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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why is my child out of control?

That's a huge question.
Many parents wrestle with the problem of "out of control" children. Whether they are two or 14 - it's never an easy thing to watch.

I present a two hour class on each of the following topics. These classes help to bring the problem down to size and help you create a plan that will keep your child calm and your own self-esteem in line.

Principles of parenting
Basic discipline
Rebellion - Ages 5-14
How to raise a disciplined child in an undisciplined

Parenting is the only job we do that is almost 90% on the job training. It's also the only job that is all over the place. You can tackle one issue over here only to have another slightly related one blow up in your face. As parents we literally have to have our hands into everything at first and We have to purposely march from total control (small infants) to no control (adults). We must properly judge when to start letting go of some problems so our children can practice without ruining their lives. Parenting is the only job where the goal is to work yourself out of a position.

Tall order.

Let me bring it down to size for you. The most important thing to remember is to follow the rule of "age (or mental) appropriate".

You will probably understand what I mean if I just give you some examples.

I've watched children in restaurants have a complete meltdown trying to order. The parents are so frustrated they vow to never take the child out again. That's not good. Every child (especially in this "eat out" society) needs to understand and practice good manners in public.

I've also had many parents ask for help to simply get their child dressed in the morning. They say it's an all out fight to pick proper clothes.

Until school age and possibly (depending on the child) a little after, children can be overwhelmed by choices. Take a stroll through an older home - say 30-40's. Notice how small the closets were? Everything seems so small. Cabinets, rooms and even bathrooms. Think about how children were at that time. Quiet, mannerly and usually not at all frustrated by what they didn't have.


Two reasons. First, people had lived through the depression and were grateful to be alive. A popular statement to the children was, "You have so much to be thankful for."

Second, it is my belief that children become frustrated when they are asked to make decisions that their little psyche isn't ready for. During the 30-40's children were given very few decisions. They had chores to do and requirements on their lives, but choices began very slowly in their lives and built to full management as they were ready for them. Could it be that's why men and women were able to make choices about mates so quickly? Were they properly prepared to make "good" decisions?

When a two year old starts the day with, "What do you want to wear today?" and he looks up at a two door closet stuffed full of clothes and a huge dresser with even more....his little mind has a hard time making decisions. This then becomes an hour long fight. Because he is spoiled? No...because he is confused and doesn't know how to explain his feelings to you. So he does his best to respond to you with, "I want to wear this...and why won't you let me wear socks and flip flops?"

When a four year old is taken to a restaurant and given a menu with 10 choices, he wants them all. Because he's spoiled? No. Because he doesn't understand his body, his cravings, his desires, his needs. So he's frustrated.

"I want chicken. No. I want pizza. No. I want peanut butter and jelly. No......" And when his order finally arrives he refuses it with a loud, "No! I don't want that!"

According to the mental aptitude of your child and whether or not he has practiced this routine before, don't overwhelm him.

My belief.....

Begin slow. Make all decisions (food, clothes, manners, naps etc.) for your child until he is talking. Consider his wants and needs and do respond to him asking for something. But, Don't give him a lot of choices to deal with until you can have a two way conversation about those choices. When you can begin to teach him through conversation slowly add decision making.

For example, once a week take two outfits out of the closet and allow him to make the decision between the two. Let that decision sink in. The next week try it again. As you see him more comfortable with the process begin adding more choice days.

After a few weeks, prepare him to make good decisions later by adding. "Today I want you to pick from these two outfits. They are weather approved." Pull out an outfit from another season and say, "This one would be yucky today. I would hate to wear this today because it is not weather approved. You will not be allowed to wear this today because it is not weather approved."

What is your child learning at that point? He's learning how to make the decision before he is presented with a weather issue. That will soften the process when he's 7 and wants to wear shorts during a snow storm.

The restaurant is even easier. On the way to whatever restaurant you have chosen, talk with your child about what he feels like. It should go something like this, "I don't feel like broccoli today. My tummy is telling me it would like green beans. What is your tummy telling you?" Maybe he will respond with Pizza. "No way. You had that last night. I bet your tummy is ready for something different." Poke at his tummy and make funny sounds. "See, your tummy doesn't like the same stuff all the time. How about chicken today?" Poke and talk to his tummy again. "Your tummy just said it wants something different. It's still got some pizza lurking in there and it needs chicken to talk to."

When you arrive at the restaurant you will have prepared him to think about his choice as well as being open to something different - and you have made it a game....all kids like games.

Don't give him the menu. Give him two choices. Once he chooses, give him an out. "I'm so proud of you. You made a great choice. You know, it sounds better than what I ordered. Maybe you will let me have a bite of yours and I'll let you have a bite of mine." His self-esteem goes up. He has received praise from someone he loves and he feels comfortable because the two of you are in this decision together.

As you teach your child remember that it is good to point out certain things.

Point out that certain choices need to be made properly so others will view us properly. This is one of my biggest soap boxes so I'll try to be brief. How we dress and look is huge. No matter how much people want to fuss about "don't judge me" the fact is that we do make mental notes on the abilities of others based on how they look. A guy with long hair and tattoos may be nice and he may be the best Christian ever. But if I meet him on a lonely street at night, that's not the first thing I will think. A child may have a high IQ but if I see him running around hitting other children, demanding his own way and being rebellious - my first thought is juvenile delinquent.

How we look and how we act does matter. It will make a difference in how much attention or praise your child receives from his teacher, what type of person they will date and it will make a difference in what type of job they receive. Don't stack the cards against your children by allowing them to look and act like less desirable people. Help them to look at others as well as the goals you have for them and your family and determine what they want to show the world.

Stress the fact that it doesn't hurt to wait. Waiting is not a death sentence. We don't have to have everything we want right now. Going back to the 40's house - did you notice that bedrooms and playrooms weren't that large. They didn't need extra space for every toy in Wallmart. Each child had a shelf or a small box at the end of the bed. Closets were for shoes and clothes and toys were limited. Children waited for special days to receive a new toy. The wonderful thing about waiting is that it produces anticipation and heightens the joy of the present. Don't deny your child the waiting process.

At the restaurant, stress that just because we aren't having Pizza today doesn't mean that we won't have it later. Waiting for another day will teach your child to be wise about eating properly. I've often wondered how much of child obesity is because they want it all NOW and have never learned that waiting can enhance enjoyment.

Teach your child to be self-disciplined. That trait will NOT just happen. It takes training from you to instill it's wonderful magic in your child's life.

You child will grow and change and it is normal for him to have times to assert his independence. There will be times when he will have different likes and dislikes from you. That's great! But, will he necessarily without any control be forced by his own growth to hate you, yell at you, take his frustrations out on you, deny everything you believe in and make your life miserable? Absolutely not. It doesn't have to happen.

How can you stop it? Train him. Little bits and pieces at a time. Train him. Train him to trust you. Train him that a disciplined life IS fun and can be much more rewarding than grabbing at everything. Train him that a good life is an orderly life. Train him..

God loves you,


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