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Behaviors At Home

The Indifferent

Action: Why is my child behaving this way, what unmet needs does he or she have, and what specific things can I do to help him or her behave better?

Primary Causes of Misbehavior

This child is building a defense against possible failure. Such a defense is very difficult to break down because any little setback may turn the child back to the original behavior.

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Escape from Pain
This child can escape the pain of failure by being indifferent.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

If this child discovers a close friend in a peer or adult, it could affect his or her indifference.

This child has a real need for success—both academically and personally.

Actions to Take
  • Extend kindness, patience, and understanding to the indifferent child, even though doing so may be a strain.

  • Constantly present this child with opportunities for involvement, and search for areas of possible interest—regardless of how often such efforts are rejected. Involvement and interest are two components necessary to turn the indifferent child into a productive human being.

  • Accept two important facts in order to help this child—and keep your balance in the process. First, the parent is the adult and must be the first to recognize the indifference. The parent must also determine whether the indifference is school-related or more broad. This is significant for both approach and treatment. Second, the child must recognize the problem. A desire to change must occur in the child or the indifference will continue.

  • In the process of trying to help your child recognize the problem, be aware that you are using the "Buying Time" strategic approach. You are persevering, in the hope that one day change will begin. Also, you're taking this approach knowing that if you quit, this child's whole life may be unhappy.

  • Accept responsibility for helping this child, and refuse to accept his or her rejection of your efforts. Realistically, this is the best attitude to take.

  • View this child objectively rather than personally. Don't think the indifference is aimed at you. It's not. It has to do with your child himself or herself.

  • Be aware that, at some point, this child will probably move in healthier directions because of changes in time, situations, and conditions.

  • Don't do anything that will prolong the indifference or make changes more difficult or impossible.

  • Wait and talk to this child when he or she is not "on the line" for something he or she failed to do.

  • During your conversation, place the indifferent child in a position to make a decision. The best way to do this is to ask rather than tell. When your child fails to answer your question, ask another quickly. Don't volunteer or suggest an answer if he or she doesn't know. Your concern is not with the answers themselves, but merely with the fact that your child is answering. Allow your child to express himself or herself without your commenting on the answers.

  • If you feel your child may have a serious emotional problem, talk to your child's teacher or school counselor about seeking professional help.

  • Don't quit on this child, even if the child quits on himself or herself.

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Please Note
We are labeling behaviors, not children! For the sake of convenience, we will describe behaviors with terms such as The Whiner or The Interrupter.

Never use such labels when talking to—or about—children! Doing so could cause many new problems and seriously damage the teacher-student or parent-child relationship.