you give Active Recognitions throughout the day and as you begin to observe their effect on your child. The flow should be short and sweet. Keep it simple. Being specific and being active will help you experience the power of this kind of validation.
Imagine walking in to comment on your child's artwork. Rather than saying "Good job! That's such a neat picture." (evaluation mixed with praise that's too general), try this: "I see the effort you are making to keep the colors in the lines. You seem to be going around the border first and then filling in the inside. You've made the animals very bright colors!" In a short time, even the most defensive, provocative child begins to absorb the magic and intention these words convey. They basically communicate: "You are seen. You are worthy of recognition. I appreciate and enjoy who you are."
It is also a wonderful experience for a parent to be in this position of benevolence. Some children bcome affectionate to a parent after years of holding back. Our interpretation of this is that, as children begin to feel deeply nurtured through this powerfully nutritious recognition, they quickly have more to give back to others.
Some parents will report that this first step was hard for them because there was "nothing good to describe" or because the "acting-out was so frequent." If this feels like the case in your situation, the stand you must take on behalf of your child and yourself will require even more determi-nation.
You will have to be even more opportunistic between incidents and more willing to take advantage of relatively neutral and quiet moments, however few. You'd be surprised how quickly these times can multiply as you begin to lend these moments your energy and withdraw your energy from the negative behaviors.
Not Kojak Moments
Anyone who has ever seen Telly Savalas in his well-known role as Kojak, the New York City cop, may recall that he clearly stood out as very verbal, persistently giving an ongoing commentary to his colleagues and criminal associates. Although this kind of commentary is definitely a form of "Kodak" Moments, keep in mind that it is advisable to avoid giving your commentary and recognition (your energy) to events that are going awry.
You most certainly can use Video Moments to accomplish redirection through anticipation before a rule is broken, but we do not recommend giving any kind of attention and reaction once the child crosses the line by breaking a rule.
Redirection through anticipation may involve a situation in which you see the early signs of your child's getting angry or frustrated for one reason or another. By anticipating a potential problem and catching the situation before it actually occurs, you can proactively turn the situation into a success.
"I notice that you look angry because your baby brother took your toy. I also see that you've managed to control your temper even though you look like you would have wanted to grab it back. I appreciate the self-control that you're using."
"I see you handling your frustration as best you can. The math is hard and you're hanging in there and trying. I see your effort and appreciate it."
Other options are to notice the good choice the child made not to take the anger out on his brother, or to comment that he indeed is handling his anger well at this moment in time. Strong feelings are hard for any of us to handle, and children can very well be applauded for smaller amounts of self-control used on their way toward being more skillful. Children are certainly not born with any self-control and need all the encouragement they can get toward increasing their ever-expanding repertoire of responses. Keep in mind Shamu and his trainer's creative use of expectations.
We cannot expect children always to use words and express their feelings early in life when we know full well how hard it is for us as adults both to contain and to express strong feelings. We can help encourage alternatives like walking away, ignoring or withdrawing from problem situations as successful choices and responsible ways of handling strong feelings. We will go into detail about this type of behavior in a subsequent chapter.
A letter does not arrive at the post office and automatically sort itself into the proper bin for the proper destination. Some external process has to help that letter get headed in the right direction. In the same way, children do not automatically sort their experiences and know what to make of them. They crucially require guidance to nurture inner wisdom.
We especially have to keep in mind that the traditional models for working with children "tend" to sort experiences in a negative direction.
For example, imagine a group of little kids sitting in a circle taking part in story time at a local child care center or older children taking part in a math lesson. Now, picture several children losing focus and starting side conversations or beginning to fool around. The "norm" in such scenarios is for the eye to be drawn to the disruption and for the comments that follow to consist of admonishments in some way, shape or form.
The children who are the recipients of those warnings and comments have acquired two important and depressing pieces of information. First, the leader's attention is available on the basis of unacceptable behaviors. They file that away for when attention is needed…a definite button to make the "toy" work.
Second, warnings or comments construct an actual, in-the-moment experience for the child. But the essence of the experience is failure. Each failure experience accumulates in the psyche of a child. If these experiences occur frequently enough and begin to have critical mass, then the children's opinions of themselves take shape around the feature of failure. And there's no arguing with experience. Try telling these children that they are wonderful, using conventional ways of conveying that message, and you will see a defensive child who inside is reacting to the comment with rejection:
"I'm not wonderful. I'm always getting in trouble."
Despite being very bright and perhaps knowing better intellectually, intense children all too frequently fall prey to this phenomenon emotionally.
Since we have the crucial role of sorting and helping our children attach meaning to their experiences, this phenomenon can consciously be shifted to everyone's advantage.
