On a recent HBO special featuring Bill Maher, he spent part of his routine focusing on modern children and their parents.
Maher said something like, “First of all, where did parents get the idea that they have to negotiate with their kids about everything? I see this in the way they talk to their kids – ‘Hey, Buddy. Are you ready to go?” (Mocked by Maher, said in pleading and imploring tones about parents trying to get their kids to do something.)
Maher continued, “When we were kids it wasn’t like that. It was, ‘Get in the (expletive) car.’”
I know what Maher means.
Probably as a fallout from psychology’s over-emphasis many years ago on children’s self-esteem, kids are frequently coddled by their parents to the point where we are worried that if we put undue “stress” or demand on them that they will break apart like fragile teacups.
In some ways, kids are not that complicated. While kids certainly are seeking love and approval, what do you think is the number one underlying drive of most kids? What are they seeking virtually all of the time?
Sounds nice, but no.
So, what do kids want? An expression back in the granny era helps to answer the question.
“They just want to have their bread buttered on both sides,” granny would say. In other words, they want to have it their way, with no frustration – pleasure round the clock.
While seeking pleasure all the time and having their bread buttered on both sides, kids become Hedonistic Pirates!
Annoying things like doing homework, walking the dog, taking out the trash, are examples of pleasure blocking moments and therefore they are detested activities to avoid at all costs. Meltdowns, arguments, crying jags, oppositional behaviors, distractions, whatever, are all available to avoid having to do the annoyance that is getting in the way of pleasure.
(Of course, the meltdown or the arguing also gets in the way of having pleasure, but that’s the irrationality of childhood!)
With these pleasure seekers, especially the ones who have emphatic personalities, the “Come on, Bud, are you ready to go” style of making a parental request made fun of by Maher usually doesn’t cut it. The end result is a child remaining squarely in charge as the parent is largely ignored.
What do you do if you are using “Come on, Bud,” language with your child?
First notice it. Catch yourself sounding like someone who is asking to be ignored and remind yourself, “There you go again. That sounded wimpy. I wouldn’t even listen to me.” (Humor helps.)
By noticing it, you are on the road to parent recovery.
Next week we will drill down even more with what to do.
There are different ways to make parental requests. Would you bet on a child listening to, “Hey, Buddy, how about we start getting ready for bed?”