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Attitude Makeover: Manipulative

Step 5. Set a Consequence that Enforces Honesty and Ethics
Beware: Confronting kids with their deceptions long after the fact ("Your teacher last year said you had cheated" or "Remember when you lied to me about your chores last month?") is useless. For consequences to be effective in curbing bad attitudes, they must be enforced immediately and fit the crime. I always think the best consequences are ones that also right the kid's wrong. With that said, here are some consequences that help kids tune up their moral attitudes, face their wrongdoing, as well as learn that manipulation is not acceptable:

"If you take something, you will return it to the owner with an apology."

"If you break something, you will pay for it out of your earned money."

"If you are dishonest, you owe the person a sincere apology as an admission of your wrongdoing."

"If you got out of a responsibility through deception [such as practice or a chore], you owe that time by doing that practice or chore."

Don't expect your manipulator to immediately get the connection between the enforced consequence and the moral message you're trying to instill. He will in time. Right now, a manipulator needs to recognize that any time he commits an ethical infraction (such as a dishonest, manipulative act), he must make face his wrong and try to make things right. If he doesn't get it at first, he will eventually because you will continue to hold him accountable.

The First 21 Days
Immediately begin a No Excuse, No Blame Policy in your home. Manipulators rarely accept responsibility – it's always someone else's fault, they think, and so they make up excuses and fault others for their oversights. "How am I supposed to remember? It's your fault." "The coach didn't tell me." "The teacher should have reminded me." Don't allow it. Instead announce that the new operating premise in your home will always be honesty and accountability. Here's how to begin:

  1. Gather the masses and state your policy: "From this moment on, no excuses or blaming others are allowed. Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, duties, work, and schedule." Be really clear on this one: you will not rescue, write an excuse, or do their tasks.
  2. Brainstorm the most common issues that cause you, your partner, or the kids to make up excuses and blame others for. A typical list might include: "forgotten" dentist appointments, chores, video rentals, oboe practice, school testing days, homework, and money for lunches.
  3. Make a chart, checklist, or schedule so everyone is clear on their responsibilities, and kids (and parents) can't use manipulative tactics like excuses or blaming others if they "forgot." Post it on the refrigerator so everyone sees it, and you can refer to it as "proof" when needed. Picture charts can be substituted for younger manipulators. Here are a few ideas:
    Charts. List chores, expectations, and rules.
    Calendars. Write personal schedules (appointments, homework schedules, practices, recitals, parties, events, library book due notices). Consider purchasing a weekly or monthly calendar printed on a white board. You can then write on it again and again with washable pens.
    Contracts. Put behavior agreements and consequences for manipulation infractions in writing. All relevant parties should sign it.
    Refrigerator magnets. Purchase one magnet per family member. Any special events, notices, or reminders are then clipped to the magnet and remain visibly on the refrigerator. Hint: Sometimes the best reminder is a single word written on a note card and attached to the magnet: "Chores." "Homework."
The key to a successful No Excuse, No Blame Policy is simple: don't accept any excuses, guilt, or pass-the-buck tactics from your kids. Manipulation works only if you let it work. So don't let it.

Attitude Makeover Pledge
How will you use these steps to stop your kid's manipulative attitude and achieve long-term change? On the lines below, write exactly what you agree to do within the next twenty-four hours to begin changing your kid's attitude so he is less manipulative and more honest and forthright.






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From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.


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