Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

INSANITY #!*?!


by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

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“All day long, my kids hit each other. One will come crying to me that he got hit, and then, the other will complain to me. I yell at them to stop and threaten to send them to their rooms. Nothing helps. I am so tired of screaming at them. I just wish they would listen.” This parent is trying to do the right thing with her children, but she is not learning from her mistakes. She knows that what she is doing with her children is not working, yet she keeps right on using those techniques. What was the definition of insanity?

Every parent has at one time thought that when they speak to a child, the child should and would listen. In fact, what really occurs is that the child recognizes that you are coming closer to him. When you do that, the child says, “Goody, I’m doing things right.” Do not be fooled by the fact that it appears your child heard you just because you spoke. There is really so much more going on in this situation that is unseen. The words you employ and how many; the force or gentleness of your voice; your attitude; whether or not you are peaceful or irritated; and, the length of time you perform this act are all so important. What is going on is that your child is attempting to control his world. He is doing everything exactly as he believes he should: spill my milk, hit my brother, complain about chores, call his brother names, scream loud when he gets hit back, and act like his arm is broken so you will come running to see what is happening. How did he learn this process? Sounds crazy, but his parent taught him.

Every child is taught who he or she is by direct contact with the parent. As a parent, if you smile at your child, then you are happy with him. Should you frown at your child, then you are unhappy with her. Do either of these actions often enough, and your child develops a self-image: I am good or I am bad. If you continue to be attentive to your child when he misbehaves, then he continues to believe he is a misbehaving child and acts out this role in the family. Then, the parent becomes upset when the child perfects the very role he was assigned and is yelled at again, once more reinforcing his self-beliefs: you do not like me. That is the insane part. The parent informs the child as to WHO he is, then complains when the child behaves in that manner.

Children will reproduce behaviors that we ourselves exhibit or to which we are attentive. If the boys are fighting, ignore them, really. If one comes to you with a complaint, you might say: I’m sure my son knows what to do, if he does not want to be hit. Focus only on the behaviors you want to see again with your children. Catch them being good and touch them. Whisper in their ear: “I like what you are doing here.” Be attentive verbally and physically when your children produce behaviors of which you approve. Extinguish your “SCREAM” button and choose when to speak softly. Ignore the behaviors you do not like and speak tenderly about the behaviors you support. As you become saner, so will your children. Your home will transform itself from an asylum to a sanctuary.

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Tags: Enrichment, Toddler, Tweens & Teens

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