Changing Patterns of Behavior

One of the main reasons that parents bring children to therapy is to modify troublesome behaviors, be they enuresis, stealing, lying, eating disorders, drug abuse, aggression, or withdrawal. Such conduct problems may affect relationships with parents, siblings, peers, or teachers and cause unhappiness not just for the child but for those in the near vicinity of the child.

Helping a child or family change a pattern ofbehavior has long been a core, and well-researched, goal of psychotherapeutic interventions. As a result there are many cognitive, behavioral, and strategic approaches that have been developed to assist children to bring about the desired changes (Kazdin & Weisz, 2003). Such evidenced-based approaches provide steps, strategies, and interventions that can be readily adapted into metaphors for change. Telling a story about how to modify a pattern of behavior can often have a greater effect for a child than setting what might sound like an onerous homework exercise.

The following stories seek to illustrate this by describing ways of facing and overcoming fear. They talk about thinking your way through challenging problems and learning how to build on the things that you are good at doing. They show how a simple gesture can make a big difference, or benefit a large number ofpeople. They provide techniques for modifying old behaviors and shaping new patterns.

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