. Interactive Behaviour Imbalance - Mercury's Child 2nd Edition
Interactive Behaviour Imbalance
Mercury's Child
Fast Behaviour Change for Parents                        

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40



A Book for Parents, Not a Parenting Book


The behaviour change system described in this book works. 

I have rarely had a failure with parental clients who stuck to it—and nearly all did. My success comes from changing firstly my clients attitude to their child, in particular their belief that their child is to blame for the ‘bad’ behaviour, and secondly their technical skill in training it away.  The first two parts of this book  Part 1 How the parents mindset creates “bad” behaviour 

and  Part 2 

How to quickly change ‘Bad’ Behaviour contain all the information that parents need but cannot replace the monitoring, badgering, and sometimes, bullying that are also often needed to for them to see that they are not the ‘victims’ of their child behaviour but the child is the ‘victim’ of their attitudes and handling.


If you are a parent seeking answers and you start using the technical strategies in Part 2 of this book without carefully taking in the principles from Part 1 that underpin them you will not get the changes that you want and will become disillusioned. 

The techniques are simple, but don’t throw everything away by starting with your attitude to your child unchanged. 

Don’t assume that you know what this book is getting at without really reading and taking it all in. It has the potential to make wonderful changes to your family and your life, so don’t throw these away by impatiently starting to make these changes as you read it. 

If you have a partner, both of you need to read it, make your own notes, and fully agree what you are going to do.  Only then set a day to begin your new regime.


Part 3 covers the Most Common Problems & Issues that parents face and Part 4 looks at Mercury’s Child for Teachers.


After reading carefully parents will need to decide upon a day to begin their new regime. 

Start by sitting down with all your children not just the targeted child and explaining the way things will now be for all of you. You may well have tried and discarded much advice and many strategies in the past. Much of what was discarded may well have been necessary for any change to occur, but not sufficient by itself to produce the change. This is why I urge you to try to understand why each of the strategies given here is needed and not to discard a strategy because you think you have used it before.  Each individual insight and strategy is necessary so if you discard, misunderstand or misapply any one of them the whole programme is liable to fail. Take your time - perhaps even read through a second time just to be sure. 


Every parent needs to be aware of the key mistakes described here that can be made when rearing children and what is happening when behaviour breaks down. 

But that does not make this a “parenting” book. 

If your parenting isn't broken, don’t attempt to fix it. 

This book is designed to help parents speedily change a spectrum of 

“bad behaviour” from mild to very serious and then maintain that change. 

When we use inclusive terms like 

“we” in the text we do not mean “we parents,” but "we, the parents of children with serious behaviour problems.” 


Advice on how to handle ‘bad’ is easily misunderstood. 

I have already had parents inform me that they are using my methods based on viewing the TV documentaries when each programme showed just 3 minutes from a whole day of training that the parents received.   I have also had a national paper retract an article in which I was quoted as saying that I blame the parents of ADHD children.  Then a psychologist refused to translate the book when approached by the Danish publisher because the themes of Making Categorical Statements; The Need for Consequences and Effective Sanctions appeared to him to indicate a draconian, authoritarian “back-to-basics” book.


Yes, this book talks about these themes but not because it wants us all to go 

“back-to-basics” – to a time incidentally as fraught then as now – and not because it advocates a blanket authoritarian view of parenting but because it is essentially a practical book which says what to do.  It has to talk about these themes because it is talking about children who are simultaneously trapped by their well-meaning parents responses whilst at the same time are themselves making categorical statements and threatening consequences - like temper tantrums and other “sanctions” - if they do not get their own way. 

These themes cannot be avoided because they are the sea in which behaviour swims. They are central because if parents do not provide consequences then their children will 

If parents are not categorical then their children will be; if parents do not provide consequences and “sanction” unwanted behaviour then their children will use intimidatory behaviour to “sanction” and restrict the options of their parents.  The story of chronic 

“bad behaviour” is always a story about the reversal of roles. 


My hope is that this book will encouraged parents to analyse and avoid all polarised views of parenting and think about their child’s behaviour in a new way. 

If when they have finished reading parents do not understand the difference between a moderate consequence or sanction and - the angry alternative - the “interpersonal sanction or punishment,” then they will not change their child’s behaviour. 

This is essentially a practical book, the strategies and responses described here will, when used carefully by parents, quickly transform their child’s behaviour. The changes will occur so quickly that a theoretical underpinning is implied, and this new way of looking at the problem I have called the Interactive behavioural approach, which I take a few pages to describe before we begin.   


Interactive Behaviour Theory


Professionals use four main theoretical approaches and their derivatives to change behaviour, they are:


1. Behavioural: Problems due to maladaptive learning; uses rewards and punishments


2. Person-centred: Problems due to child’s self-concept; aims to redress discrepancies between the child’s actual and ideal self


3. Cognitive behavioural: Problems due to maladaptive thinking; uses training for erroneous or unrealistic thinking


4. Psychodynamic: Problems due to unresolved unconscious conflicts; helps child to gain insight and increase ego strength


This book describes a fifth approach


5. Interactive behavioural:

Its scope of interactive behavioural approach is limited to children and adolescence and those in dependent positions. 

