Tips On Change


Change comes incrementally over time and is constant; a new change can become routine in three weeks.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | September 23, 2015

By the time people get to a self-help group, they may be at their lowest point and are desperate to change things quickly.

That is true with any self-help venue whether it be Parents Anonymous, quitting smoking or any 12-Step group; rock bottom is no fun matter. Speaking for myself and other parents who come to Parents Anonymous, by the time we admit we need help, we are ready to pull our hair out. It takes a few meetings to trust the group and then we are ready to buckle down and do the work.

There are two important things that all members should understand to reach success.

1. Change only one thing at a time. (Two if the changes are simple.)

Frustrated parents may pull out a notepad and begin to jot down new rules to implement, new ideas to try and a timeline for when all this should be completed. In a perfect world it would be nice if children cooperated, there was more hours in a day and parents had an endless supply of energy. But there is no perfect world. To try and tackle a laundry list of changes in a set amount of time would be setting a parent (and child) up to become more frustrated and to fail.

Children are, well, children; they would not be able to cope with a number of rule changes or activity pattern changes quickly. Parents want children to have success at attempting any new challenge. By limiting the number of requests or changes until they have mastered the first is the best way to help them achieve that success.

2. Allow 21 days or three weeks for any change.

The accepted school of thought states that it takes 21 days for a change to kick in and become a normal pattern of behavior. If the new rule is to change clothes immediately after coming home from school when kids were used to having a snack first then changing, it will take at least three weeks, maybe more, for that pattern to become the norm. Remember that nothing is forever.

Patience is an important key when dealing with ourselves or children; we all slip up on occasion. And there are always exceptions to almost any rule. Can you think of an exception to the above-mentioned rule on changing clothes immediately? What if the child is ill? What if the child needs to eat due to a medical condition?

Stick to 21 days for new rules unless the child appears to have a grasp of the new pattern and can add a new change. For instance, if a child is consistently changing clothes immediately after a week then parents can add a new rule sooner, like walking the dog after having an after-school snack.

With each success, kids should receive verbal feedback. It doesn’t have to be overdone, a simple comment: “You mastered the new rule and I appreciate that.”

PHOTO: Courtesy of Mikael Kristenson & Unsplash.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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