“When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window.”
Yesterday’s quote was also by Ogden Nash. Patricia, a reader and grandmother, commented that she loved Ogden Nash, so I thought I’d go with him again today.
Let me know if you’ve got anybody whose ideas or writings you love and I’ll see if I can find any good quotes from them!
“I’m always amazed when adults say that children ‘just did that to get attention’. Naturally children who need attention will do all kinds of things to get it. Why not just give it to them?”
So much of what we’re taught to value in parenting contradicts this! I remember hearing or reading something to this effect when my oldest, Melanie, was born and having an instant reaction against it. My thought at the time was that, if Melanie starts to act in an unacceptable way, even if it’s for something worthwhile, then I have to wait until I can divorce the actions from the need they were attempting to address or else I’d be reinforcing the negative behavior.
Here’s how I think about it now:
The idea that I’m going to reinforce a negative way of getting attention by giving the attention is missing two points.
First, it assumes that I’m only ever able to give that attention when things get to the point that my kids begin to act out in order to get it. In other words, as long as the parent has the ability to be proactive once they realize that they’ve not been giving their kids the attention they need, the problem (the kid’s feelings of being ignored) can be addressed 99% of the time without reinforcing anything negative – because the kids won’t have to escalate to that sort of thing to get the attention they need.
By giving kids positive attention regularly, parents can not only avoid teaching their kids that negative behavior is a necessary means of getting attention, they can build a relationship with their kids that’ll encourage positive behavior when they need things – including attention.
Second, I think my old skepticism of this approach overestimated the power of discipline and underestimated the power of the need for a strong, happy connection to family. In other words, kids’ need for attention from their parents is far greater than their need to avoid any reasonable discipline. So if a child is acting up for attention, doling out a punishment isn’t going to stop them. The drive for attention and interaction with parents is just too strong to be thwarted by a time out or the loss of a favorite toy or even a spanking.
What’s the deal with Other People’s Kids (and by “Other People” I mean people who aren’t you or me)? Well, obviously, they aren’t as cute as our kids. Plus, they’re usually not nearly as well-behaved. I’ve also noticed that when my kids (and yours, too, of course) mess up or misbehave it’s really just a deviation from their norm rather than a reflection of their deeper character. Other People’s Kids, of course, are displaying their true colors. Evil colors. How do all these Other People deal with such evil little kids?
My kids (who, like yours, are angelic nearly 100% of the time, I promise) were at the park recently. There was also a good sized group of Other People’s Kids there. Kids being what they are, a game broke out. It was a swordfighting, swashbuckling adventure type of game that relied heavily on the use of plastic lightsabers. I think it was a mashup of Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and total chaos. There may also have been a hint of Lord of the Flies.
One kid in particular, who I know to be a 3rd grader, was really into the sword fighting part. Really into it. He was raining down holy, plastic, light-saberized terror: two hands held high, white-knuckled, swing-it-so-hard-the-sword-bends-itself-around-the-sword-of-the-defender style play. Continue reading Correcting other people’s kids: It’s not as easy as taking a plastic light saber from a baby.