Many parents often try to identify the kinds of things that they can do to get the most positive response from their children. As all parents know, though, directing children’s behavior is, by no means, an easy task. Nonetheless, mothers and fathers actually have much more information about how to be a good parent from their own daily life experiences than they might think. Really, parents just need to look at the characteristics of their most favorite supervisors and their least favorite supervisors in their current and past work places to begin to identify those parenting characteristics that have the potential to be the most (or least) helpful. For example, Barkley (1997) encourages parents to consider their supervisors’ behaviors and to begin to connect how the positive or negative characteristics of these supervisors may have affected their own motivation to complete the tasks that were required of them. After such considerations, Barkley’s (1997) work seems to suggest that the link between the behaviors of these considered supervisors and parents’ own behaviors with their children can really get parents thinking about how to better interact with their children. In fact, many parents come to realize that they have taken on some of the supervisor characteristics that they like the least!
So, what can a parent take away from such considerations? In fact, many individuals (both children and adults) respond more positively to different situations when they are given attention and consideration. Although this connection has now been well documented in the parenting literature, it also has had precursors in research examining employee responses in the work place. Such research has suggested that employees who are provided with positive attention (such as from a set of researchers) tend to demonstrate increases in productivity. This concept is referred to as the Hawthorne Effect (Cherry, No date; Landsberger, 1958; Mayo, 1949). Although later research seems to suggest that the Hawthorne Effect may not be as strong as was once believed, it still may have applications for how parents interact with their children and build a positive relationship in which children are more likely than not to be compliant with parents’ directions.
For example, many parenting programs suggest that parents should pay positive attention to their children in a variety of ways (Barkley, 1997; Forehand & Long, 2002; Kazdin, 2005). Barkley (1997) suggests that parents should engage in a fun task with their children for at least 15 minutes daily. Such tasks should be chosen and lead by the child, rather than directed by the parent. Others (Hembree-McKigin & McNeil, 1995) also suggest that parents should engage in a special commentary during their playtime with their children, almost as if the parents are a sports commentator describing the plays taking place during a sporting event. Such commentary allows children to know that their parents are observing their behaviors actively. Further, children’s positive behaviors should be acknowledged in play as well as compliance situations (Barkley, 1997). By doing so, parent may begin to build a positive and mutually reinforcing relationship with their children (Eisenstadt, Eyberg, McNeil, Newcomb, & Funderburk, 1993; McMahon & Forehand, 2003). Such positive acknowledgements also are likely to foster more positive behaviors from children in the future, allowing for children to move toward reaching their full potential.
Barkley, R. A. (1997). Defiant children: A clinician’s manual for assessment and parent training: Second edition. New York: The Guilford Press.
Cherry, K. (No date). Hawthorne effect. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/hindex/g/def_hawthorn.htm.
Eisenstadt, T. H., Eyberg, S., McNeil, C. B., Newcomb, K., & Funderburk, B. (1993). Parent-child interaction therapy with behavior problem children: Relative effectiveness of two stages and overall treatment outcome. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22, 42-51.
Forehand, R., & Long, N. (2002). Parenting the strong-willed child: The clinically-proven five-week program for parents of two- to six-year-olds (Second edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hembree-Kigin, T. L., & McNeil, C. B. (1995). Parent-child interaction therapy. New York: Plenum Press.
Kazdin, A. E. (2005). Parent management training: Treatment for oppositional, aggressive, and antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Landsberger, H. A. (1958). Hawthorne revisited. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Mayo, E. (1949). Hawthorne and the Western Electric Company: The social problems of an industrial civilisation. London: Routledge.
McMahon, R. J., & Forehand, R. L. (2003). Helping the noncompliant child: Family-based treatment for oppositional behavior (Second edition). New York: The Guilford Press.