Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Club Thursday | Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours

We are reading through the book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Leman.  All direct quotes from the book are in bold type.

Last week we looked at the first part of chapter 2 "It's All In the Eye of the Beholder."  Today we will look at the 2nd part.  It's all about power trips......

Getting away for even a few hours may sound great to many mothers, but sme of them might wonder, What if my child needs me?  That's just the point.  Your child doesn't need you all of the time.

Mother needs to treat herself fairly and not become a slave to her children.  If Mom is always there to meet every little need the child has, child soon becomes psychologically crippled by believing that he can exist only with Mom's presence.  Another part of the "Mom is always there" syndrome is that the child learns there is a payoff in crying and fussing.

When I first became a mother I thought this idea was ridiculous.  I couldn't remember my mother "getting away".  And then I thought about it.  She did get away, but she never treated it like she was getting away from us.  We never were made to feel that she needed a break from us.  Mothers can have some time alone without making their children that they are the reason Mommy needs to get away.  I have since learned how to leave Addie with Brian, my mother-in-law, or my aunt and "get away" for a hair cut, scrapbooking with the ladies, grocery shopping, a date woth Brian, a doctor's appointment, etc..  And you know what?  Addie has survived!

As I counsel parents and their children, I see repeated illustrations of how children learn through experimenting with power. To put it in today's jargon, the child takes "power trips" to see who is going to dominate, control, win, or "be the boss." And with every power trip, the child learns a little more about what works and doesn't work with Mom and Dad.

Powerful behavior is a child's way of saying to the parent and other adults, "I can control you. I can dominate you. I can win. I can make you do anything I want."

When a child uses his temper to say, "I'm going to control you, Mom and Dad," they had better be ready to deal with the child swiftly, and with action, not just words.

On Tuesday, we had a real life incident like this happen at the park, of all places, during Brian's softball game.  Our rule is that we can play on the equipment until the first inning (Brian has a 30 minute warm-up period) and then we have to watch the game until Daddy hits the ball the first time.  Then we can go back to the equipment. 

We went to the bleachers to wait for Daddy to hit.  Addie began walking across the bleachers stomping (did you know what a wonderful sound bleachers make when you stomp at them?).  However, because we were not the only people on the bleachers, I told her that she needed to stop.  And that is when our little situation began.  She wanted to start stomping again.  She wanted to go to the equipment to play.  I told her that if her behavior did not stop, we were going to the car for a three minute time out.  I'm assuming by her behavior that her three year old mind thought, "Mommy can't be serious!" 

But Mommy was. 

Just as Daddy was walking up to the plate, Mommy began carrying a crying Addie off. I did stand off to the side to watch my man hit (and he did make it on base) and then we continued on to the car.  We sat inside for three minutes (air conditioning on) and we talked.  I explained that if this behavior continued, we would not be returning to the park in the future.  From that point on, any instructions that I gave her were listened to and obeyed without a fuss or complaint. Once our three minutes were up, we went and sat on a bench for a while and watched the game until it was Daddy's turn to bat again.  This time, we went to the fence and cheered him on (he was out at first) and then she was allowed to return to the equipment.  And she understood why she was in trouble also.  Into the next day, she was telling us how she did not obey Mommy at the park and how she was obeying Mommy now.

I believe the best approach to a temper tantrum is for the parent to pick up the child and place him in his room.  Close the door behind him and let him know that he is free to have his temper tantrum in private, and that when he has calmed down, he can rejoin the rest of the family.

When you attempt to try and stop a temper tantrum with pleading, arguing, scolding, or spanking, you usually end up with the child becoming more powerful and out of control.  But if you have the courage to pick up your child and place him outside the room, you can be almost positive the temper tantrum will vanish immediately.  Why? Because you've taken the source of power away: you have separated yourself from the scene the child is making for your benefit.

I tell mothers and fathers who face these public temper tantrums to do something very courageous: simply step over your child. (Granted, there is a great temptation to step on the child, but you are after positive results, not revenge.)

I had never heard of this approach to a tantrum before, but it does make sense.  We do send Addie to her room when she becomes a fussy during the day to calm down.  Within a few minutes she comes back and says, "Mommy, I'm sorry."  She is hugged, we pray, and then we move on. 

I've mentioned in the past how once when I was hanging clothes in our closet, Addie came in and saw some of the school things I had.  She wanted me to let her play with them and I said no.  She began whining. I left her standing in my closet and moved on to another room.  A few minutes later, she came up behind me (not fussing or crying) and said, "But Mommy, I'm crying!"

However you deal with powerful and purposive behavior, always keep in mind that every time your child takes a power trip, he or she is on another expedition of learning. If he gets away with his power plays, he learns that reality is manipulating and controlling Mom and Dad as much as possible. 

As parents, we need to hold the authority that God has given us, but we need to do it with a loving heart.  We need to take the time to teach our children through their times of correction about the behavior that God wants them to exhibit in their lives.  Sometimes we will have embarrassing moments, sometimes we will have moments of great pride.  But if we take the time to teach our children, rather than being quick and convenient-for-us about the correction we give, we can be assured that the lessons will reach their hearts and not just settle in their memory.


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