Noticing elements of success-"viewing the cup as half-full" and anticipating problems before they happen-can give parents and teachers the crucial edge they need to aid children in translating experiences to successes.
What we see time and time again is that, if we can convince children via their actual experiences that they are indeed successful, they begin to expand on success and act and think as successful children. Some encouraging perceptions of mastery can simply be achieved through Video Moments such as:
"Margo, I see that you are focused and paying close attention." "I notice that you are not losing interest even though the lesson is not very exciting."
We lend the lesson excitement by momentarily breaking away before disruption and breathing life into the driest materials through nurturing attention. The irony is that, when children begin feeling accomplished on the inside, they can weather experiences that are not highly exciting… even ones that are mundane and boring. These non-highlight film times are certainly part of life's journey.
Great teachers do this beautifully by firing off nurturing responses at regular intervals. Children in classroom environments that are fully nurturing through the use of clear limits and energized positive responses are far better learners, regardless of how exciting the subject matter is.
More "advanced" versions of Video Moments-such as noticing effort, self-control, good choice, responsibility, good manners and good attitude-give parents and teachers an expanded repertoire of success-laden responses for any given situation. We call this Experiential Recognition and we will enhance this concept in the next step.
Getting a feel for them now, however, will be useful to distinguish them from Step One Video Moments. Examples of Experiential Recognition are:
"Anthony, I notice your good attitude right now. You are listening carefully to what Dana is saying." "Alex, I see the extra effort you are making right now. It looked like you knew the answer and you had to work extra hard to not interrupt Joanne." "Sarah, I see the good choice you are making to give Ramone the space he needs." "Billy, you are waiting so patiently. I appreciate the good manners you are using. You are being respectful."
These kinds of comments really help children sort out their experiences. Without them a child might not realize that he or she indeed is being successful. Why wait for the wheels to come off to interact with our children? After all, even if we have just finished handling a problem behavior, and we anticipate several more before the day is done, in a broader context we must remember that all we really have at our disposal is this MOMENT. Parenting and working with our children in any capacity occurs at its best when we dispose of the burdens of the past and the future and attend to and take full advantage of what exists in the present.
Receptivity to learning is heightened when lessons are contained in the context of successful here-and-now experiences. And so is joy. By telling Billy that he is showing "respect" right now, or "using control" right now, or "being responsible" right now for patiently waiting his turn, we are choosing an instance of successfully demonstrating his competence. We not only share our esteem and enjoyment with Billy, we are very much teaching him an important element of respect, control or responsibility in the all-important context of an actual experience. This experience is very different from reading a story or viewing a film about any of these desirable qualities.
Contrary to commonly held belief and practice, lessons are not taught by waiting to catch Billy in an act of not being respectful. If he gets anything but a consequence when he breaks a rule, he is actually learning that he can capture our energy by misbehaving. In addition, children are not particularly receptive to "values" lessons that occur in the context of a problem behavior. If Billy has a pre-existing habit of getting attention for negative antics, then there is a high risk of his forming lasting opinions based on his observations of what circumstances can produce the greatest payoffs. The lecture after the rule is broken not only does not accomplish its purpose of teaching about respect, it becomes a reward of "energy" or "payoff " for disrespect.
Giving the "lecture" on a desirable and valued quality before the wheels fall off is timing it for when the lesson is going to be best absorbed.
Active Recognition: Points to Remember
Video Moments are the foundation strategy on which the subsequent strategies are built. These moments acknowledge, recognize and describe the child's behavior, actions, demeanor or possible feelings right then or describe the recent past. The purpose is to start and maintain a flow of "successes" and encouragement to the child. Video Moments are perceived by the child as successes.
Video Moments are neutral in that they suspend value statements or judgments like "great job." They are specific in describing to the child observations about a particular happening. They are not used to influence, coerce or manage behaviors. They simply reflect the behavior that you see.
An active stance will produce the best results of using this strategy. Take advantage of all opportunities, relying on your best conscious determination of what they are. Each application will help the child foster a new succession of impressions that successes are readily available in every corner of his or her life.
Active Recognition deepens your child's feeling and experience of being seen and held in esteem. She can then begin to reinforce the all-important new impression that your energy is available for positive rather than for negative behavior and begin to feel that she does not have to go to all the trouble of acting out.
Active Recognition: Prescription Plan to give your child between 10 and 20 Video Moments per day, or at least one every 10-20 minutes you are together throughout the day. Especially at the very beginning of this intervention, fairly frequent recognition sets up a workable foundation for progress. Powerful times to use this strategy are first thing in the morning and when the child is at play or relaxing. This technique is not to be used during times when consequences need to be delivered. Find creative ways to cue yourself to remember to use this technique.
