The Broken Record Technique

 

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.

 

There are times when parents must make requests that provide the child no choice but to comply. There are things children must be told or things that a child must do to assure their safety. There are things that the child must do to perform their part in the family or behave in an acceptable manner. On these occasions it is common for a child to protest, disagree, or defy a request made by a parent. And it is also common for a discussion, argument, or word battle to ensue.

To illustrate, here is an example of what can happen when a parent gives a simple request to a child:

·        Parent: “Mary, you need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “I don’t want to.”

·        Parent: “I understand Mary, but that is not a choice. I need you to be safe.” Mary: “But I don’t like to wear my seat belt.”

·        Parent: “We don’t always like to do things that we know are good for us, but sometime we have to do what is best for us.” Mary: “It’s not best for me.”

·        Parent: “Yes it is. You need to do it because it is the law.” Mary: “No it isn’t. Johnny says he doesn’t have to wear his seat belt.”

·        Parent: (Becoming frustrated) “I don’t care what other people do; in this family we wear seat belts.” Mary: “It’s not fair.”

·        Parent: “Fair or not you have to get in your seat belt. Now get in that seat belt right now.” Mary: “No.”

·        Parent: “Young lady, you heard what I said now get in that seat belt.” Mary: “Make me.”

·        Parent: “Well if that’s what you want then I guess I have no choice but to put in on for you.” Mary: “You’re just mean. I hate you.”

·        Parent: “Young lady don’t talk to me like that. I will not put up with that kind of behavior.”

This conversation could go on and on with the Parent continually responding to the child or for the parent to become forcing the child into the seat belt which will immediately be unbuckled creating further turmoil and conflict.

The focus of such requests should not be on the child agreeing or understanding the request or directive of the parent. The parent should already know what is best for the child. This is not only a given, this is a requirement of being a parent. If the parent does not already know they are right relative to what is expected of the child then the parent has a problem that needs to be addressed before assisting a child.

The other thing to consider is the fact that there are very few parents that I know that can win an argument with a child who has developed the verbal skills of a two year old. Time should not be spent trying to win an argument or convince the ignorant or disobedient child that you are right. Time needs to be spent focusing on the necessary behavior of the child. When you spend time arguing with your child you send the subtle message that you are not sure if the request is legitimate. Why defend yourself and your request if you know that such a request is right and in the child’s best interest?

An alternative to the word battle that can ensue when we allow ourselves to be drawn into one is to use a technique that is called the “Broken Record Technique.” Let’s use the previous example to illustrate an interchange between the parent and the child using this technique:

·        Parent: “Mary, you need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “I don’t want to.”

·        Parent: “Mary, you need to put your seat belt on.” Mary “But I don’t like to wear my seat belt.”

·        Parent: “You need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “It’s not best for me.”

·        Parent: “You need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “Johnny says he doesn’t have to wear his seat belt.”

·        Parent: “You need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “It’s not fair.”

·        Parent: “You need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “No.”

·        Parent: “You need to put your seat belt on.” Mary: “Make me.”

·        Parent: “You need to put your seat belt on.”

Normally, the conversation does not keep going if you use this technique because the child gets the idea that this is not something that you are going to argue about and if she wants to get on to other things she needs to comply.

If you have a child that is truly gifted in the art of defiance and loves to get into fights to obtain their selfish goals, you may choose to discontinue the Broken Record Technique at some point. When you do let the consequences of defiant behavior be your child’s teacher. Consequences have always done the job of teaching better then arguments of lectures. In a gentle manner, offer you child some choices such as staying home, missing out on the special events, staying with a baby sitter, or some other alternative.

There is no reason to take a child who has not learned to follow you counsel to any event that you desire to enjoy. Only their ability to do as they are told will assure that both you and they are enjoying the experience. Why would you take a child to an event and spend all your time in misery while they enjoy themselves controlling and arguing with their wimpy parent. It may be better to spend the time letting them know that the only way that they can obtain the freedom to do what they desire is to learn to follow those requests that you make of them.

They need to know that you would never ask them to do anything that was not in their (and your) best interest. If your child can internalize this concept, then both parent and child will find happiness growing up together. Use the Broken Record Technique to let them know that you love them enough not to argue with them over things that must be complied with.