One night I went out and left my husband to care for our son and put him to bed. They played a video game for awhile until Dad said, “Ok, we passed this level, it’s time for bed.” When our son was resistant, Dad said that it is time for bed now or the video game gets taken away for awhile. Dad tried this highly promoted behaviorism technique to control our son’s behavior, but it didn’t work very well. Our son screamed, “You said, “Pass this world!” Not level! You said, “World!”
Dad was taken aback by this sudden burst of anger. Behaviorism would require a swift and harsh punishment for showing a lack of respect by shouting at an adult. Trying to remember the emotion coaching steps, Dad said, “You are really frustrated aren’t you?” Our son shouted with venom, “You mean! You mean!”
Against the behaviorism philosophy, Dad sat down on the floor next to him, and said, “Why am I mean?” Our son turned away and angrily growled, “I want Mom. Mom!”
Dad remained calm and said with compassion, “You miss Mom.” Our son hung his head. Dad said, “Would you like a hug?” Our son moved closer and Dad picked him up. Our son melted onto his Dad's shoulder. Our son’s demeanor was now like putty even though there was no punishment or intimidation involved!
As they were walking towards our son’s bedroom, Dad said, “I know! Let’s watch a little hockey before bed,” which is actually their current favorite bedtime ritual anyway. “Ok!” our son was appreciative and thrilled. He threw his arms around Dad’s neck and exclaimed, “You the best Dad ever!!!!” Our son was instantly ecstatic as he realized that his Dad still loved him even though he behaved as he did. When our son realized his own mood shift, he said, "Sorry, Dad."
Because our son rarely has outbursts such as this, Dad did not feel the need to set limits and say that shouting is not ok, or teach that we don't like outbursts like that. Dad's example of patience did the teaching. It truly was an opportunity for intimacy and teaching! The emotional outburst was an opportunity for Dad to teach our son about unconditional love. Dad might be mad when things don’t go well and they don’t cooperate together, but Dad proved through his loving actions that he always loves our son. Our son was then truly grateful, relieved, secure and peaceful.
Behaviorism's punishments and intimidation would have dragged that rotten mood and ugly scene out for hours and possibly into the next day. Both of them would have been angry and the situation could have escalated into new levels of fighting for them. My husband's emotion coaching disarmed the mood and de-escalated the scene in a matter of minutes. Their relationship was made even stronger and more loving afterwards. Because of emotion coaching, our son has a greater desire to cooperate with us. That is a good thing!