the use of force

The other day,
I witnessed another struggling young mother
completely helpless in the face of her screaming toddler.

She tried to pull him along.
He pulled back, slipped, falling, hit his head,
thus intensifying his screams,
and presumably making her feel all the more embarrassed
and incompetent.

Except anyone who has kids or has worked with them
knows how difficult and common such situations are.

In these cases, I always repress my urge to intervene.
I avoid intervening for 2 reasons:

1. Help from a stranger could be even more embarrassing and unwanted.

2. My help might not work; these sorts of patterns of behavior are rarely changed in 1 day.

However, I usually feel that the problem is quite obvious: No one like to be forced to do things, and the adult in these situations usually resorts to increasing degrees of force.

It’s sad that so many parents don’t realize how easy children are to PERSUADE. They are typically entertained by the smallest trifles, and can usually be convinced that anything is fun with the right attitude. However, adults rarely make things look fun.

Their short attention spans also abet the adults advantage.

The proper approach to tantrums is to find DISTRACTIONS. Find something that looks fun, and get the child to focus on that; give them something to want and give it to them!

Of course, the danger with this method is that it easily leads to spoiling children. They may begin throwing more tantrums to get what they want. Notice however, I didn’t say give them what they originally wanted. Let’s assume that’s totally off limits. Find something that’s fully acceptable, that you can trick them into wanting, and give them that!

In any case, I don’t deny that when kids go too far, they need to be brought in line. There are times when force is necessary. But the less the better.

With one’s children, I advocate choosing your battles carefully. Avoid them as much as possible, and especially in public, where the child may even recognize that they have distinct advantages, and is more likely to be stressed in any case.

Why not give them as much as you can? Furthermore, I would like to believe that children who believe their parents want to give them everything will be more understanding when they can’t.

All too many parents see their jobs as keeping their children from all the bad things they will want to do and knee-jerk react in the negative. They quickly lose their children’s trust. Since kids will still fight for what they want, these parents will live an endless battle.

Often, when adults get into a power struggle with children, they feel they have to prove their superiority. Since beating children has become passé, these instincts often lead to failure.

However, if one remains focused on the practical goal of accomplishing whatever tasks were at hand, then adults should still have the ability to OUTSMART children. Accomplish your tasks by re-introducing them from alternative perspectives that give the child desirable options.

If you’re their ally, and they can really understand why certain rare refusals are really necessary, and if such refusals are typically accompanied with desirable alternatives, then I believe most children can be quite cooperative.


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