In this, the third of three blog posts on parenting, we highlight a mindset that can help you with challenging, “emphatic children.”
As you will recall from the last two posts Parenting Post I- “Hey Bud”, Parenting Post Part II – “Hey, Bud,” continued) we do not emphasize sticker charts or elaborate behavioral strategies or approaches.
Lead and they will follow. The tail follows the dog.
With this model, “parenting” as a verb is largely strategic, objective – not reactive, not emotional.
Recognizing that each child and family is different, there are some commonalities that apply to most situations.
Take, Liam, a 6 year old child who has been extremely difficult for his parents to manage. Birthday parties, trips to the mall, dinners in restaurants dinners have largely been a chaotic, roller coaster ride of unpleasantness..
Liam’s mom, Tracy, decided it was time to put an end to it. She was tired of being the tail to Liam’s dog.
Deciding to lead rather than follow, Tracy sat her son down before they were to go shopping in Target.
Before sitting Liam down, Tracy thought about how she wanted the shopping experience to go and what would be the cost if Liam chose to disregard (ignore) her.
Once she was clear in her mind, it was time to implement.
(Tracy got Liam’s attention and directed him away from his playing on Xbox and sat him down in the boring part of the house – the living room.)
“The last time we went to Target,” she continued, “you ran ahead and started to grab things off the shelf. I was very upset. (pause, pause, pause) Well, it’s not going to happen like that this time.” (Pause, pause, pause, letting it sink in a little.)
“If you start to run ahead, I will give you one warning (pause). If you choose to ignore me. We will stop and I will give our cart back with everything we were getting and we will go straight home. There will be no TV, no screens, no iPad – nothing. It will be a totally boring no fun day. You will also be going to bed early.”
Keep in mind that when I review this type of thing with parents, they will say things like , “We do that…we took away his iPad and it didn’t do anything.”
It’s not the taking away of the iPad that matters. It’s how you talk to your child – It’s tone and body language and showing that you are will to sacrifice and to not be held hostage to his chaotic behavior.
I understand that these things don’t change immediately, but I would encourage you to look at the way you are talking to your child and the way you sound.
You’re in charge. The tail is not wagging the dog.
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