Imagine a workplace where the Boss makes a statement like this: “If you don’t finish that report by end of today, you will be fired!’ And then, when the employee doesn’t finish the report, nothing happens. No one is fired. The boss meekly thanks him for the report when he handed it in the following week. No firing, not even a warning.
What will happen the next time the boss makes a similar demand? Hasn’t the employee already learned that the threats are just…well, threats? The employee’s behavior will not change – why would it?
What does the future look like for that company?
The boss gets increasingly frustrated, the employee performance suffers since there are no repercussions and the reports are handed in late on a consistent basis. That department soon falls into chaos impacting the entire company.
NO DIFFERENCE AT HOME
Why should we expect anything different from our children when we make idle threats that we don’t keep?
We have all seen it a thousand times. Parents use the exact same formula: demand, threat, inaction.
“If you don’t stop what you are doing right now, we are leaving this party and going home!” Child continues the behavior and the parent does nothing about it.
“If you don’t stop teasing your little brother, you are going to your room!” Parent throws hands in the air in frustration.
“If you don’t stay in your chair, we will never take you out to eat again!” Of course, there will be future trips to restaurants.
The problem is not just promising a punishment that is never delivered. It begins before that. The problem is making a threat that you either don’t intend to or unable to enforce. The root problem is promising something before thinking it through and determining if you will take the action you stated.
By promising a punishment you really never intend to act upon, you are placing yourself in a no-win corner. The child learns that the threats aren’t real and, therefore, doesn’t change behavior. You have made a promise you can’t or won’t deliver so you have given up your power and your authority. You have also begun a cycle that will only escalate, probably beyond the merits of the original mis-behavior.
So, the first step is to never promise anything, punishment or reward, that you aren’t willing and able to act upon exactly as promised.
Don’t simply throw out the first thing that comes to mind. Pause a moment to reflect. Sometimes, in order to change behavior, the punishment doesn’t have to be immediate, as long as it is carried out.
For example, if leaving a party immediately is just not possible or preferable, promise a result that will occur at a later time, such as no video games for a week. Follow this same process each time:
- Get your child’s full attention. Never make this type of promise to a running child or one still engaged in play. If you want the message to truly be received, you must have the full attention of the child.
- Explain the unacceptable behavior.
- Explain what will happen if nothing changes.
- Allow the child make up his or her own mind as to what action they will take.
Unless the behavior is life-threatening, you might allow the child to continue the behavior unabated.
Yet, imagine the reaction when, hours later, you calmly implement the punishment and, for example, removed the game device. The next time, if there is a next time, the child will take the promise much more seriously.
This is the most critical step; Never promise a result of continued unacceptable behavior without keeping your promise. You must show the child consistency and that your promises are not idle threats.
Never make a promise to a child, or anyone for that matter, that you aren’t going to keep.
Please understand that by “punishment” I don’t endorse or encourage corporeal punishment for a child. Punishment is simply meant to describe a result of unacceptable behavior. It is up to you, the parent or care-giver, what is fair and just for your child.
Even though I used the word, “child” throughout this blog, I suggest the same rules apply when dealing with teenagers and people at work you manage. As a parent and manager myself for over
35 years, I have lived by this concept and it has always worked well for me.
I was watching my nephew play Minecraft last weekend. In case you have been living in a cave, Minecraft is a blocky video game that is all the craze with young children.
He was interrupted by his mother to open a small gift. It was maze cube where the object is to tilt the cube back and forth to guide a metal ball through the maze to release a latch. Inside the cube is money.
He picked up the cube, tried the maze for all of 5 seconds, tossed it aside and went back to banging on the keyboard.
This demonstration of impatient behavior made me wonder. Is technology, in all it’s immediate gratification glory, training us and our children to no longer have patience with anything more than to blow up, get captured or win a level?
There are plenty of much more qualified experts than me to ponder and study this question. However, intuitively, I feel there is a shift happening.
We’ve all heard about Millennials needing immediate feedback, preferably pats on the back (equivalent to “likes”) from their bosses. (Is there a correlation here that in many games, the ultimate opponent on each level is called “The Boss”?) While they impatiently await promotions and other perks on the job, which is greatly in vogue following Google’s model, they lack the patience to even memorize a phone number.
When was the last time you actually memorized a phone number? I know it’s been many years for me. I don’t even know my own daughter’s.
I know you are thinking we don’t need to, anymore, but I shudder to consider losing my phone during an earthquake and having no way to contact her. Of course, that is until the stores re-open and I can download my contacts into my new phone from the mysterious cloud.
Are we hurtling towards a future video game-suckled generation that will treat their lives like a series of quick hurdles? Will they lack the ability to settle in for the long haul to tackle the big issues? You might want to read another blog of mine called “Why do I have to learn Algebra???” as you consider this issue.
Whether these questions concern you or not, it does serve as a reminder to introduce other activities other than technology-based into our children’s lives. Activities that may challenge them in the real-world without quick and easy solutions.
These may be different for different families ranging from reading to outdoor exercise. The key is balance.
