Winter is almost over; spring presses its fragile green head up through the soil, and already we are beginning to worry about summer. Whatever are we going to do with the kids while they are out of school?
The concern began with a parent’s muttered moan, “To prevent headache, do what the bottle says — keep away from children!” So as my grown kids are briefly out of town, here are three things I might do over if I was starting again.
1. Trade time outs for time in — time with parents, stories, lap-time, and hugs. The tiniest dose of stillness can build a strong, trusted foundation. 2. Give energy to behaviours I want, not those I don’t. Delight replaced discipline one suppertime when I fell off my chair to a child’s unexpected “Please!”
And perhaps it was a simple fear of embarrassment but after we tried that approach, our next family excursion was shockingly normal! 3. Let the kids hear ‘No!’ A cute little five-year-old, smartly dressed in high-fashion clothes, recently appeared on my Facebook page and coyly cocked his head toward the lens.
The caption read, “How could you say ‘No’ to this dude?” There will be many ‘nos’ in his future — if a ‘no’ can’t be accepted graciously now, it might be timely to practice a few more. And if that’s too tough, parents might practice ‘no’ loudly in the closet.
Signs of insanity can be highly advantageous! Parents generally ricochet between treats and threats with all sorts of unaffordable in-betweens. And the children ricochet in response — either by demanding more rewards or skillfully increasing manipulation.
The parents are afraid to cross the kids. And the children, like animals, can smell the fear. Children need presence, not presents. The most fatal error we make as parents is to treat children like animals. Simple conditioning may work for a while; an occasional rear end alignment might eliminate a wobble or two, but nothing will ever replace thinking.
There needs to be something beyond, “Mommie doesn’t like it …” And deeper than, “Daddy is coming home soon …” Something better than escalating bribes and reprimands. Some of our instincts need altering. Accordingly,
“Let’s discuss that tomorrow,” offers 24 hours of prime-time thinking. “Technically, a teen can be proved “crazy” — just ask Michael J. Bradley who wrote that book. Maybe it’s time for parents to act crazy, too. The next time a child misbehaves — try insanity.
“Merry Christmas, son — I hope you have a great day!” Or thank them for the nasties, “Awesome!” Might change the balance of things, and I’ve had so much fun acting crazy it’s hardly pretend any more.
Our job is not to make our children happy. Our job is to make them good — then they will be happy. My kids are coming home; my grandson will be here soon.
It’s time, once again, to put a cushion by my dining room chair.
Rita Corbett is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Advisor.