Rule Number One
Mean What You Say
"No, No." A Thousand Times "No"
It just couldn't be simpler: When you say "no"--which you have to do often when raising a child--you must mean it. The way you show that you mean it is by enforcing it. Immediately. Not tomorrow or when you get home. Now. No hemming and hawing, no stalling or waffling, dallying or dawdling. Right now. This instant. There simply is no other way for a child to learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
When your three-year-old grabs a box of cereal off the shelf at the supermarket, tell her "no" and ask her to put it back. If she refuses, take it from her, put it back yourself, and inform her that when you get home she will have to suffer an appropriate punishment for disobeying you.
If she decides then and there to throw a tantrum, tell her to stop it. If she refuses, remove her from the area, take her home, and impose a more severe punishment.
A child's bad behavior is like a goldfish; it will take up as much room as you allow it. But if you apply consistency, gentleness and firmness, you will not have problems. It's not that complicated.
How Dare You Permit Your Child to Show You Disrespect
If you do not consistently follow this simple rule, you will lose your child's respect. There are few things uglier. You will lose your child's respect because she will come to realize that Dad will not follow through on his threats, or that Mom won't enforce her authority--in short, that her parents don't mean what they say.
Mom says, "Stop that." The four-year-old blithely disobeys, confident through experience that Mom won't enforce her words.
Mom says, "Stop it, or else." The child continues her bad behavior, knowing the threat is an empty one.
Mom says, "I said 'Stop it.' And I mean it." The child, glint in eye, grin on lips, does "it" again with relish.
Mom gets specific. "Stop it, or I'll take your toys away from you." Still the child keeps on, assured by history that even this threat is hollow.
What a frustrating scenario to watch, especially since it is so easily avoided.
You Are Making You and Your Child Miserable
The irony is that the child enjoys this dance no more than the parent. It is a disturbing thing to discover that your parents cannot be depended upon; that, in fact, they are liars.
Next time you observe a child being insolent toward his parents, look closely and you'll likely spot anger pulsing among the other emotions of the moment. It's an anger that arises out of the fact that the child has been denied his fundamental sense of security. If Mom doesn't mean what she says when it comes to controlling me, he thinks, then how can I trust anything else she says? If she doesn't have the guts to enforce my behavior, how can I trust her to have the guts to protect me?
Your child is relying on you to show him how to negotiate the perilous mountain road of life. He needs to have confidence in your ability to not take him careening off the edge.
If he observes that you can't control a little kid like him, how can he expect you to have any capabilities with the really tough guys out there in the scary world? Who's going to protect him and show him the way? Certainly not you. You've betrayed yourself as unfit. Apparently he's going to have to make it on his own.
What a blow to a kid. No wonder he's angry.
And no wonder that each time he's offered the opportunity to stick it to you, he'll seize it. Each time he has a chance to defy you, he'll do it in the way best calculated to cause you the greatest humiliation. Because if you're not going to provide him the security he needs, he's going to at least eke out a measure of consolation in the simple pleasure of taking his anger out on you.
©2002. All rights reserved. Reprinted from It's Not That Complicated by Doug Peine. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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