Friday, July 21, 2006


Sometimes a child begins a long, downward cycle of repetitious, improper behavior, and the child drags an adult into their circle of negativity by not responding to criticism or punishment. The child misbehaves again, for the thousandth time. The adult disciplines again, and due to an excess of practice, tries to raise their voice a little differently, maybe even try a little calmness. They might as well fuss at the kid with a Scottish brogue for all the good it'll do.

This downward spiral reminds me of World War II Air Force movies where the pilot is pulling desperately back on the stick hoping to avoid a crash landing as the plane heads straight for the rapidly approaching ground. As an adult, you feel desperate, and hoping at the last minute that the plane will come out of its dive and all will end well. However, kids are not P-51 Mustangs that finally pull out of their dive, not because the pilot is tugging at the stick with all his might, but because the air gets thicker at sea level. Kids won't finally respond when the nose diving plane of life gets to thick air at sea level. You are in a nose dive with your child, and you, the pilot, better change your flight tactics.

Here comes the hardest part of all to swallow. Adults are in charge. We have the experience and the wisdom to realize that we are in their plane, and we are spiraling downwards with them. It is up to us, the adult, the pilot, to pull that kid out of his nosedive. This is our responsibility, our task. But how?

If you are a parent, I'm not the one to help you. I have been trying to help a friend with his daughter for years, but when I make a suggestion for consequences for rude treatment his wife and he receive from her but do not deserve, he responds, "That won't work. She just refuses to do it. I can't MAKE her go to her room or clean her room or talk politely to me or not cause the family problems."

Just because I can't help my friend or my readers doesn't mean I can't recommend experts who can. I highly recommend reading John Rosemond who is one of the first of an increasing number of family psychologists who help parents deal with the failure of American children to respond to expectations and discipline. Super Nanny , a popular television show, shows parents how to raise their expectations, stick to the consequences they mandate for their children, and make time for quality family activities. I strongly recommend Dr. Phil who is popular on television and has written numerous books. He has taken a similar stance as John Rosemond. Dr. Phil emphasizes finding a child's currency, what the child considers highly valuable, then taking that currency away when the child fails to follow the parents' instructions. None of these experts encourage spanking. They do encourage American parents to raise their expectations for their children's behavior, to lay down common sense rules, to firmly yet calmly punish unwanted behavior, and to stand up for themselves.

I won't dwell on this issue anymore, but I will encourage all parents to expect their children to heed discipline and not avoid correction. Take the advice of the experts. Here comes the catch: Listening to advice is easy; following advice is difficult and goes against the grain of human nature. To quote Katherine Hepburn's character in the classic film, "The African Queen", "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."


Laura said...

Pshaw. I don't take parenting advice from anyone who doesn't advocate daily beatings....:)

Laura said...

But also, I believe in end result parenting. Meaning what doesn't look perfect as it is baking, actually turns out quite good in the end. I am a hardass, and yet it is still not perfect book behavior from my son. I know that all will be fine when he is an adult, so I try not to overreact. It is his role to disobey and annoy me, much as it is my role to ruin all his fun and cause him future trips to the therapist.