Modeling Behavior

I love writing blogs because it allows me to share things with my clients that I am unable to in the counseling room.  I do parent consultation frequently, and I wish I could share more often how much I relate to the parents. I am a child counselor AND I struggle with parenting at times… I know many might wonder why I would admit to that, or how that can be possible. The thing is, it’s not that I do not have the tools, but that parenting is just hard. What is easier in the moment often causes long-term problems. For example, when a child has a big reaction to a small problem, it might seem easier to yell at them in the moment. Instead, what will help in the long run is to show the child how to appropriately respond to a problem. The most effective parenting tool for changing behavior is modeling the apprpriate behavior.  

 A simple tool I like to share with my clients who struggle with emotional regulation is the concept of “Big Deal and Little Deal.” This allows a child to know the appropriate reaction to a problem. I realized today, however,  in my own parenting that my “big reaction” to my 3 year old’s tantrum was modeling that the “small deal” of his tantrum caused a “big deal” reaction by me. It was the exact opposite message that I wanted to send. I stopped  yelling and  apologized for my reaction. Some parents will argue with me that by apologizing as parents we lose our authority. This is untrue, instead it teaches a child how to apologize when they are in the wrong. I then showed him how to use words to express his frustrations and then we cooled down together  by counting to ten. Of course, many of you are thinking this isn’t going to help my  pre-teen or teenager who is talking back. It will. Instead of yelling back at your child, remain calm-even if it means walking away in the moment. Once everyone is calm, that is when discipline can be implemented. Modeling calmness and not reacting, does not mean that you do not discipline. Discipline is necessary, too. However, it is not effective when it is given as a reaction instead of a response.

Next time you become  frustrated with your child’s big reactions, try to reflect what message your own modeling is sending. Make it a teaching lesson and try to remember your child is still learning how to manage emotions and react. This is the perfect time to teach “Big Deal vs Little Deal” and modeling the appropriate response.  

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and the Clinical Director at Cy-Hope Counseling. Amy has been practicing for over ten years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Cypress, Texas and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Learn more about Amy's counseling style by visiting