A tall, weary-looking mother with glasses, walked into my counseling office with her 10-year-old-daughter. The mother frowned at me and sat down. "Oh-oh!" I thought. "Why are you here?" I inquired.
"Jessica's been shoplifting. I want you to stop her." Jessica flinched then stared at her mother.
"What happened?" I asked.
Jessica, a soft-spoken child with short curly hair and dark brown eyes, proceeded to tell how she had stolen a pack of gum, a candy bar, and a plastic toy from the local grocery store. She glanced cautiously at her mother.
I asked her mother, "Will you please sit in the waiting room?" When she left, I turned to Jessica, "What were you thinking and feeling before and after the shoplifting?" From the things Jessica told me I found out that she had a hole in her heart. Not a physical hole, but a hole only her mother could fill. Jessica had stolen the articles to fill that hole. She thought snacks and toys would make herself happy. What Jessica really wanted was time with her mother.
Of course, a 10-year-old can't analyze her situation easily. By spending time with Jessica, I had to discover the hole in her heart. I had to find her core.
After a few sessions with both Jessica and her mother, we picked an easy way for mother and daughter to spend time together. They decided they would drink some bedtime tea and talk about their day before sleeping. Jessica was delighted. "I'll try," said her mother.
A year later Jessica's mother brought her back shouting, "Jessica started shoplifting again."
I asked Jessica's mother, "Do you still drink tea and chat before bedtime?"
"After working all day, fixing dinner, doing the laundry, I just can't fit it in," she said.
I understood the mother's problem, but I don't think she understood her daughter's need for closeness. I believe that parents love their children and want to raise them with strong healthy characters. I also believe that some parents feel either overwhelmed or don't know how to be close to their children. Jessica's mother fit both. Here's how the 3-D MAP helped her.
DISCOVER The first step on the 3-D MAP to character building, is to Discover your child's thoughts and feelings. Good parenting includes positive time together, time to chat, time to listen, and time to discuss problems. When you take the time to Discover, you need to ask nonjudgmental questions, and you need to praise your child for good thoughts and appropriate behaviors. When you take the time to Discover, you also are taking that first step toward building a strong healthy character in your child.
Jessica's mom had a golden opportunity to be that kind of parent. She missed it the first time Jessica shoplifted. After the second shoplifting incident, she chose to take the time to chat, to listen, and to Discover her daughter.
DECIDE The second step on the 3-D MAP to character building is to Decide what thoughts and feelings need improvement.
Jessica's mom found out that Jessica felt cast aside, and that she thought her mother didn't love her. Her mother discovered that just telling Jessica, "Of course, I love you," didn't work. Jessica needed more. She needed time with her mother. Her mother stopped her busy schedule to Decide to give Jessica the special time she needed together.
DEVELOP The third step on the 3-D MAP to character building is to Develop a plan to better influence the thoughts and feelings of your child.
Jessica's mom taught Jessica how to make salads and start the dinner. When she came home from work, they continued making the meal together. While sharing this task, they chatted about their day. Jessica's mother gave her more hugs, kisses, and praise. They also drank bedtime tea together. When a parent Develops a plan the results can be encouraging and positive. Jessica is a teenager now and she freely goes to her mother with her problems. Jessica doesn't shoplift anymore because she no longer has that emotional hole in her heart.
The 3-D MAP is a powerful parenting tool for increasing strong healthy characters in your child. By taking the time to Discover what and how your child thinks you can then Decide what needs improvement. After deciding what needs improvement you can Develop a meaningful plan to help your child become the wonderful person she or he was meant to be.
Jean Tracy,MSS, invites you to build character in young hearts and growing minds. To raise your awesome kids with solid characters, sign up for her FREE Parenting Newsletter, and download her FREE bonding activities, parenting tips, and parenting articles at, http://www.KidsDiscuss.com