MANAGING DIFFICULT KIDS
"Every easy choice today, will have its consequences tomorrow." Sister Aloysius in the movie DOUBT
A little girl bought herself a string of artificial pearls with her pocket money. She loved those pearls and wore them always. One night, her daddy asked her: "Do you love me?" "Yes", she replied. "Then give me the pearls", he pleaded. "No daddy", was her immediate reply. "No problem. Daddy loves you", he assured her, as he kissed her good night. The same sequence took place the next two nights. On the following night, with tears she handed over the pearls to her daddy, who took it, and with the other hand gave her a set of real pearls. The child leaped into the outstretched arms of her father, overjoyed.
This touching incident has a few lessons for us. First, there are times when patience, tact and unfailing love, bring about a change of heart in the child, to result in unselfish, better behaviour. Second, the child's development has to be tested from time to time. Will she trust her parents enough to surrender to their requests? Third, the child's trust has to be rewarded, even with token gifts. Often, the child does not know what good will come to her through changed behaviour, and resists. At such times parents should persist and not be put off by the child's stubborn refusal. Parents who want their children to behave well should choose the best parenting options and not the easiest. Most parents face a quandary - they are besieged with doubt. What method will succeed; what option is better? They dither and their doubt consumes them. Then they make easy choices; to avoid the unpleasant.
But the unpleasant will not go away; it will revisit them the next day. With good reason, we are reminded that there are no substitutes for Example, wise Parental Instructions and timely Discipline, to manage all kids, the difficult ones in particular.
At random, we shall take three situations and try to outline the difficult choices we have to make. None of these situations is easy to manage. Not many parents use the same methods. What is important is that options are adjusted to suit the child and the situation, mindful of the presence of siblings who watch every move.
The pre-approach is to breathe deep. When we are faced with such situations we tend to get angry because the child has misbehaved, and disappointed with our failure to correct the child earlier. Now, is not the time for anger, but mature response. Begin by consciously breathing deep. The Indian Yogis practise deep breathing with great success. The Budhists highly recommend deep breathing - attributing to it the power of healing. Medical opinion supports the view that deep breathing relaxes the mind and body. As a bonus, deep breathing is easy and free. It is so crucial to our relaxed state of mind and body, that we could make a habit of it. Deep breathing then becomes an automatic response, when we need it most. Don't stop with deep breathing; pray. Prayer never fails. As parents we imagine that we have things under control, because of our position. Even tiny tots know how foolish parents are in believing that. Children make us dance. They know it. That is why we need God's help
in confronting a situation that seems manageable, but has explosive consequences.
Have no doubt; pray. Pray and deep breathe.
1) STUBBORN AND DEMANDING CHILDREN
The first question is: How did it come to this? If we had disciplined children from the start, demanding behaviour would have no scope. Because we surrendered ground at the start, we find it difficult to recapture it. So, out of anger and frustration, we yell, threaten and beat children. In the early stages, if the child knew what would work, and what would not, today's scene would not have been enacted. Okay. There is no point in stressing on what was not done. Let us see how we can tackle it now.
a) In a calm state of mind take in the situation. Is the child tired, ill or wanting attention? What is her behaviour: crying, screaming, kicking or hitting out? In a few moments she could spend herself; give that option a chance.
b) If the child is young enough, try distracting her with some of her favourite activities.
c) Offer her a choice: red car or blue doll; Milo or milk. A choice tends to draw the child away from her one-track demands.
d) If the child is old enough, strike a deal: You do X and you get Y.
e) Gently lead the child away from the scene, especially if she is trying to impress
visitors at home. Distance from the disputed object helps.
f) Based on the child's age, explain role reversal: "You are mummy and I am you. What will you do if I behave like you are doing now?"
g) If she wants to tune on the TV, Music System and other electrical gadgets, try keeping them out of her reach.
h) When gentle persuasion fails, a smack on the bottom does not. Do not hesitate.
2) WHAT TO DO WHEN CHILDREN DAMAGE THINGS AND MESS UP?
a) Stay calm and assess the damage. What is broken cannot be fixed.
b) Get the child involved in cleaning the mess.
c) If it was an accident, better not harass the child. It could have happened to anyone.
d) If it was a wilful act, disciplinary action should follow. She should know that bad behaviour will not be condoned.
e) If she has a piggy bank into which she deposits her small savings, impose a small fine on her and withdraw money from that bank in her presence.
f) Warn her that a wilful act repeated, would attract sterner disciplining. Make no mistake, children understand such warning, when parents do not make empty threats.
3) WHAT TO DO WHEN THE CHILD STARTS LYING
a) As always, show no stress, but a sense of disappointment. Children who really love their parents hate to see them disappointed.
b) Speak to the child alone; not even in the presence of siblings. Respect her privacy and dignity.
c) Explain to her the consequences of lying. A lie is difficult to hide. If not today, the next week it will be out in the open.
d) Parental example is critical. If we lie and the child knows it, we forfeit our right to correct the child. Certainly she will not take us seriously.
e) Trust the child and extract a promise from her that she will not do it again.
f) Please do not nag the child about her lapse. If she lies again, go over the same exercise, but in a sterner tone and follow that with some form of disciplining.
(Please refer to posts 12 and 13 on disciplining)
g) Praise the child for all kinds of good behaviour. It has manifold benefits. Use it often.
NEWS: The Straits Times, Singapore, of June 29,2009, carried news of a challenging
development in England. Schools are likely to be empowered to proceed against parents for the disruptive behaviour of their children. Fines and imprisonment could follow.