Yesterday, as I walked past the Health and Beauty aisle at Target, I overheard a fight among siblings. I kept walking past, though I couldn't help but rubberneck: there on the floor were two well-dressed young children fighting over a toy. One punched the other hard in the stomach, while the stylish mom turned to say, "Seriously? We're doing THIS now?" The mother wasn't young and she wasn't old, and the children--who I had observed earlier throughout the store--appeared normal in all respects. It was the mother's reaction that wasn't normal.
What happened to behaving yourself in public? What happened to treating other human beings with respect? What happened to correcting behavior that is dangerous, disruptive or destructive? Yikes. Is this the best we can do? I wonder if the past couple of generations of families have suffered parenting amnesia, forgetting how to navigate the extremes of too lax and too strict. I wonder if we are too proud to take a parenting class or two?
Unfortunately, common sense parenting skills are rare to find these days, and it shows. That's why we could all benefit from programs like RIP, a Regional Intervention Program that teaches parents basic parenting skills. That was the topic of our fifth parenting discussion, led by my friend Meredith who is a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd instructor with an Atrium of her own, former mommy from our Montessori Mornings, and who went through the RIP program herself.
RIP's Basic Strategies
- State Expectations in Advance: Give one clear instruction.
- Catch Your Child Being Good: Give specific, positive attention to the behavior that you want to occur again.
- Present Limited Reasonable Choices: Learning to take personal responsibility takes support and practice.
- Use "When…..Then": Give a simple instruction that tells your child what he must do in order to earn a desired consequence.
- Plan Ahead: Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
- Know What is Reasonable: Keep your expectations realistic. (Part of this is understanding child development, part is knowing your child. If you suspect that your child may have special needs, seek the help of a qualified professional.)
- Stay Calm: The more out-of-control your child becomes, the more self control you need to use. (If you have problems with anger management or depression, seek professional help.)
- Use Neutral Time: The best time to talk is when everyone is calm enough to listen.
Not all couples are on the same page when it comes to parenting. Understandably, problem behaviors can drive a wedge between you two and create terrible stress. If you are struggling while your spouse/partner is oblivious, there are good books and websites that can get you started with parenting help, and you may want to seek help as a couple, as well.
- Yale Center for Parenting. It mentions Alan Kazdin's parenting help tips and his book, The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.
- Mayo Clinic Has information on parenting a child with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, etc.
I wish that all parents and teachers who struggle with problem behavior (um, I guess that's all of us!) would participate!