When Children BEG.
When Children DEMAND.
When Children CONTROL.
Here’s the deal: When a child is in charge, you have a scared leader who only knows that someone has to be in control and nobody is willing to step up to the command module, so it is left to the child to pilot the family. Children do that–when no one demonstrates the constant surety of being in control, the child will take over. And all the time they are living in a world that does not promote emotional trust or safety.
Children know that when parents scream/demand/curse/threaten/plead–that the parent is NOT IN CONTROL.
Since toddlers and young children have no higher functioning cerebral ability to use “adult logic” they rely upon what they do know–BEHAVIOR. Not verbal communication. They rely upon their BEHAVIOR to gather into them what they want at that very moment. Not ten minutes from now. But NOW!
Parents try to be in control of their demanding child in a variety of ways, sometimes at the same time.
Here’s the typical steps of how parents teach children to expect INDULGENCE:
- Explaining in detail to try to get the child’s understanding and approval.
- Explaining again when the child is unhappy with the first explanation.
- Promising the child a “better deal” if the child will just accept the parent’s explanations, usually in a voice that is pleading with the child to understand how hard the parent is working on the child’s behalf.
- Asking the child what would make the child happy, since the explanation does not make them happy.
- Explaining to the child why the parent can not immediately meet the child’s need for what would make the child happy.
- Trying to soothe the child, now that the child is clearly upset that happiness is not instantly available.
- As though the child has become deaf, the parent now raises her/his voice and repeats steps 1-6.
- When the child refuses to be mollified the parent either gives up and gives the child instant happiness . . . .or . . .becomes determined to force the child into an action that the child does not want to participate in, with anger and a feeling that the child is purposely thwarting all the good parenting that the parent has offered.
We now have a classic POWER STRUGGLE between a Parent and CHILD. And the CHILD is WINNING.
Yes, no matter what happens at Step #8, the child has “won.” (Actually the child has LOST, because the child has not learned how to obey his parent, nor has he learned a lesson on DELAY of GRATIFICATION. What he/she has learned is the ability to get others to meet his needs by being DEMANDING and UNCOMPROMISING.)
Recommendations to Parents:
- STOP using so many words! One time only: Speak in a normal voice with the expectation that your child will do as you ask. (Remember to say “Thank you” for appropriate follow through to parental requests.)
- If your child refuses to follow your expectations, you will NOT continue to use MORE words. (Except for 4-year-old’s who just have to ask “Why?” at least once or twice. Then “That’s enough why’s for now.”)
- Something like: A) You may point at the jacket to be put on so you can go to the store; B) Tell the child he has a choice of either sitting in or holding on to the shopping cart while you complete shopping; C) Tell the child he/she may use his/her room to scream in.
- If your child refuses to comply, you may have to assist your child.
- For the above examples: A) you already have arranged for someone to “take-over” while you leave for the store and leave your child behind with a sitter; b)have someone available to take your child out of the store to wait in the car, while shopping is completed; c) Without words, pick up your child up and take him to his room. Then leave the room. No words. No fussing.
- For children who are practiced at being in CONTROL of the family, it may take several “learning” episodes before they realize that they are no longer in Charge. These children actually become nicer to be around–they are less scared of a world that doesn’t seem to know how to handle their “fearsome out-of-control” behaviors.
- Some children have learned to HIT, BITE, KICK others to get their way. These UNSAFE Behaviors are NOT ALLOWED. You may have to hold your child in such a way that they can not hurt you or others (or damage furniture, walls, etc). NO TALKING–except to say (in a normal voice) that you will not allow your child to HURT others or SELF or Property.
Here’s a short. personal scenioro:
Two parents in the front seat, their two children in the back seat. On their way to the zoo. Children begin to argue. As pre-planned by the parents: One Parent tells children ONCE to stop arguing. Children do not comply. Without another word, driver takes an off-ramp, drives over the freeway, hits the entrance and drives back home. When children question why they are going home, one designated parent says, “Arguing is not nice to listen to.” No more of an explanation. The children figured it out. There was no further discussion. Upon returning to home, normal activities were entered into. No further action was taken. The next time it only took one reminder for the children to stop arguing. The car rides were much more relaxed and enjoyable.
See Part II regarding how to SNUGGLE with your child to develop increased trust, safety and compliance.