Last week we talked about a style of parenting that I dubbed, “Come 0n, Bud,” after this style was ridiculed by Bill Mahre in a recent stand-up special. (“Come On, Buddy…”)
We emphasized that kids are driven by one primary motivation (i.e., pleasure) and that they were happy to “have their bread buttered on both sides.”
Parents will bend themselves into knots trying to impact behavior. Elaborate sticker charts and behavioral point systems are set up mixed in with a healthy dose of positive affirmations (“Way to go, Bud. I can see you’re trying so hard.”) and punishments (“Sorry, Bud, but you have to go into time-out.”)
Mostly it’s a futile exercise. In some ways the content of the consequence (positive or negative)is irrelevant.
“Time out” as a parenting tool has been so much a part of our culture for at least four decades that we forget that there was a time where “time out” did not exist and was not part of the parenting lexicon and toolbox. (I don’t remember my parents ever sending me to “time out.”)
John Rosemond, the parenting expert, reduces much of effective parenting down to a simple statement – “Lead and they will follow.”
That’s exactly right.
Somewhere along line (mostly due to psychology’s input) a notion developed that more democratic households would be the best way to “parent.” (I’m not talking political here, folks, just referring to households where children have much greater input and decision making.)
If you’re a “Hedonistic Pirate” who wants pleasure at all costs, then these type of households energize you. You sense the weakness. Any chink in the armor represents an opportunity for more pleasure. Whining, crying, tantrumming, avoiding, distracting, refusing, complaining (“I hate this homework”), become weapons to make sure you keep the pleasure coming and not have to deal with the parental request or demand.
Mind you, I’m not advocating for rigid, inflexible or harsh parenting. In fact, with that style kids will get very angry (rightfully so) and push back in all kinds of ways to overthrow the rigid power structure.
In line with the Rosemond theory, when my kid was very little, we would talk about the dog and the tail. “Where is the tail,” I would ask? “Is it in front of the dog?” He would laugh about the silly image of the tail in front of the dog. I would remind him, if the dog followed the tail you would have a crazy dog.
The dog does not ask the tail where he would like to go. The tail follows the dog.
Don’t get hung up on sticker charts, time-outs or whatever else you may be concocting to get your kid to listen.
Consequences come out of clear leadership. With leadership consequences (positive and negative ones) are decided on the spot, not reactively, but decisively.
To illustrate what I am talking about, next week we will conclude this series with a script and a manner of leading to change the odds better so that the tail follows the dog.
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