Many families seeking change for their children arrive after trying many other routes to help their children. Whether it’s anxiety that just gets worse, tantrums that have grown to an explosive level, unmotivated teens who won’t do anything, escalating attentional issues from ADD/ADHD, or even the disrespectful, oppositional child… many parents find years of therapy to be, at best, a band-aid. Often, they have invested hundreds of hours in treatment, and home life has only eroded. Why is that counseling frequently failing to help?

Where is the Motivation for Change?

Notice that we can ask straightforward questions and get a solid pointer to understand this problem. The question is this: Where is the motivation for change coming from? Who really wants the change? Who is motivated to make things better?

In most (not all) of these situations, Mom and Dad want change. It’s the parents who are upset with the behavior! Mom and Dad are losing sleep, talking to therapists, teachers, and physicians… while reading book after book or chasing answers online.

Of course, at times, this is essential. And when we, as parents, can exert control over factors causing the problem, these efforts can be helpful. But many times, we are heading down a path where we want to get a child or teen to change their habits, but they have little sincere interest in change.

You Can Lead The Horse To Water, But You Can’t Make Them Drink.

We all know this old saying and the wisdom it conveys. Nowhere does it remain more true than with our children when it comes to forcing them into change via therapy?

We intuitively know this, as they repeatedly ignore our sound advice. Then, in therapy, we see that they ignore the sound advice of the therapist. Again, let’s keep this simple: They aren’t interested in changing, and thus… the good advice does not apply to them.

“It’s Your Fault. Not Mine!”

This is the eternal battle cry of many children with motivational, oppositional, and behavioral issues. When problems arise, the responsibility for the problem is projected onto others, and thus, all good advice is deflected. Remember: good advice is meaningless to them if they are not responsible for the problem.

We must surrender trying to ‘convince’ them that they must take responsibility. It will not work to use words to get better behavior. Words only work when the listener is eager to absorb and use those words of wisdom to bring about change.

Is this the case for most children or teens who are acting out? No, of course not. You can try using words, thinking better words are needed. Maybe even thinking that more professional words will work, and thus, a therapist is the answer. Yet, rarely do I find this to be true.

Keep This Question In Mind: “Who Is Working Hardest At This?”

If your child is in therapy, observe. Notice who works hardest in the session. Is it you? Is it the therapist? Who walks out with tasks to do and actually does them? You often see the child uncooperative and disengaged in the change process.

The same question will serve you at home. In repeated problem situations, notice who is working harder to fix things. Who works harder to secure your child’s happiness, their success, and their becoming responsible? When you do so, you will see that this formula will not work, and we must find a way to balance and action. If efforts are to work, you and your child must be involved in the solution.

Change your approach if you struggle to get your children to be cooperative. Learn to utilize leverage upon your child, and then you can see results. Without it, it’s spinning circles with more and more words flying about but little behavioral improvement. You can learn more about how we approach such situations by checking here.