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Goal Setting For Behavior Change In Primary Care

Magical mystery tours
Another way of building a culture of cooperation is to shake up the routines of family life. The following strategy has been used successfully with countless families, and has been so successful that I recommend you consider doing it at least one day each year for each of your children.

Goal Setting For Behavior Change In Primary Care

Here's what it involves: invite your bright kid to come and do things with you. Don't tell her what you're inviting her to do in advance, just say, "I'd like you to come out with me today, there's a few things I've got to do."

If it's a school day, so much the better. Take her out of your local area to lunch or to the movies, the art gallery, a music event, to church, or to test-drive new cars that you have no intention of buying. Take her to places you normally wouldn't go with her. If she whines and complains and tells you it's boring, just agree and smile pleasantly.

Throughout the day, keep shifting from event to event. If she complains about one event, just say, "Oh don't worry, we're not there yet," and imply there is more to come. If she whines and says, "I want to go home," either reply by saying, "Just a little while longer" or, if she is seriously complaining, offer to return her to school.

The reason for this "magical mystery tour" is that bright kids are very accustomed to controlling their world. Spontaneity doesn't feature highly on their list of experiences. Broadening their experience gives them another view of your life as well as showing them that the world is bigger than they can imagine.

If your bright kid is prone to perfectionism - she has to get things right and things have to be just so - this strategy should be used more often. Spontaneity is the antidote to controlling, perfectionist behavior.

The idea is to expose your bright kid to a different view of the world. The idea is not to give her a day where she necessarily does all her favorite things. It's not a day spent doting on her. Even so, it's a good idea to have a few treats mixed in with other experiences, just in case the complaints get too exasperating.

Bright kids who are used to lots of control don't give up their power too easily. Even so, the magical mystery tour teaches them that life can be adventurous.

Start a new dance

Getting what you want requires planning for what you want. Starting a new dance involves thinking about the changes you really want for yourself and for your bright kid.

Be clear about what you want 

Write down in three sentences or less what your goal is. Make it one goal only. Be careful: it is often easier to write down what you don't want rather than what you do. For example, "I want him to stop running off from school" or "I want her to stop teasing her younger brother" should be changed into the positive, "I want him to attend school" or "I want her to learn to be civil towards her brother."
Goals should be short, precise, and phrased in terms of starting something rather than stopping something. Look over your goal. Is there any way of making it smaller or more achievable? The larger a goal, the easier it is to miss. Break it down if at all possible. List all the things you've already tried that haven't worked. This will remind you not to use them again.

Negotiators (a.k.a. "the Barts") are so skilled at shifting the battle to suit themselves, they can run rings around you. Fewer goals are better. One or, at most, two goals every six weeks is the most parents can cope with. Remember the fable of the race between the plodding tortoise and the speedy hare? The tortoise won by being persistent. Be the tortoise!

Start observing your bright kid. Your quest is to find times when the problem doesn't happen. Don't pay attention or respond when the problem happens - you already know enough about the problem. The more puzzling issue is to find out what's going on when the problem isn't around. If we can work out what is happening when the problem behaviors are not, we are well on our way to an answer.
For example, what's happening when he seems happier? What is going on when he is calm and friendly, or when he does come out of his room to talk?

Most parents, when they are first asked to notice when the problem behavior is not happening, either shrug and say, "Easy, it's when he is getting his own way," or laugh and say, "Hey, the kid has to sleep some time." It's important to have a fresh look at this.

For almost every bright kid I have ever worked with, there have been many factors that lead to problem and non-problem behaviors happening. 

Keep non-problem times firmly in your sights. It's too easy to get sucked back into thinking about the problem and whatever it is that might be causing it. This only blinds you to opportunities for change. If you find things that seem to be happening when the problem isn't, see if you can make more of those things happen more often. To find out more, you can check out Goal Setting For Behavior Change In Primary Care.