I've been a child psychologist for twenty-seven years. I also work with younger children, but the principles are the same for changing behaviors. But first, there needs to be a little preparation.
Here's an exercise and a description of thes process that we can
use to change teenager's behaviors. Take a sheet of typing paper and
draw a line down the center, separating it into two vertical columns.
On the top of the right column, write "Negative Behaviors." These are
behaviors you don't like in your teen and want to change. In the right
column, on each line, write down one negative behavior. Take your time
and think about each behavior. Try to be specific. Put only one
behavior on each line. You could have only three, or fifty-three lines,
but each line has only one separate behavior. When you have finished,
we'll work with the left column. Take your time and think only about
the right column--only negative behaviors. Try to pick concrete, real
time examples, like "yells," "leaves a mess," etc. Stay away from bigger,
less clear behaviors like, "isn't trustworthy," "is depressed," etc.
Don't go on until this part is done.
Now, in the left column, put the opposite of each negative behavior
BUT first read this paragraph before you do. Most people put the word
"not" in front of the negative behavior listed in the right column when
they consider what to put in the left column. For example if the
negative behavior in the right column is "yelling," then "not yelling"
seems like the opposite behavior to put in the left column. But wait a
minute! Not yelling is not really a good behavior. It is the absence of
a bad behavior. It could be sleeping, which technically, is not yelling. But from this too-general-a-perspective, sleeping might be considered the opposite of lots of behaviors,
not just yelling. I'm looking for a specific, real time, present and
positive behavior that still is the opposite of the negative behavior in the right column, in this case, "yelling." I want to find a concrete behavior that is positive yet incompatible with yelling. That behavior is something like "talks quietly" or "talks normally." It has to be the opposite of "yelling" but also a real behavior--a positive, present behavior, not the absence of some negative behavior (yelling). This is the behavior to put in the left column.
This point is crucial and should be kept in mind as you go down the
page, converting each of the negative behaviors in the right column into
the opposite (but present and positive) behaviors in the left column.
Convert each behavior like this until you finish the list and have an
entry in both columns. The more specific and concrete the behaviors
are in the right column, the easier it will be to find the positive
opposite behavior to put in the left column. If the concepts are too
big in the right column (like "isn't trustworthy") then break the behavior down into its component parts until it is simpler. Then, it will be easy to pick the opposite positive variant.
Now, go on to the next article...