Helping your Child to Succeed in Middle School

Parents: Always separate your child's attitude from behavior

Always remember the rule about attitude and behavior: If you’re getting the behavior, be careful about criticizing a bad attitude.  If you don’t, you may see a bad attitude and a rejection of your request.

Ask yourself, “Is my child doing what I asked him or her to do?” If the answer is “yes, but…” you need to ignore the “but” because your request was for the child to complete the task – and he or she is doing as you requested.  Remember your primary goal is to get the behavior you requested.  If you complain about your child’s attitude during the process, it is likely that he or she will stop and walk away from the task. Also keep in mind that if you have misread the attitude and given a punishment when your child thought he or she was complying with your request, your child is likely to think, “Why should I do anything if I’m going to be in trouble no matter what?”

Attitude and behavior are two very different responses from your child – and need separate reactions from you. Expecting your child to clean his room with a smile on his face or complete her homework without procrastinating may not be realistic.  After all, there was probably a time when you were unhappy about a project you had to complete at work or when you didn’t want to stop a favorite activity to do a chore around the house, but you still completed them – and most likely expected someone to acknowledge your efforts.  Kids are no different.

Don’t give attention to the attitude at the wrong time. Letting your child see or hear your frustration will only fuel the bad attitude and may lead to a disagreement.  Either ignore the attitude or, if you find it difficult, leave the room.  This action will allow your child to complete the chore more quickly because he or she will no longer have an audience for which to perform.  It will also keep you from reprimanding the bad attitude which could cause your child to refuse to complete the task.

There is a time and place for correcting attitude. You should discuss your child’s attitude with him or her at another time, in another place, or on another day.  By delaying your reaction to your child’s attitude, you don’t interfere with your ability to get the behavior you are requesting.  This delay also gives you the chance to operate from the positive and hold the position of an advocate – rather than create a negative situation.

Portions reprinted with permission from the Master Teacher “Helping your child succeed in middle school” volume 4 number 7