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To prevent or minimize misunderstandings in person-to-person communication would be sufficient reason for leaders to make the effort to become competent Active Listeners. For the last several decades some psychologists have been attempting to identify the critical ingredients in human relationships that foster personal growth and psychological health. Empathy is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others and understand their “personal world of meaning”—how they view their reality, how they feel about things. Obviously we have no need to change acceptable behaviors, and so we can accept the other person just as she is at the moment (the behavior is not interfering with our own needs getting met). In sharp contrast to Passive Listening, Acknowledgment Responses, and Active Listening, certain other messages typically communicate the listener’s desire or intent to change the helpee—a need to direct her behavior or influence her to behave differently. When children’s behavior interferes with their parents’ needs, as it inevitably will, parents naturally want to try to modify such behavior. First, much to their regret, many parents ignore unacceptable behaviors and watch their children grow up to be terribly inconsiderate or even oblivious of their parents’ needs.
Very young children present a special problem for parents, because they may be unable to understand verbal messages. When infants behave unacceptably, there is a good reason, but you have to try to guess what it is. Effective parents must learn to be good guessers with infants and toddlers, simply because these children can’t tell us much about what’s going on inside them. That is an example of the guessing game, an approach that parents have to use very frequently with infants – when they whine incessantly, when they are restless and pestering, when they can’t get to sleep, when they throw their food on the floor.
Another effective approach for changing unacceptable behaviors of infants and toddlers involves trading – substituting for the unacceptable behavior another behavior that would be acceptable to the parent. Laura, your curious 1 year old, has found a pair of your new nylons which she finds enjoyable to touch and tug on. Kevin is jumping up and down on the couch and mom fears he will knock the lamp off the end table.
Christy, age 18 months, starts to get up on her dad’s lap on the very night he is dressed in his freshly cleaned light-colored suit.
While Dad is carrying little Max in the supermarket, he starts to kick Dad in the stomach, laughing with each kick.


The key to employing this method of trying to modify unacceptable behavior is avoiding any kind of behavior that will be punishing or painful to the child.
Most parents intuitively know that one effective way of stopping many kinds of unacceptable behavior is to focus on changing the child’s environment, as opposed to efforts at changing the child directly. Most unacceptable (and destructive) behavior of toddlers can be avoided by serious efforts on the part of parents to “Child-proof the Environment”, as with buying unbreakable cups and glasses.
My First Parent Effectiveness Training Class Is it Fear or Regard – Why Do Our Children Respect Us? This intensive search, which initially focused only on identifying the characteristics and behavior of effective professional helping agents (counselors and psychotherapists), eventually led some to study the personal qualities of effective teachers, effective marriage partners, and effective parents.
If parents permit this, they will develop strong feelings of resentment and even grow to dislike such “ungrateful” or “selfish” kids. Nevertheless, it is actually quite easy to influence infants and pre-verbal children to modify behavior unacceptable to parents, provided the right approach is used. The cliche, “If first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, is the soundest advice I know for parents. The guessing game works so effectively because when infants do things that are unacceptable to their parents, there’s a reason for it – usually a very logical reason.
You find this unacceptable, because you’re afraid she’ll snag or stretch them into being unwearable. Mother gently but firmly removes Kevin from the couch and proceeds to jump up and down with him on the pillows which she removed from the couch and put on the floor. Dad notices that Christy’s hands are covered with jam mixed with equal parts of peanut butter. What parent has not watched a whiney, pestering, bored youngster get totally (and quietly) immersed when her parent provides her with some materials that capture her interest – clay, finger paints, puzzles, picture books or old scraps of colored cloth.
They’re keyed up and hyperactive just before bedtime, for example, so the wise parent knows how to “Impoverish the Environment”. Rather conclusive evidence emerged that at least two ingredients are necessary in any relationship of one person fostering growth and psychological health in another—empathy and acceptance. A climate in which a person can frequently feel empathically understood is conducive to that person’s overall psychological health and personal growth.


They have their own lives to live and the right to derive satisfaction and enjoyment from their existence. Secondly, most parents choose punishment as their first approach in trying to modify unacceptable behavior. Her parents are awakened from the sleep they need and naturally find this behavior unacceptable.
Actually, parents can get quite good at the game, because they get to know their offspring better and better.
Dad gently restrains Christy, but then immediately goes to the bathroom, gets a wet washcloth and wipes her hands clean. Slapping, hitting, thumping, pushing, jerking, yelling, pinching – all these methods inevitably communicate to the youngster that he’s bad, he’s wrong, his needs don’t count, he’s done something criminal and he deserves to be punished.
Overstimulated children will often calm down if they are read a fairy tale, told a story (real or fiction), or perhaps, a quiet period of sharing their day’s events. I believe this happens primarily because such a climate facilitates problem-solving, which results in greater need satisfaction. If parents permissively ignore behavior they don’t like, they suffer; if they rely on punishment, their kids will suffer.
Parents have told me that they eventually learned to tell the difference between a wet-cry, a hungry-cry and a gas-cry. Much of the storm and stress of bedtime could be avoided if parents made an effort to reduce the stimulation of their children’s environment.
When people solve problems and get their needs satisfied, they are freed to move farther up Maslow’s pyramid toward the higher level needs, discovering new ways of finding ¬self-¬achievement and ¬self-¬development. Laura, not knowing the difference, finds the damaged pair equally as enjoyable to touch and tug.



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