Drawing from an article recently published in Bottom Line Personal by M.S.W. Expert, Michele Weiner, strategies were suggested which may help you change the unhealthy behavior of one of your children or your spouse. In attempting to do so, one needs to keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors can be as innocuous as not getting enough exercise or not enough sleep, eating too many sweets or watching too much television; spending too much time on one’s smartphone, etc.; drinking to excess and becoming an alcoholic, smoking cigarettes; gambling away an individual’s paycheck.
The latter issues often deal with ad-dictions which are much more difficult to change. And it also needs to be kept in mind that breaking any type of habit typically takes at least 30 days of forbearance before one can truly be considered on the road to success. With those ambitious goals stated, here are some strategies to consider to get your child or spouse to live a healthier lifestyle.
1. Don’t complain- Instead, make a request if you are trying to get someone to give up their unhealthy behavior. Don’t nag or complain to them about what they are CURRENTLY doing—instead make a suggestion about a possible change in their behavior OCCURRING IN THE FU-TURE. “I know you love drinking, smoking, gambling, etc., but it would mean the world to me if you dialed back your XYZ.”
2. Find a hook- What would it take?Your use of XYZ or engaging in XYZ, is likely going to end up causing you to lose out on “being with your grandchildren”; “losing your house”; “you could end up in jail”; “you could end up being taken out of my will”; “destroying our marriage”; “or you losing your job, etc.”.
3. Strategy- Ask yourself, what adverse outcome would motivate your spouse or child’s behavior? What does your child or spouse most care about? Use that motivation point as your “hook” to reward any change in your spouse or child’s behavior.
4. Use positive reinforcement- As the noted influential physiologist, B.F. Skinner, stated, there is nothing more powerful than positive reinforcement and learning. We all respond better to positive reactions than negative ones. Focus on incremental progress, one day at a time. Point out day one, day two, day three. When you notice any positive steps, shout out the positive by stating, “Way to go”, “Keep it up”. Keep reminding your child or spouse that their progress has been noticed and “it is awesome!”.
5. Lead by example- Don’t engage in the same unhealthy behavior you are trying to get your spouse or child to give up. Live a healthy lifestyle yourself as you encourage your child or spouse to adapt to a healthier lifestyle for themselves.
6. Accept what you cannot change- Depending on how a child or spouse’s unhealthy habits are affecting you and your relationship with them—you may just have to accept what you cannot change. Less than 50% of alcoholics who attempt to give up alcohol are successful. Similar statistics exist with other addictions.
It is one thing to learn to live with a child or spouse who is overweight, eating way too many sweets, doing zero things to exercise, than living with an alcoholic spouse who is abusive either emotionally or physically to you or other family members. In some drastic cases, you may have to end the relationship with your spouse or child to protect yourself and other loved ones.
These strategies and suggestions are offered to help you help your child or spouse get healthy. It’s the perfect time of the year to focus on such behaviors as the new year resolutions are just around the corner.