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Creating cooperative kids & connected families

Ever wondered why kids become uncooperative or how you can help them to stay calm and be more cooperative at school and at home? Manager of UOW's Northfields Clinic, Mark Donovan answers your questions around how to create cooperative kids and connected families.

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we're here today with mark donovan who's
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the manager of northfield psychology
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clinic at the university of wollongong
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northfield's clinic has been providing
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high quality mental health services to
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the community
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and supervise professional development
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for the university's psychology students
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for 40 years
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first off i wanted to ask you what are
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some of the most common reasons kids
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become
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uncooperative um if you think about
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children cooperation the word
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cooperation is about a relationship
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between two people and here it's a
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parent and a child
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and so we can kind of think about why
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would a child become uncooperative
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and and we're thinking well there's
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there's three main things
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um the first would be biology we just
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know that some children
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uh by nature's uh and they're a little
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more short fused
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they find it harder to kind of run with
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the pack they want to do their thing
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in their time and so if you say to them
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you know go and
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put your shoes somewhere else they've
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got to stop doing what they're doing
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they find that harder so there's going
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to be
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sort of biological factors but it's not
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just the child because it's also the
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parent that's going to influence
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the cooperation as well so apart from
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biology we've also got then
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the environment what's happening in the
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environment and so we know that
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in some households there's a lot of
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stress and so
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within that more stressful household
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maybe instructions are given less
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clearly
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maybe children are already sort of quite
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hot
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before they're asked if they can then
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put their shoes somewhere else
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we also know that there's a whole bunch
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of sort of background factors that cause
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a lot of stress for families
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like um uh you know social
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uh disadvantage um so we know the
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families where there isn't enough money
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uh where maybe um there's a whole bunch
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of other
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difficulties that they're bringing into
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their experience of being a parent from
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their own
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upbringings that those families
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unsurprisingly um there's going to be
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more stress
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and then that stress is going to convert
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into a lack of cooperation at times
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so there's two main ones but the third
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one then is really about
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the patterns of behavior between the
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parent and the child
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and so over time parents and children
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learn how to
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be with each other and we'll see that
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some children will then sort of learn
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the behavior of being uncooperative
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and that's learnt over sort of you know
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months and years
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but then they can become a rut and
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likewise parents
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learn a behavior of inadvertently
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fueling some of those uncooperative
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behaviors
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we used a kind of a little metaphor to
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kind of put it together
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um here at the university sort of think
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a little bit about fire
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um which of course you know we've
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thought about a lot about that in the
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last year
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um you're thinking fuel wise which is
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the biology
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it's like you know we just know that
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some children are a bit more combustible
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some parents will get more combustible
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too and there's going to be more likely
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of having those sorts of difficult
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behaviors uncooperative behaviors which
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become like the fires
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they can sort of rage through families
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and make it pretty difficult
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we also know that there's some families
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where there's a lot more heat around
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they've got those sort of social
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disadvantage factors maybe somebody's
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lost a job
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maybe someone's got a lot of stress at
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work maybe someone's got a lot of stress
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at school
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there could be academic difficulties
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there could be a whole bunch of
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different heat factors it could also be
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just
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tired and hungry you know or don't want
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to do it
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so those sort of heat factors and then
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oxygen is a third part of a fire and so
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that's really the flow of attention
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which becomes those patterns of behavior
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that get learned within families
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and we know from you know sort of four
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decades of research
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that the coercive
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cycles of these things that happen
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between parents and kids and you you'll
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hear parents talk about this
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you know power struggle and you know
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they'll
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they'll sort of give out some sort of
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instruction they want their child to do
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something
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the child doesn't want to do it so they
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might just ignore the parent
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and then it ramps up and the parent's a
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little cross now
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and so the instruction the second one is
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a little more firm
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a little angry and a child then might
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react to that
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and so and they keep upping the ante and
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so you get these sort of coercive cycles
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which are really part of uncooperative
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behavior
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so there's a long answer to your
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question but if we're kind of thinking
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broadly then we've got
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things to do with the child and the
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parent we've got environmental sort of
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heat factors
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and then we've got the flow of attention
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which becomes like something that can
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sort of fan the flames of uncooperative
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behavior
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so you did touch on this but rock roll
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can parents play
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in helping their kids to stay calm and
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be more cooperative at school and at
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home actually
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first of all they've just got to really
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strengthen up that relationship with
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their child
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and it's hard like we're so busy with so
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many different things
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uh families these days um you know i
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guess
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recently and there's been a reduction in
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the sorts of
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activities through covert that families
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are doing but often we're running around
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doing 10
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000 things and it's hard just to sit
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down and have time together
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but but that is the center of how to
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make things better
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is to just sit down and enjoy some time
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together
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and for parents to just pause and
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notice their child and notice
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not the annoying stuff because that's
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there
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but to notice the other stuff um but not
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only to notice it but to let the child
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know that they've seen it too
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and we've got to then give attention and
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let our kids know that we appreciate
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when they do those nice things to each
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other or
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or for us they might be real helpful for
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us and help us out we're just going to
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say thank you very much
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and try and be specific about what it is
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not just like thanks but
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look thanks for putting your lunchbox
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away straight away when you came home
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today it just makes it so much easier
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for me
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i really appreciate it and maybe a
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little touch on the shoulder
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which again is is is again it's oxygen
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it's a flow of attention but it's now in
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a positive way that's going to help the
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child feel good about themselves
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and it's also going to strengthen up
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that relationship the other really
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important part would be
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um if you want your child to do
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something
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give a really clear instruction like uh
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we we often give sort of what i describe
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as like fly-by instructions we're sort
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of
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two rooms away and it's like you're
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nearly ready yet
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which which meant you know um you know
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put your shoes on make sure your school
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bag's ready and packed
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uh you've got your lunch in there as
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well um don't forget to feed the cat
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um and then be at the door in three
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minutes but we don't see any of that
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and then we're annoyed because they
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haven't done it and then and then it
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starts again with this way
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so we talk about sort of going for gold
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with that first instruction
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because if you can just give that first
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instruction real clear
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then you get cooperation and again
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thinking of those three key things
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like part of it is this pattern of
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behavior between parent and child
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so rather than kicking off some sort of
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coercive cycle
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if you give a nice clear instruction
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where you go up to a child and you say
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you know mark i need you to get ready
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for school mate so what that involves is
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can you do that for me great thanks
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if we can do that then i'm building a
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pattern of cooperation because now
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little mark is doing what i've asked and
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so he's going to be praised for that and
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he's going to feel good about himself in
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the morning he's going to go to school
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feeling much calmer much happier which
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means he's probably
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going better with his mates during the
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day too and the teacher which means he's
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probably going to come home
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nice and calm and then i'm going to
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notice that and it's like oh you had a
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good day today
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and all of a sudden again our
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interactions are full of these lovely
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backwards and forwards compared to
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you know what are you looking at me like
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that for um
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then that can just kick off these again
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coercive cycles
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do you have some practical tips and
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techniques for parents trying to deal
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with challenging behavior
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and lacking the motivation to cooperate
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there's a nice little saying that um
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there's a an intervention called um
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circle of security which has been sort
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of involved for the last release of 20
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years i guess
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and they've got this nice little 25 word
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saying about parenting
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and so it's always be bigger stronger
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wiser and kind
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and so the idea is that you know the

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