It trains parents and parent-figures how to train their charges. The interactive behavioural approach represents a tangential shift in focus from all the existing approaches.  Unlike all of the other approaches, with the exception, perhaps, of the family therapies, it does not see “bad behaviour” as the child’s problem at all, but rather an interactional problem between child and parent, which the child is incapable of changing. It therefore works, unlike even the family therapies, exclusively through parents, through their perception of what is happening, and their responses. It sees the training of parents in the use of effective interactive techniques as crucial even when they are having to deal with the most serious conditions and disorders.


If inappropriate behaviour has, in fact, been frozen in place by parental response then any approach that works directly with the child is seriously handicapped. 

Recognising for the first time that “bad behaviour” is created and maintained by parental response represents the new approach’s major asset.  Here are some other advantages.


1.     It has the advantage, like the straight behavioural approach of not having to accommodate itself to the child’s conceptual or emotional development however young the child might be. 


2.     The training works with what the parents are already doing since all parents already use an intuitive behavioural approach especially when they give a reward or a punishment.


3.     As the child usually does not know there is a trainer/therapist they are not required to accept them or build a relationship with them. 

With other approaches accomplishing acceptance of the therapist is crucial and can be extremely time consuming and may never be achieved.*


4.     Enables the parents to remain as the “agents of change”, Parents can proceed without the loss of leadership that occurs when the child is interacting with a therapist from outside the home.


5.     One of the main presenting problems and therefore a main indicator of success for all the approaches concerns the child’s acceptance of, and normal response to, reasonable parental guidance/authority.  An approach that looks directly at these interactions therefore, has obvious benefits. 


6.     It does not rely on the therapist talking directly to the child and therefore avoids the problem of rewarding the  “bad behaviour” with attention or the child being made to feel “special”. 

Avoids any increase in the child’s perception of a negative label.**


[ * Acceptance of the therapist by the child is, of course, replaced by the need for

       the trainer and the parents to build a successful relationship

 ** I asked a prominent clinical psychologist why he had brought his problems with

       his son to me rather than to one of his team of behaviour specialists. 

He said, and I


“I did not want them, in an attempt to validate him, to end up validating his

        “bad behaviour”.]



The Interactive Behavioural approach recognises the importance of self-concept to the changes that parents want to achieve. 

It sees as crucial the child’s perception of self that is derived from parents’ statements and actions. It sees the frustrations cased by the ineffectiveness of sanctions (punishments) as leading to the use of “interpersonal sanctions” which negatively effect the child’s self esteem.  It trains parents to maintain a positive approach and reduce discrepancies between how the child would like to view him or herself and the view they see reflected from their parents.


The training of maladaptive; erroneous or unrealistic thinking

Parents often believe that it is their child’s thinking that is the problem. 

They engaged in continuous attempts to change what their children appear to think. Interactive Behavioural approach sees these attempts as adding to the problems, and encourages parents to use clear strategies to avoid this trap. 

It does not view the apparent maladaptive, erroneous, or unrealistic thinking/processing of badly behaved children as a problem associated with lack of logical thinking at all, but rather one associated with the need to “win”.  The strength of this need, reciprocated and modelled by the parent, gives the child more than enough incentive to, apparently, suspend logical thinking.   Rather than a lack of logical thinking ability ‘badly’ behaved children have an overdeveloped, parent-maintained, need to win, perpetuated by a lack of calm training to accept consequences. 

Children do what works. 

The ‘Interactive’ behaviour model shows that the unhelpful or unrealistic ways that children appear to think can quickly changed. 

This is achieved by eliminating the rewards that the child always gains from the dogmatic adherence to non-logical positions.


Not a new behaviour disorder


The phrase “Interactive Behaviour Imbalance” was first used by me some years ago and is not intended to describe another behaviour disorder but rather the child’s unwanted normal response to inadequate and flawed parental training. The key word “Interactive” is included to make it impossible for parents or professionals to see 

“bad behaviour” as a problem that the child has. 

This term is intended to make it clear that remedial work by professionals needs to be centred on the interactions between parent and child and that work centred only on the child is either unnecessarily protracted or futile.


The word 

“Imbalance” is intended to describe the common counter-productive ways parents handle inappropriate behaviour in the home and the resulting predictable group of inappropriate behaviours the child then enacts. This group of behaviours usually occur together (see chapter three) and are maintained only if the lack of precision in analysis and response continues. 

Training that is imprecise and combative develops and gratifies the child’s competitive needs.   The child becomes increasingly concerned with their success in getting their own way and avoiding any practical consequence, to this end they refuse to accept reasonable propositions and logical connections.  The child’s strives to make all the decisions themselves. Parents’ authority and leadership is undermined as they inadvertently reward the very behaviour that they want to stop. 

This is true of the child’s main tactic, over-reaction and anger and the child becomes increasingly insecure and badly behaved.


