By Dr Nigel Mellor
Lucky Duck Publishing
ISBN 1 873942 43 5
With anti-social and aggressive behaviour among children on the
increase -Êand even among the very young – this practical
guide for parents is to be welcomed.
The author starts from the premise that bad behaviour is learned
behaviour and can therefore be unlearned and that the parents who
have allowed it, far from being neglectful, are too concerned to do
the right thing.
Whatever the original causes of persistently unacceptable
behaviour, a child who gets plenty of attention for it, even in the
form of negative criticism will learn to do it repeatedly. Parents
are advised to co-operate closely in the implementation of a
three-pronged action plan: ignoring, punishing and praising.
This may sound easy but the case studies at the end of the book
show how difficult it is to put into practice. Children who refuse
to eat, dawdle, throw tantrums, bite, fiddle, or smash things have
subconsciously chosen behaviour that is difficult to ignore. But
ignore it the parents must unless the behaviour is dangerous or
In this case punishment should be appropriate and immediate.
While putting the child in his room, or turning off the television
or taking away the food it should be made clear that the behaviour
not the child is being punished.
These children have become so problem-saturated that affirming
and appreciating them is the hardest part of the strategy. A
perfunctory “good boy” or “well done” is not enough. The child’s
positive qualities and actions need to be sought out and praised.
Being given a little responsibility can sometimes work wonders.
Despite the minimal attention to beliefs that prevent parents
from exerting discipline, and the somewhat simplistic use of
descriptions such as “good”, “bad” and “punishment”, parents who
are afraid of their children will be encouraged by this book to
take appropriate control with rewarding results.
Julia Tugendhat is a writer and