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It's Not Fair!


Parents continue to experience great difficulty at times with the challenges of raising their children. The challenge seems to be staying ahead of the development of each child, knowing what he or she is capable of, how often he or she can do it, and for how long. My granddaughter is 16 months of age and is already being coached by her mother to pick up after herself. She is told to clean up her toys by picking them up and placing them back into the basket prior to leaving the room. She does it, willingly. I figure that if a 16 month old can do it so can a 14 year old child. However, you ask him or her to do something and they may rant about things not being fair! We need to expect, almost demand, that our children become compliant individuals. What does that mean? It is merely a matter of child training.

"...you unnecessarily speak to your child at times, rewarding him or her with your attention."
It means that your child has conditioned you into working for him or her. When you offer your child a command or directive such as "Go clean up your room," and your child responds with an "it's not fair" remark, things have gone terribly wrong. Look at what happens when your child makes that remark: You respond, he or she responds, and you respond again, then he or she responds again. No one has gone anywhere and you are getting frustrated because you are thinking that your child should take your advice to go clean the room, but your child has other ideas. What you have done by responding to your child, following your command, is that you have elevated your child to semi-adult status. Yes, semi-adult status. When you talk with your child about his or her remark of it being "not fair," and attempt to convince him that you have the right to ask and expect his compliance, you are mistaken. You are mistaken because you believe your child is being logical or even reasonable with this verbal process, but what is actually occurring is your child is being defiant and disrespectful, all under the guise of the "it's not fair" moniker.

Every time that you physically interact with your child you are telling him or her that his or her behavior is acceptable! There is no logical reason for them not to do the behavior again as long as you are willing to interact with him or her. "But," you suggest, "I am unhappy with him or her, I need to convince my child that he is wrong" you may even be yelling at him or her, "I need to do something," you say, sometimes children even get a swat. Problem is, we are the ones who do not understand the process. The child understands it completely. It goes like this: Say something and get a response directly from your parent, known as parent-child interaction.

"...take back positive control of our families and expect compliance by our children."
Every time that you repeat this process you are doing three things:

1. You are informing your child that you are willing to interact with him when he exhibits this behavior.
2. You are telling your child how you feel about her through the emotions you express. Smile at your child, he is a smile, frown at your child, she is a frown.

3. You teach your children to misbehave through your parental interactions. Children act like the person they believe oneself to be and we created this process and then we encourage it as we interact with the child.

You can turn this process around by recognizing that you unnecessarily speak to your child at times, rewarding him or her with your attention (aka: Love). You tell your child to "Go clean your room," then nothing should be said to that child again until the work is complete, just like when you are told to perform a task by your boss at work. Resist reminding or encouraging, you are the one who needs reminding (be quiet) and to be encouraged. Your child will sign up for behaviors that you encourage, as when you engage with him or her, and give up on behaviors that you discourage by refraining from offering attention to him or her. My granddaughter responded compliantly to her mother as she repeated, softly yet commandingly, over and over what she wanted her daughter to do, "pick up the toys, pick up the toys." What really is "not fair" is that often times our children grow up "learning" to be defiant, lacking skills in home care, and not developing a positive sense of oneself through the successful work one does.

What is "not fair" is how we turn our families into battlefields because we believe we need to defend our decisions as parents and argue with our children. What is "fair" is for us to take back positive control of our families and expect compliance by our children. My granddaughter happily cleans up her own mess at 16 months; I can only imagine what she will be happily doing when she is 16 years old. One thing, I'm sure of, she will not be arguing with her mother.

Michael E. Kirk, PhD, a local clinical psychologist, is a father and grandfather. He specalizes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

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