“Interactive Behaviour Imbalance” does not describe a behaviour disorder but rather an imbalance between the parent / child roles and responses within the family. 

The biggest indictment of many interventions from the existing behaviour approaches is that they do not first look to see if the “problem” behaviour is a natural response to parental interactions. 

They are all too often prepared to believe that it is possible for the child to have a behaviour problem on their own. 

We aim to show here that "bad” behaviour is always an interaction problem and this remains true even when the predisposition to behave differently is caused by a major behaviour disorder.  


The need for research

Work with these interactions within families, although on a small scale, has been so effective that it must now be worth the behaviour establishment funding some research.  Although there is currently no research to back it up, I.B.I. work is beginning to suggest that many behaviour disorders merely predispose the child and the parent to have interactive problems rather than making it inevitable that the child will behave badly. Interactive behaviour techniques may not alter the underlying behaviour disorder (ADHD, for instance), but may dramatically change the trauma of living with it.


Common Characteristics of the child with “Interactive Behaviour Imbalance"

Although, again, research is needed to confirm these observations, this book contends that children with chronic ‘bad’ behaviour have a range of characteristics as predictable as those associated with the recognised behaviour disorders (see chapter three) whilst not actually having a behaviour disorder. 

Even without further research we believe it is essential to first search for both the problem and the solution of all behaviour problems within the current   interactions the child has with its parents. 

The behaviour characteristics listed in chapter three are found together as predictably as any syndrome but describe children with the world’s oldest childhood problem - 

simply “bad” behaviour.


Antecedent - Behaviour – Consequences


Changing the “bad” behaviour of children is a basically simple process. 

Reward good behaviour - sanction bad. 

Our most distant, primitive, ancestors would not have been able to avoid sanctioning and rewarding behaviour. 

It is a naturally occurring process; it is as natural as ABC. 

In fact the traditional

behaviourist model was just that ABC: 

Antecedent - Behaviour - Consequences.


A - what happens before the  “bad behaviour”,

B - the 

“bad behaviour” 

itself, and

C - the consequent sanction. 


The original experiments by the Russian Pavlov concerned training the reactions of a dog.  Although, clearly the principals of using rewards and sanctions are the same for children as they are for animals there is one important difference. 

Whilst we can be excused for not thinking about the moment when a dog ‘decides’ to sit when given that instruction, with children the moment they ‘decide’ to do as we ask or not do as we ask is very important indeed. 

This is the decision for which parents of ‘badly’ behaved children are striving. 

The simple model ABC for behaviour change in children that does not include this vital decision is not adequate. 

In fact the child makes two decisions the first to move from being O.K and to enact a ‘bad’ behaviour and then a decision to stop the ‘bad’ behaviour and return to being O.K.


So for those attempting to change a child’s behaviour a better model for the process looks something like this


1.     O.K.

2.     Pre decision (what pre-empts or encourages the decision to stop being O.K)

3.     Decision – to start (the “bad” behaviour)

4.     Bad Behaviour

5.     Decision to stop

6.     Consequences (what happens after the bad behaviour)


However, written as a list like this the model is still misleading for parents. 

In reality the model needs to be circular with the consequences parents use and, particularly, the way in which they use them forming part of the pre-decision ‘trigger’ circumstances for the next ‘bad’ behaviour.





                       Consequences                                      Pre decision circumstances





             Decision to stop                                                    Decision – to start





                                                      Bad Behaviour     


A model that recognises that the child is making decisions and that these decisions are influenced by how consequences are signalled is far more helpful to parents since this is the area they often get badly wrong (see “forcing” Chapter 6). 

As parents our aim is for the child to factor in our consequences for the bad behaviour and decide not to do it.   The child continually puts what he or she feels has been gained from ‘bad’ behaviour on one side of the scale and the consequences for that behaviour on the other.  The vital third factor is  the way parents signal and apply sanctions because it is this that can predispose the child to decide one way or another.





 “Bad” behaviour


You will notice that each time phrase “bad” behaviour is used in this book we put the word “bad” in quotation marks. 

This is because we will be attempting to show that “bad” behaviour, although undesirable and harmful is not in fact “bad”, but rather an unavoidable consequence of parental responses to behaviour in general and unwanted behaviour in particular.  The intention of this book is explain how “bad” behaviour is created and maintained by the responses we use to it, and to show how it can easily be eradicated by modifications in these responses. 

We can be certain of this connection because of the speed with which this behaviour changes if we do the right things. 

If, as struggling parents often believe, it was the child who had the problem with his personality, heredity, temper control, strong will, selfishness etc - then simple changes made by parents would not work so quickly, in fact they would not work at all. 


Countless children are trapped in a cycle of 

“bad behaviour”.  They gain a power in the home that is totally irresistible to them, but which makes them miserable.  Parents are completely mystified by what is going on and are equally trapped.   All this suffering is quickly and completely reversible using the system described here. 

It is all, I hope, described with the detail that you need. 

Once you and your partner have both read this book carefully, sit down and agree on a ‘Start Day’ - a day when you will begin to reclaim your child.



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