PARENTS' ROLE IN BEHAVIOR THERAPY
In order to make effective changes in a child with behavior problems, the parents must commit to working with the therapist. Consistency and family unity are the keys to change. Unless parents are willing to make this commitment to therapy, then the likelihood of success is greatly diminished.
It is not uncommon for the therapist to spend more time with parents than the child when behavior problems are involved. The child didn't get the way he/she is alone.
A therapist's role starts with doing a family history, then looking at parenting skills in play at the time of the first visit to a therapist. If the parents are at odds, the first step in therapy is to help them learn to work together. If there are serious family
issues where the child is caught in the middle, the therapist might recommend individual or couples therapy for the parents in addition to the work that is assigned for the child.
Parents must realize that their job is not to be the child's friend, but to be the leader of the family. Often resistance is met when new rules are being set. The therapist can have success in getting parents on board for change, pointing out that their method hasn't worked in the past. Often, by the time a therapist is consulted, the parents are so desperate they are ready for change. They need answers as to what methods will work.
Parents may be shown that what happens in their adult life parallels behavior issues with their child. A resistant parent can be asked what would happen to their job if they attempted to make their own rules and talked back to their boss. It becomes a matter of showing behavior programs for children are a means to help them adapt to the adult work and social environment they will encounter as they mature.
After the parents have committed to trying new methods, the therapist will help them outline behaviors that need to change.
Next, a list of current "rewards" will be listed. It is not uncommon for a child/teen to have his/her own cell phone, computer, and TV, as well as a hefty allowance. Unfortunately, children are often given benefits indiscriminately, without the task of earning them. Even when the child/teen is defiant, there are no consequences for their behavior. Parents can be shown how their child's current "perks", as well as new "benefits" can be assigned as "salary" or "reward" for good behavior. In the same vein, they can learn to enforce "no good behavior--no reward". For some parents, they need to have the "light bulb" go off to see what they have been doing is rewarding with no consequences for bad behavior.
During the initial stage of implementing a behavior program, the therapist will often stay in close contact with the parents to guide them. Parents need to vent their frustration, as well as receive praise and reassurance. This is new ground for them. They need to know that others have been through the same process, and they not only survived, but raised successful adults.
Some parents fear their child/teen will not love them if they restrict activities and take away such things as cell phone and TV when there is misbehavior. The child/teen may not "like" the parent at this time, but they will develop RESPECT for the parent, and from that love grows.
NONA OWENS, PH.D.
580 Springridge Rd.
Clinton, Ms. 39056
Child, Adult, and Family Therapist | Psychologist | Clinton | Jackson| Vicksburg | Brandon | Magee | Depression | Anxiety | ADHD | ADHD Testing | Divorce Recovery | Children in Divorce | Relationship Problems | ACOA| Co-Dependence | Grief Recovery | Oppositional Defiant Disorder | Medicaid