First, I will ask the reader to look at the difference between “argue” and “debate.” Quite a few of us in American culture can run into some confusion, because of our pioneering spirit. We cherish our independence. A lot of early training in the families of this country, reflects the value in standing up for what we believe. Otherwise, there would not be much protest against government agencies trying to dictate how to raise the kids and run the household. We don’t like being told what to do, period. I for one, hope that this healthy attitude continues. Human beings are not sheep.
When a person is in debate of an issue, he does best when ready with a convincing set of facts. His platform for debate may not guarantee a win of the most votes, but he can at least pavé the road to a later credible battle. Unlike argument, which is a behavior based on emotional defense, the act of debating serves a purpose. The opponent is invited to share information and the goal here is to clarify the gravity of the issue. A solution is eventually reached. In arguments, there is nothing but an angry push from each person to see who is the strongest. And when emotion is ruling the behavior on each side, the information (if any) is only distorted and both parties are further from a solution. So another day goes by without anything productive happening. It’s just a cycle of futility. To argue needlessly is akin to climbing a mountain made of butter with cellophane shoes.
My way of helping to curb the impulse to argue or be led into an argument is simple and easy. Of course, this works best when there is a personal acknowledgement of the costs about such behavior. The method has to do with using physical cues to help monitor the rate of impulsive acts. Your job is to cut down on the number of times per day, that a disagreement or behavior triggers an emotional reaction. For example, if six-year-old Johnny says the “No T.V. after 7:00 at night rule” is stupid and you are starting in with “No it’s not” then go ahead and put a colored chip labeled “I argued again” in the designated can. I’ve been known to label the cans for this kind of process, with words that remind the client of what we talked about in the session. Bringing a souvenir home from vacation has the same effect.
Ever done the “pocket of rocks” exercise? It entails filling your pockets with rocks and only taking one out to drop it on the ground when you let go of a usual behavior. We’re talking about self-defeating behaviors such as avoiding the person who you have a problem with. In order to get rid of a rock, talk to the person and bring up the issue. There’s no guarantee of you and the person straightening things out right away, but the avoidance is over. The pain-in-the-ass action of hiding your feelings and thoughts is past, at least in this respect. To talk is a way to add dimension to the issue and offer yourself and other people with a choice of what to do on the matter.
Many of us assume that because our thoughts and feelings exist, the other people in our lives will automatically know how we stand on everything. Because of this, we expect these people to behave a certain way. But we end up being surprised and hurt on a daily basis. And it turns out that none of us have acquired the ability to read minds. People young and old, whether you think it’s right or not, are going to go about their business towards needs and wants of the moment. No amount of protest is going to make any lasting difference. An occasional demonstration of anger is much like hearing a car backfire while walking down the street. Some people might feel startled and look in that direction, but are soon continuing to walk on. So a noise was made. Big deal.
Most of us do pay attention to established rules. Rules are based on the costs and benefits of certain behaviors. The cost of my son yelling and screaming while I’m on the phone, is that I’m only hearing part of what the other person says. I’m missing out on information and have to ask the caller to repeat himself. Now I have to spend a longer time on the phone. More time on the phone, means less time doing something else which is important to me and my son. This means we lose all around. New household rule: Quiet when someone is on the phone. The consequence to disobeying this rule is…
The rule is made aware by discussing the costs and benefits with all household occupants and then posting it in a central place. Now it’s out of your head and on paper or poster board. Everyone can see it and you don’t have to rely on the fantasy of mind-reading.
English: A Bully Free Zone sign – School in Berea, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have you ever noticed that a bully and target relationship consists of peer-support on the side of the bully? There may not be the matter of in-your-face cajoling from people surrounding the target, but harassment or intimidation continues permitted. It’s a social game based on self-preservation for everyone involved. If co-workers or underlings in the workplace are letting inappropriate treatment slide, then you can rest assure that none of them want to be targeted themselves.
The object of threat in this case is temporary. Bullying only has its strength in the targeted person’s belief of who has the real power. And this can be changed in an instant. The reversal in power happens, when the target responds to the bully’s shaming remarks, with a word or phrase that requires a further explanation. For example, when someone tells you “your too quiet” and the response to this is “explain”, the person who made such a statement has to come up with his reasons. Lets say that the bully does start listing what he believes are valid reasons for saying this. How about “Well you don’t talk much.” And you repeat the word “explain.” And then he says “Well I don’t hear anything from you when everyone else is talking.” This guy has made you the most powerful person in the workplace or classroom. And he has included everyone else in his obsession of your every action. What makes your behavior so powerful?
As you are effortlessly making him work for his justification in the bullying actions, everyone else can see strangeness in such behavior. Now, there is more focus on the bully’s struggle to defend the reason for such a weird action. Who wants to follow “weird?”
Energy and freedom are two motivating factors we can make mention of when helping the client to look at current behaviors. Certain behaviors can be considered as hot commodities. One of them being a physical action which proceeds with very few words attached to it.
When I tell a child to stop doing a certain action with his possession of an object or toy, it is more effective to take the toy and point to a seat. No matter how much he/ she protests, I stick to my directive of restricting his freedom to sitting in my prescribed location. The immediate consequence is his/ her restriction to a spot I pick and loss of the object or toy. For me to stand there and argue or try to calm protests is to spend my energy when it is not necessary. My action of swift physical action and few words attached is saving me energy and I have control in the transaction of freedom for the child.
On a daily basis, it is a natural trend for some of us to eat lots of crap and get through the day. The crap consists of personal/ work time spent redoing and repairing the damage done by others, through human error and some inconsiderate behaviors. It is a part of life. It is part of being human and living alongside of other human beings. Hardly anyone (I want to say no one) is immune to making readjustments, however small in order to get things done and be able to have some time away from the responsibilities. Life is problem-solving, and of course I am one who is grateful for this fact.
There is going to be a certain amount of time taken up by the occasional detours we have to navigate. Some days are just full of them and it sure is nice to approach the easier 30 minutes or hour of the weekday just deflating. And of course, there are many different ways to construct one’s time in order to make even the most challenging detours and patch-ups an adventure rather than chore. This is where the empowerment comes clear to us. The choice in how and what to do with our charges.
But then, there are certain situations which sort of eat away at our resolve. The behaviors and ensuing results which most people would categorize as extremely unnecessary and discouragingly persistent. I’m talking about the child’s or teenager’s behavior which keeps earning him/ her a disciplinary penalty and frequent visits with members of authority who don’t live in the house. The parent or guardian is definitely included in whatever action has to be followed through on. Any action, such as making sure the young individual attends appointments with Juvenile officers and school principals is time and effort subtracted from work hours and family life at home.
I want to claim the authority to say that most children and youth who are on the path of inviting penalty, tend to make this a pattern. Since hardly anyone under 17 years of age is living without some form of adult supervision, there is more than one person besides the youth who has to carve out a period of time to endure the results.
With this said, is it safe to say that treatment for destructive behavior is important and worth consistent attention?