Parched, thirsty and in need of caffeine. You dredge your pockets for the change necessary to retrieve that Diet Coke from the machine outside some rundown hotel. “I cant believe its $.75 for a can of coke” runs through your mind as you drop 1 quarter, 2 dimes and 4 sticky nickels from your console into the machine.
Push. Nothing. Push. Nothing.
Push the “coin return…” NOTHING.
Frustration builds and you go back, but go back harder this time and push 3-4 times in a row. You look around, shake the machine, look around again and kick the *&%* out of the machine (it worked that one time).
This is one of my favorite metaphors for behavior. This occurs when a child (or anyone, really) does not get the result of a behavior he or she is used to. Almost every time I have pushed the button on the soda machine, I received what I wanted. I am used to that. I expect that. It’s a simple cause and effect relationship. But there are times when I don’t. This angers me and I engage in the same behaviors as we all do, which, at some point, has produced what we want (either the drink or the money back).
Here is the important part about your kid. When he starts “kicking the machine” you can either teach him that it works to kick the machine by giving in (sometimes as simple as attending to him when you were previously ignoring) or you can continue to withhold what he wants and let him walk away from the machine, only $.75 poorer. If you choose the first option, know that you not only just taught him to kick the machine, but also that escalating his behavior (from pushing to kicking) also works. This teaches that when intensity #1 does not work that intensity #2 will and if intensity #2 doesn’t then #3 or #4 will. You will teach persistence and escalation…not the good kind.
More on the drink machine later…