Technology is not going away and, undeniably, has improved our lives. Yet the maxim applies here: be aware of too much of a good thing.
Who knew a simple marketing query e-mail to Susan Goulding, a Staff Reporter for the OC Register, would receive such a quick and excited response.
Sometimes, I think, we make things harder than they need to be. Susan immediately responded, expressing interest, and said she would be in touch. She was true to her word.
The next day I received a phone call, “Mark, will next Wednesday work for you? I will have a professional photographer with me.” Talk about exciting! My first article!
For 2-1/2 hours I answered all of Susan’s questions and posed for photos while Susan interviewed my neighbor and his 5-year old daughter, who had purchased The Storytelling Box.
Being 59, I asked the Photographer if he wanted to back up a little, maybe to Fullerton, but he insisted on a close-up. Where was my makeup person, my hair stylist and gauze to shoot through (shades of Doris Day)?
Creating a product, in retrospect, was simple, despite what I thought at the time, when compared to marketing it. This process is 10 times harder especially when wading into unknown waters such as social media.
MARKETING IS A WHOLE NEW WORLD
A comparatively few years ago there was no such word as BLOG, much less entire websites devoted to them. Tweet was a sound made by a bird and a facebook would have described a photographers collection of portraits.
Today, they are the difference between success and failure in getting the word out on a product. It’s reached a point where companies will do almost anything to get eyeballs (a slang term today that would have referred to a gruesome hobby for a serial killer years ago).
I suppose if I make a YouTube video holding a gun to my head threatening to shoot if every parent in the country didn’t immediately purchase one of my boxes would increase sales dramatically. Not my style.
I’d rather run naked through a public park, screaming, “The Storytelling Box, The Storytelling Box”, but that’s just a personal preference. (Don’t worry to those who have seen me naked – I’m not going to do that either.)
Actually, I will be taking advantage of YouTube (with my clothes on) very soon. I will be creating a weekly Storytelling with Mark video where I create a original story on camera using The Storytelling Box. Gotta walk the talk, right?
I have to thank my social media guru, Oscar Gonzalez from NotaGrouch.com. He is my lifeline as I venture out into the deeper social media waters, teaching, encouraging and supporting me so I don’t drown.
Everyone needs a mentor as they attempt to learn a new path. Oscar is mine. I actually wrote about the value of mentors in another blog (See how easily “blog” just trips off my tongue?) I find myself taking my own advice.
You can read the wonderful article here: OC Register article. I hope this is just the beginning.
I know nothing about study groups. I have no idea how that happened.
4 years in college and I wasn’t part of a single study group. Certainly not in High School. Was it like everyone was having a party and I wasn’t invited? I regret missing out on this it to this day (and “this day” is [snort, snort] many moons later).
I think study groups would have enhanced my college experience, helped with my studies and improved my grades. Not to mention having a support group to help get through the tough classes.
So having confessed I know nothing about this topic, I’m going to write about it, anyway, because that’s what I do. I’m a Daddy Blogger and (a) I hadn’t realized that I was a Daddy Blogger until someone told me so and (b) is there such a thing? I’ve heard of Mommy Bloggers, but Daddy?)
STUDY GROUPS IN THE MOVIES
I’m going to make some assumptions based on movies I’ve seen. Even if I’m only partially correct in these assumptions, there will be a point to be made at the end, I promise.
So, in the movies, I only see study groups with college kids who are either studying law or medicine. You never see an engineering study group or a journalism study group.
My assumption based on hardly any evidence at all, is that study groups are mostly popular only with the severely high pressure areas of academia. And, if study groups were used by others, it might be only occasionally and just before a test.
DON’T MISS OUT
I suggest that most students are missing out, as did I. I don’t think study groups should replace individual studying; far from it. Students should prepare for a study group by learning the material beforehand.
The study group should be used for review and reinforcement of what has been learned. For sharing new ideas or approaches, which requires strong grounding in the subject matter first. Also, a study group can help when a member simply doesn’t understand something and needs help.
Mostly, though, a study group can be used to hold the student’s toes to the fire, as it were. Unless they want to be completely humiliated, any student will be very motivated to know the material before being tested by their peers. Nothing worse that looking stupid in front of fellow students.
I would suggest that this type of peer pressure is much more effective than any type of punishment, threats or even support parents can offer. And that’s only because they are “parents”. Let’s face it, when we really want our children to learn something key, isn’t it always more effective when it comes from a objective 3rd party, rather than a parent?
How many times have we seen that what we said went in one ear and out the other. Yet the moment our wonderful child hears the exact same thing from a friend, it suddenly makes sense. Ah, the joy of parenthood.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL COLLEGE
I also suggest that students create and join study groups in High School – don’t wait until college. Aside from pure academic help, a study group can also aid in social skills development, particularly with a shy child.
I’m sounding more and more like an expert, huh. I’m not going to go into how to create a study group – there are plenty of resources on-line. Here’s one I found that seems pretty good.
My point is that study groups appear to be a simple and possibly effective way to support students on their path to success and can be utilized in all areas of study.
Don’t let your student miss out…like I did.