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When Will She Get It?

by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.
Her child comes in while she is busy talking on the phone, and he requires his mother’s direct attention. Mother is working at home and attempting to get a job completed while having her four-year-old son around. “Look Matthew, you cannot have that popsicle. Give it to me. I told you earlier that this was not a good idea. How many times do I have to say it? Go find something else to do. You are bothering me.”

The child runs out after looking at her as she turns away from him, back to work as usual. Her son is running all through the house, and Mother is heard to say, “Stop acting like a crazy person, Matthew!” Yet, Mother never comes out of the room to observe what he is doing but only makes repeated remarks about his continual yelling and screeching. Matthew comes back into the office and starts talking to Mother. “But, you said you would play with me after a while.” Mother stops her work, turns around in her chair looking right at her son, and says, “Look. You are interrupting me, and I really need to get this work completed. You know, I have other things to do as well. I have to get all of this work done. You get it, Matthew? I have to finish the work!” No, Matthew does not “get it.”

Matthew throws a ball at the desk, and it scatters papers across the table. Mother shrieks at Matthew, “Get out of here, Matthew! I mean it! Right Now!” He runs out the door. Out in the hallway, he is banging a truck against the wall. Mother remarks loudly, “I hope you’re not marking up the walls with that toy. You’re going to lose that toy, Matthew!” Mother goes on with her work, and Matthew runs screeching throughout the house. Matthew runs through Mother’s office again, and she stands up and grabs him. “Haven’t I told you NOT to run through my office? I am trying to work here.” Matthew remarks, “But, I want you to take me to the park. You’re mean. Take me to the park!” Mother takes Matthew by the shoulders and remarks, “I told you that I can not do that right now. You are hyper from that popsicle this morning. I wish you would just leave me alone. All day long, you are annoying me. How can I ever get anything done with you screaming all day long?” Matthew looks at her, blinks, and runs off. Mother reminds him to keep his dirty hands off the new sofa. “I’ll be mad if someone gets that new couch dirty!”

Matthew comes back to Mother. “I want to watch TV.” Mother turns to him and reminds him, “You are NOT to bother me when I am working. How many times have I told you that? You are not to disturb me when I am working.  Do you understand me, Matthew?” Mother smacks Matthew on the rear end and sends him back out of the room to fend for himself.

All day, every day, this happens to Mother. She does not yet understand she is making his behavior the way it is, because she continues to interact with him each time he comes into contact with her. Young children do not understand logic.  They only know they want attention, and any kind of attention will do. Matthew will do anything as long as his mother is attentive to him. He gets “it.” When will she?

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