Who's on First?

As an observing adult, I have viewed how children are often quite oppositional with their parents. Surprisingly, parents often show little sense of overt sorrow, but instead display bursts of anger. I question just how that application of presumed logic can make sense. It is as if the adult believes that by being mistreated by the child, it then allows the parent to return the mistreatment to the child. I wonder how that can actually work, that by hurting the child he will consider no longer arguing or refrain from being oppositional with the parent. I believe that this is probably flawed judgment. More than likely, this is the cause of early family experiences where we observed our own family members employing the same tactics. Funny thing is that while we seem to keep these older, and less useful, methods that we may have learned of as children, when, in fat, they do not work! Perhaps we should recycle our parenting skills, which will allow us to stay peacefully well ahead of our children.

Too often I have observed parents display an outright sense of frustration with their child over seemingly small situations; homework, messy rooms, talking back, coming home late, and poor eating habits. It is similar to how Abbot and Costello would play out the "Who's on First?" comedy act. In the comedy sketch, Bud Abbot would be talking about the players on a baseball team and his partner, Lou Costello, thought he was talking about something entirely different. Bud Abbot kept trying to explain the situation and Lou Costello just became more and more frustrated and finally would give up. Looking at it from a distance, the observed parent-child interactions often appear to be in the same framework. One person, the child, is offering the straight line and the parent, feeling confused, becomes more and more frustrated toward the child. It's a great bit, but totally unnecessary.

As parents, we have more power than we know. You believe that by arguing with your child, he will learn something. He will, he will learn to argue. You believe that through the use of anger your child will learn something. He will, he will learn to use anger. As parents we should be more like the judo master; calm and composed with fluid, purposeful movements, aware that your adversary has little ability to harm you should you observe and anticipate what he is planning to do. Watch your child and think about what is happening. Your child does not set out to argue, he is impulsive and requires training from you, the Master. Role model just how you wish your child to act in a crisis, but you must do it in order for him to learn. Think less about what is happening at the moment, "This kid is smarting off to me," and more about what could be done here to teach your child.

The more you engage with a child for poor behavior, the more you will see that poor behavior revisited. It is as if you have given your child permission to have such behavior by engaging in it with him. Refuse to participate in awkward situations. Speak directly to your child ONLY when he is behaving appropriately. Otherwise, speak to him indirectly. Speaking to him directly informs him that his behavior is acceptable, while speaking indirectly informs him that what he is offering is not acceptable and he must search to find another way to communicate with you. When he does it right, then you can respond. I know that it is possible to tell children what you want without speaking to them directly. This way they can receive your message without any significant interaction from you. Once a child has done as you have requested, now you can respond to them as it is a privilege to be able to interact with you, and your child has earned the privilege. When he does it right, and you respond directly, he is learning that this new appropriate behavior works. Now you are parenting. Now you are on first!

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