By Danette Vernon
If your 2-year-old has yet to learn the meaning of Barney’s “Clean Up” song, your 4-year-old is still in Pull-Up’s, your 8-year-old demands you cut their meat at the dinner table, and your neighbors roll their eyes when they find out any of your children will be in attendance at local birthday parties, you might be in trouble.
The problem is that you’re so tired all of the time, and to be honest, you were the same way when you were a child and you eventually grew out it. But it may have been a rude awakening when you got married and the stuff that worked with your parents didn’t work so well on your spouse. So as you start the new year, it might be time to aim for a long-term peace with your children, as opposed to the short-term peace that a piece of candy buys you.
Setting a few limits now might save your child from divorcee court later.
How do you do that?
The fundamentals are, of course, be consistent, and have rules in place that you are willing to adhere to. Beyond that, I decided early on to learn the “ABC’s” of my child’s behavior, for example, what was going to trigger my child. The ABC’s are as follows: Antecedents (hungry and tired); Behavior (loses temper more easily); Consequences, natural (you hit your brother, he hits you back), or judicial (you’re grounded).
It’s kind of like detective work, combined with the Biblical “eye for an eye” sort of parenting.
Then, I was handed a book called, “No More Meltdowns,” by Jed Baker, and it changed my life, or at least my behavior. That’s right, my first read through the book gave me some tips on how to manage MYSELF better, and the rationales for why I “act the way I do” in certain situations.
First, I assessed myself just as you would assess your child’s temperament, through the “nine dimensions of temperament.” The assessment is kind of like a “Who Moved My Cheese” for children.
Next, I considered myself and the children I know. Do we tend towards dealing in facts, and therefore have a hard time with abstract thinking? For example, when it comes to any of your children, do they argue fiercely against fairy tales situations such as, “cows can’t use typewriters!” as they can’t imagine it? If so, they may not be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes very easily — as they can’t imagine how the other person is feeling with any ease.
Finally, was I inflexible in my thinking? If I want to go to my favorite restaurant, but it’s 11 a.m., and it doesn’t open until noon, do I waste time fuming, or do I consider my options? For me, it depends on the day. What about your child? Is waiting an issue?
Having to wait is one of the “Antecedents” identified by the author for meltdowns. Others are internal or biological triggers (hungry or tired), lack of structure (you demand your child get their coat on, but they don’t know where they are going or why, or even where their coat is!), threats to self-image (feeling shame because they have made a mistake, or were being teased, or criticized), demands (requests to do homework, get out of bed, or kiss Aunt Bertha, etc.).
You can make sure your children are not hungry, or too tired, and explain why they need to do something, or distract them when they get out sorts when their favorite restaurant isn’t open. But they still have to do their homework and get out of bed, and sometimes politely decline kissing Aunt Bertha. So now what? Discover some answers in my next column in two weeks.