Ever notice how quickly crazy behaviors spread? We see it everywhere. It can feel like a wind-blown wildfire, or if you are a teacher, the invasion of ants at a picnic. I think of this as the behavioral contagion effect. Simply put, behaviors are easily influenced by the behavior of others.
When our four boys were younger, my wife and I didnt have a chance when they were together. For starters, we were outnumbered. Beyond that, there was a pack-mode effect that seemed to escalate their behaviors in an instant. Survival instincts dictated our reaction of divide and conquer. Fortunately, this was a good strategy, and one I dont practice enough in my current interactions.
Positive behaviors are strengthened through positive relationships, and I believe it is hard to develop a good relationship in a group setting. So when you get a person alone, you not only stand a better chance of building the relationship, but you are more likely to understand his or her perspective, free from the influence of others, as well as help him or her understand yours.
This weekend, Micah, my second born, joined me at a conference in the Dallas area to help with the product table. We had great talks in transit. I believe there was a whole lot of teaching and learning going on for us both When faced with difficult behaviors, be that of children or adults, find time for individual face-to-face discussions. The outcome is more than worth the effort.