Excerpt from

“What did you do THAT for?”

Chapter Five
Pg. 50- 53

Have you ever noticed how the same child might act out in one classroom, yet not in another? When that child exhibits acting out behaviors in your classroom, I assure you, the behaviors of that one child can quickly become contagious and spread to others. Do you realize that these acting-out behaviors are a clear message to you? He/she is demanding that you RESPOND to his/her behaviors. You are being "asked" to provide STRUCTURE.

While you may not be able to completely provide STRUCTURE (boundaries) in his life, you can RESPOND to his behaviors by providing what he needs now: limits in this, his classroom. He NEEDS it and is counting on YOU to provide the BOUNDARIES (structure). He will, in fact, continue to REACT with these acting out, disruptive, and controlling behaviors until you do RESPOND to what he doesn’t even realize he is acting out for: STRUCTURE.

If YOU tell a child NO, you can’t have this thing you want.... YOU have just taught the child a BOUNDARY. Expect, then, the Boundary to be pushed, “Please, I really want this thing you won’t let me have!” If you next say, “Oh, ok, I give up, you can now have this thing you want that I said you could not have,” what did you really teach the child? You have taught the child that “No” means “Yes.” The child has further taught YOU that to get his/her boundaries moved, all he/she has to do is wear you down!

You DO know where CONTROL comes from, don’t you?

I think CONTROL began with one mother and her child. They travel around the country visiting different stores and outlets; you’re bound to have seen them. You may have seen them in the checkout line in your local grocery store.

The little one, sitting so demurely in the seat of the grocery cart, eyes the candy while Mommy waits patiently for her turn to pay for her groceries. The child points to a candy bar and says, “Mommy, I want one.”

Mother, the adult in charge, says, “No, you can’t have one.”

Now, keep your eye on the child. You will literally (almost), SEE the Behavior Cycle working inside her little body: The little one pulled up a previous memory from her Experience or “memory database,” processed the Feedback she just received from Mom (...and there will always be Feedback), and recalled another occasion when she ate candy and enjoyed it. She also SAW herself in a previous situation when she told Mom that she “wanted” something. In a flash, she weighed the Feedback (rewards vs. punishment), and in doing so, formed a new Expectation. She knew what she Wanted, refused to accept NO for an answer, chose a new Behavior (CONTROL), and plunged forward.

“Mother, I WANT one!”

Mother, feigning agitation, says, “NO, you can’t have one.”

Now the wheels really begin to turn in that little one. Keep WATCHING her process the past experiences and this brief exchange. (Remember, she has only two choices: She can ACCEPT “NO” and change what she WANTS, or she can choose CONTROL in an attempt to get what she wants, even though Mom already told her “NO, you can’t have it.”) Just keep watching this little girl and you will instantly realize that she’s not finished yet. Choosing to persist, she stomps her foot and for a third time cries, “MOTHER, I WANT ONE!”

As onlookers develop an increased interest in the exchange (Gee, do you think the child LEARNS to take advantage of that… hmmm), Mother hopes still to appear in control of the situation. Mother is now about to make one of the biggest decisions of her life, and she doesn’t even know it. She contradicts herself and says, “Oh, OK, but you can only have ONE.”

If you’re not in too big of a hurry, just stick around a minute longer and watch the child file that experience into her “database.” What do you think she will do next? RIGHT! There is a good chance that the very next words out of her mouth will be, “MOTHER, I WANT TWO!”

Mother rationalizes that she is still in charge and can end this public debate by getting in the last word. (We humans believe that if we get in the last word... or the LOUDEST word... that we will win a debate.) One more time she confuses the child and exclaims, “OK, but you can only eat them in the car!”

Now... What did Mother just TEACH her child?

That “NO” means “YES”
if you ask three times and stomp your foot once!


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