for release Friday May 13 2005
by Melodie Davis
Scream-free Parenting: You Are the Parent
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series on parenting difficult children.
“I WANT TO READ ONE MORE BOOK!” screamed the toddler in the local mall bookstore. “I WANT TO READ ONE MORE BOOK!” she continued shrieking repeatedly as her mother quite calmly (it appeared to me) gathered the child up in her arms and hauled her out of the bookstore and down the mall’s center hallway. The screams echoed far into the distance.
Such a reasonable request that no good mother could refuse, right? Why should any mother refuse to let a child read one more book?
This column launches a series of three articles on child behavior and how adults can deal with problem behavior more effectively.
It was about 8:30 on a Friday evening and I wondered: Was this just a typical toddler/mall meltdown? A tired kid? Or was the child out of control—a la the “Nanny” reality shows. Did this sweet-looking little girl frequently hold her parents hostage to her wishes?
As bystanders, we rarely know what exactly is going on in one of these scenes that are uncomfortable for everyone.
While many parents just wish their kids would pick up and read a book, there’s a whole bunch of reasons a perfectly good parent might reasonably refuse to let their child look at or read one more book: one, if he or she has been told that time was up, it was time to go, or that he or she would be allowed to look at so many books and no more. In another setting, a child may beg to “read one more book” because they are stalling doing homework, housework, or going to bed. I’m sure the toddler in question didn’t really need to read one more book, but was rather protesting going home, knowing that bedtime would surely follow.
The manner in which the mother calmly picked up her child and carried her out of the store with simple, low-volume assurances that it was time to go, she couldn’t read one more book, etc., and that the maneuver was accomplished without a full scale kicking-on-the-floor tantrum, made me think it was just a tired child, rather than a toddler terrorist.
On the “Dr. Phil” TV program recently, out of control kids were featured ranging from toddlers to teens. The toddlers were shown typically screaming and kicking to get their way at least daily or more often, whether dressing, eating breakfast, being left at school or daycare, even just riding in the car with Mom or Dad. It was not uncommon for these toddlers to hit or strike their Mom or Dad and scream, “I hate you.”
The teens had habits of talking back or disrespecting their parents, also with screaming, and sometimes hitting.
Now, it doesn’t follow that a troubled toddler always becomes a troubled teen, nor are there always signs of rebellion and disrespect at an early age when a teen “goes bad.” These symptoms seem to be “equal opportunity” –across all religious, ethnic, and economic groups. Most times the children don’t really like what they are doing or how they are behaving; who enjoys screaming and being upset? As Dr. Phil pointed out to one teenager, “No guy is gonna want to take you out. He’ll be afraid you’re going to yell at him and hit him, too.”
The question is, why do kids act the way they do? There are many reasons, and we’re going to explore some of the latest books and “experts” with the goal of finding effective ways to discipline, deal with, and love your kids.
We’ll continue this topic next time, but so that you feel like you have at least one tip, here’s one: You are the parent. You have the right to make some demands of your children. You have the right to insist that they behave. Sometimes just having this shift in attitude—knowing that there is a challenge here and you need to rise to it, is enough to help guide you through minor skirmishes. Children know when we’re waffling—and I was the chief waffler at our house—but I also know the benefit of laying down guidelines and following through with natural consequences if they do not follow the guidelines.
If you have Internet access, you can get a free email newsletter on effective parenting. Sign up under “Add Me” at http://www.ciccparenting.org/ Or, write to me with your comments at: Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 767 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.
©2005 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.
Return to Another Way