By: Tammy Sassoon

We all love to be consulted with. If your friend asks you for advice about how to give quality time to her child each day, and you offer her a really good strategy, you will feel compelled to use that strategy yourself. You will feel even more compelled to use that strategy if you speak to this friend often, and you know that she will be aware of whether or not you have been doing what you advised her to do.

Children are the same. If you ask a child who is struggling with controlling his or her anger how to help a younger sibling who is struggling with anger, he will most likely offer you valuable advice, and then feel compelled to use the advice himself. The child knows that you live with him, and see his daily behaviors. By putting him in the position of offering advice, you give him the status of Advisor or Consultant. He will now want to show you how he conquers his own anger, in the very same fashion.

Example: Imagine that a seven-year-old-boy
named Abie has difficulty being kind to his peers. You notice that when he hangs out with his friends he tends to put them down. You decide that you want to teach him the skill of “giving compliments.” You decide to use the technique we call “Turn your child into a consultant.”

In this strategy, an adult consults with a child about how to deal with a different child. Here, Abie is told about another boy who has difficulty making friends, and puts the friends he does have down. He’s asked: What should this struggling kid be told? Usually, Abie will say something like, “Tell him that if he wants friends, he has to give compliments.” Abie is then thanked for the idea, and told that it might help the other child a lot.

Everyone Wants
to Feel Important

Since Abie offered advice that was respected, he now feels like he is the expert in the field, and is much more likely to give compliments to his peers. You can use this strategy with
any behavior.

Another example: I once worked with an impulsive fifth grader who had difficulty controlling his outbursts in class. I set up a “points” chart for his teacher to fill out to help him control his outbursts. I wanted to set it up so that his reward for conquering this challenge would be power.

As I saw him making some measurable progress, I told him that if he got a certain number of points on his chart over the course of that month, I would need him to come give a speech in a second grade class where the children were struggling with anger management. After a month of hard work, this self-made child gave a motivational speech in the second grade class about ways to control his emotional outbursts. He came to school dressed up in a suit and tie, and gave a beautiful speech about how he was overcoming his struggles. “Let me teach you a few things that will help you control your anger,” he began. His parents were sitting in the back of the room crying, as he told the younger children about one particular strategy he uses when he is angry. He puts all of his energy towards counting to 100 in his head, rather than screaming the way he used to.

Put in the Powerful Position of Advising Others

During the question/answerpart of the speech, a second grade member of the audience raised his hand and asked, “What should I do if I count to 100 and I am still angry?” The proud fifth grader said, “You count to 100 again and again, as many times as you need to!” He received a standing ovation from all of the adult members of the audience. This exceptional fifth grader ended his speech with, “If I can do it, anyone can. You will fall sometimes, but tell yourself that it’s okay because you are heading in the right direction.” Guess what happened to this child for the rest of the year. He was practically forced to live up to his reputation as “consultant,” and his ability to control his impulses at school improved dramatically.

Try this with a child who is struggling with one particular behavior this month. You’ll slowly improve the entire dynamic in your home. Good luck!