I once had a student, named John, who was labeled a gangster by his mother. He dyed his hair, tattooed his arm, and liked to get into fights. He did not like to study. He rather spent his time hanging out with his peers than spending time in school attending classes. He even got into trouble with the law once was released with a stern warning as he was still young.
Despite repeated pleads and scoldings from his mother, he did not change. He continued his old ways, turning a deaf ear to his mother’s nagging. After some time his mother gave up hope on him. She condemned him as a gangster, and criticized him for being useless and a pain in the family. She thought that by constantly criticizing and scolding, her son will change for the better. But it turned out to be the other way round! The more she labeled John as a gangster, the more he became like a gangster. The mother was at her wits’ end.
I started to talk to her mother to help her out. I asked her how her son is doing, and she came up with a whole list of faults about him. There is not even a single good remark! No wonder her son behaves in this way. After she has finished her criticism, I told her that her son is special.
And she replied, “What?! Special?! How can he be special? All he knows everyday is to sleep, eat, play and get into fights. He is a gangster!”
I said, “When I say that your child is special, I did not mean that your child must be very successful or someone great. To be special means that he has his own unique abilities, potentials, and purposes in life. He only needs to be himself to be special.”
Still confused, she said, “I don’t see any potential in him. He is hopeless. He can’t be special.”
I replied, “It is his individual traits that make him unique, and it is these traits that make him uniquely your child. No one can replace him in this world. That is what I mean by being special.”
She became quiet, starting to see some light in her son.
I continued, “In order for him to change, you need to accept him for he is. If you continue to label him as a gangster, you dangerously create a belief inside him that he is really a gangster. And the more you criticized him, the deeper he will sink. If you called your son a naughty boy, guess what will happen to him?”
“He becomes naughtier,” she replied.
“Exactly! Therefore, you have to avoid labeling and criticizing. For him to change for the better, you need to start off by accepting who he is. There is a positive intention behind every child’s behaviour. But because your child is still young, he is still naïve and does not know whether his behaviour is correct. This is where you can come in as a parent to guide him,” I said.
“Positive intention? I don’t see any positive intention in his current behaviour,” she claimed.
“There certainly will be a positive intention. Let me talk to him personally and I will get back to you again,” I replied.
I found John and have a private conversation with him. I asked him why he is behaving in this way and what drove him to behave in this way. After some time, I found out that he has an intense desire to feel important. He likes to stand out among his peers, and that is why he dyed his hair. He likes to feel significant, and that is why he gets into gang fights.
With my new discovery, I feedback to his mother and said, “You should praise his positive intention for having a strong desire to feel important. Tell him why having such a desire is good for his future. Then you have to correct his methods by saying that getting into gang fights will not get him attention in a positive way. Lastly, you can help him find new ways to get the attention he wants so badly.”
After my explanation, we came up with a plan. His mother started to give him important roles in the house like teaching his younger sister to do homework and taking care of some of the house chores. And every time he did it well, she will treat the whole family to a great meal and said that this is the reward for John’s achievement.
I approached his school teacher and got his teacher to make him a counselor in school. He is in charge of discipline among his peers and he has the authority to report any misbehaving students to the discipline master. His teacher will also give him enough attention in class by asking him question and praising him if he answered correctly.
Time passed and John found himself getting a lot of attention he craved for. At home, every time the family has a sumptuous meal, he felt happy as he knows that this is the result of his hard work. In school, his peers became very scared of him due to his authority and he enjoyed being praised in front of the whole class.
As a result, he started studying very hard and his results improved tremendously. Now, he is a scholar and he feels really proud of himself.
Article by Study Grandmaster.