Keep the Active Recognition straightforward and simple, and persist even if the child reacts negatively. This reaction is not unusual, especially in the beginning.
If your child acts out after you attempt a Video Moment, keep in mind that, until her underlying pattern is changed to key into successes, she may still feel that the best way to keep you with her is to pursue negativity. Therefore, continued acting out may be a sign to you that she liked the recognition and wants you to stay awhile. If this is the case, then more recognition, not less, is what will eventually contribute to loosening the hold of the old pattern.
Resist adding on requests to finish tasks, references to the past, subtle threats, judgments, guilt or other critical measures. Use Video Moments in as pure a form as possible for the time being.
Resist asking questions or making general remarks such as "Good job," "Oh wow," "That's great," etc., unless additional detail is supplied to expand your observation. It is the detail of the description that really provides the recognition. It is the specificity that is really convincing and supportive to the child… because it is felt as nurturing acknowledgement.
Try Video Moments on yourself or with parenting partners. It keeps humor flowing. It's not only children who love recognition. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that it expands your own base of success.
Practice! Practice! Practice! This is your foundation strategy, so being accomplished at it will pay off in the long run. If you've already been making similar comments, try expanding your repertoire by adding more detail, frequency and intensity to your recognition.
Words Of Encouragement
Negative attention of any kind is like junk food. It has no nutritional value. Video Moments are a form of attention that is highly nutritious. Think of it as invisibly massaging your child's heart. Also, just in case your child is defensive when you first begin using Video Moments, go with the flow of objections. For example, if your child says, perhaps in a grumpy or angry manner:
"Stop that, you're annoying me."
You can come back by saying: "I can tell that you're annoyed by your expression and your tone. I'll try to stop but I seem to be noticing things differently." Or: "I see that you're uncomfortable with what I said and I hear that you want me to stop. Noticing you is part of my job of parenting. I've realized that I have spent a lot of time noticing problems and I've decided to make a bigger deal of all the good things you do." By describing what you see, instead of backing off or getting defensive, you are maintaining your stand and, at the same time, have added to your child's future success by achieving yet another Video Moment.
Do not get thrown by your child's resistive reactions. Come back in a short while and do more of the same. This is an extremely unusual intervention and is a powerful beginning to the transformation process. Keep going even if this step of the intervention feels uncomfortable at first for either you or your child. If you were not noticed much as a child, this strategy may feel particularly strange at first. Use it despite the discomfort. Give yourself credit for your willingness to plow ahead.
Do not let your child derail you. You are the one who is frustrated and therefore motivated. You have the bigger picture. Even if your child very much wants to change, it is virtually impossible for him to make changes on his own for more than a few days at a time.
Your child desperately needs you to begin the process externally. He will internalize his own ability to give himself recognition over time. He may challenge you in various ways to see if you will abandon your new plan or challenge you to see if these new methods will be strong enough to withstand his resistance. The challenge is desirable. You must retain your stand: "I refuse to energize your negativity. I will strategically energize your successes." Seeing you not back down is for many children a crucial aspect of the process of transformation.
Some authors recommend similar interventions in context of a "special time." That's fine if you have longer periods of time available. However, with our busy lives, we often must capture just a few seconds here and there with our children. That will work. Half-minute visits using Video Moments are all that are required. Do as many as you can per day, whether they are between tasks or during commercials. Twenty visits a day would be incredible. However, you need not be a saint. Ten visits a day would still be hitting a home run. The total daily time of this intervention may add up to only five minutes.
Finally, keep in mind that this is only the first step. If you were rewiring a house, the first step would be to get to the wire box. This step is equivalent. The work we do here sets the stage. We can't mess around with the wiring unless we have proper access. We are setting out virtually to rewire the way in which your child chooses to function. Obviously, while you are laying the groundwork with the initial interventions, many difficult behaviors will continue. For now and for a few more weeks, until the timing is just right to set up consequences that will work, avoid as much as possible giving undue attention to negative behaviors. If a rule is broken, as a temporary measure issue a consequence with as little discussion as possible. Very clear instructions will be recommended later in the book when the stage has been properly set.
* Canfield, Jack et al, Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield, FL, 1996. Story told by Charles A. Coonradt
** . David C. Morrison, PhD. Grant Writers' Seminars and Workshops, Taos, New Mexico.
Copyright 2000 Brandi Valentine. All rights reserved. This Newsletter is copyrighted by the authors and/or publisher and is registered with the Library of Congress.
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