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CYC-Online Issue 64 MAY 2004 / BACK
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in a nutshell

Influence techniques

Henry Maier

Parents, child care workers, teachers, counselors, babysitters or others spend much of their energy and thought trying to influence young people’s behaviors. Much of the time these efforts proceed rather smoothly. There are, however, moments in every caregiver’s daily work with children or adolescents when the adult in charge feels at a loss, or at her or his wit’s end. And the adult is then uncertain in which way to influence a child's or a group of youngsters' behaviors. “What to do!" is frequently the frantic thought. At such moments, adults tend to fall back upon their standby influence “tools" such as verbal command, threat, or even in desperation, physical interference. Each one of these can be valid techniques; but usually not in a moment of crisis. These standard tools tend to be overused and not especially fitting for the moment.

In confronting difficult child care situations, one could apply the analogy of comparable decisions faced by a competent carpenter. A skillful carpenter uses more than a hammer and a screwdriver, especially when delicate work has to be done. A proficient carpenter chooses the fitting tool for each particular task at hand. The same holds true for child care work.


See: Maier, H. (1987). Influence techniques. In Maier, H. Developmental Group Care of Youth and Children. New York: The Haworth Press

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