Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Ask Dr. Kirk

Okay, so I frequently will have parents come up to me when they see me in public and ask me, "…Just how can we make our children be more polite? They are always interrupting us and causing trouble at home. What should we do?" Well, the real answer is, do nothing. Yes, in fact, the more you do nothing, the better things are going to be with your children.

Look at it this way; you are constantly in charge of training your child to be the person he is going to be. What you continuously need to be aware of is that your child is requiring guidance from you every second of the day. As your child gets older, he will require less guidance from you, whether you have or you have not done your job correctly as a parent. Pretend that you are going to film yourself interacting with your child. What would you see when you played the scene back? Could it be looked upon as a successful interaction or a big mess? That is what we all need to consider BEFORE we engage with the child.

I often see parents telling their child, "You are not to interrupt me," and that is exactly what she or he, the parent, is allowing the child to do by engaging and speaking with the child. Sure, the child may be saying, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy," and possibly pulling on your pant leg or blouse, but YOU are the one allowing the child to interrupt, pretending like he is not, when you address your child's annoying "Mommy!" behavior. Remember, the way your child treats you, he will surely treat others. This is the part where you do nothing. Your child is pulling on your pant leg while you are in conversation with someone. You do NOTHING, and keep on having your conversation. It is difficult to ignore your child, but you can do it.

Your child has learned to feel powerful because he can get you to do anything, even stop your conversation, but not this time. You do NOTHING with the child and just keep on talking. Of course your child does not believe you would really ignore him, so he keeps it up, being impolite that is. Still, you do nothing. Eventually, in situations such as this, your child will learn some manners because you do NOTHING. Finding out that a certain behavior no longer works will make a child search for a more functional, workable behavior. Watch for it; when you see that positive behavior that looks like good manners, take action and respond to your child. Smile at him. That will encourage the child to repeat that behavior, over and over and over.

Remember, our children act the way they do because we respond to them when they do these things.
Eating out at a restaurant, you tell your child to stop slurping or burping. That little bit of parental attention is all the child requires to KNOW that this is a good behavior for him because you, the parent, paid attention to him when he did it, again and again. Thus, he is burping or slurping for YOU. Bad behavior continues because we pay attention to it; we recognize our child as a "burper" or slurper." Your child misbehaves, is impolite, and has poor manners because you respond to him when he does it. Next time, do NOTHING. This form of parenting is known as Zen parenting. By doing nothing, you are really doing something. Remember, the more polite we are—as in not noticing our child's poor choices—the more polite your child can become, particularly when you hesitate to only notice their positive behaviors, their good manners. Zen, everything will be better.

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