Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am so tired. I feel like I am the worst parent in the world and I hope that you can help me. I think that I make a lot of mistakes with my four year old, and the way that he acts is terrible, but the last few times that we have gone to the park, I have realized that I have hit rock bottom as a parent. I need help with everything, but maybe you could first help me with this park situation. He is okay the whole entire time that we are there, but when I tell him that it’s time to go, he yells “no” and continues to play. Yesterday he walked up to me and screamed “NO!” in my face and then ran away. I just sat there on a teeter- totter and cried. How is that for rock bottom? I am a bit heavy and I can’t run after him. Is there something wrong with my child? What do I do?
-Amy, Dayton, Ohio
I am so sorry about your situation. People who have never dealt with difficult kids successfully overpowering them don’t and will never understand the impotent feeling that it gives them and the devastation that accompanies this feeling.
I am going to tell you something, and I am going to predict that the way you react to this may determine whether or not you will be successful in helping your children. From your question I will predict that you will react well because you seem to have come to accept that you need help. Here it is:
There is nothing wrong with your children.
There is something wrong with you.
Still with me? I hope so. Since I think that beating around the bush with you in what is a desperate situation hurts you because it implies that your situation is not as bad as it is (because it’s really bad) and it hurts me because if I give you this false impression that this isn’t a really bad situation, you may not take it as an emergency situation (which it is) and not work hard enough to solve your issues. This would be a sum total waste of my time, and my time is valuable.
I’m going to give you a few absolutes. Here are three thoughts that I would ask you to wire into your motherboard* when thinking about setting limits with your kids. If you were parented in a basically healthy way, these have been pre-wired into you. If not, these will be new to you.
1) Only try to control what you can control when dealing with kids.
2) Control everything that you can and need to control.
3) The parent is the boss.
In other words, I suspect that after your description of what transpired at the park, you did not have a terrifically healthy upbringing, which is not your fault. So when I write that there is something wrong with you, this is also not your fault. You never had these “instincts” wired into your circuitry. The question now is how you go about replacing what you are doing with actions that will yield the desired result (that being your kid getting in the car when it’s time to leave the park).
So this is my Love and Logic® response to your situation. This is how I would handle the end of a trip to the park if I were you. Notice that I am not writing today about how to deal with the aftermath of your kids treating you the way that they did. For that, please see How to Create a Solid Logical Consequence When Your Kid is Acting Like a Real Jerk. While you read the following, please notice that at no time do I try to control anything that I can’t control, which allows me to be calm because I am in control of the situation and I’m not praying that a child who has been trained to be obnoxious will all of a sudden stops being obnoxious.
Kid Whisperer: OK, Bobby, it’s just about time to go. Would you like to go now or in five minutes?
Kid: (without stopping what he is doing) Five minutes!
Five minutes and zero seconds go by. Kid Whisperer walks casually up behind child and gently, with a smile, puts his hands on the child’s body in such a way that, if necessary, Kid Whisperer can stop the little bugger from running away.
Kid Whisperer: (whispering) Hey, bud. It’s time to go. Would you like to go with your feet on the ground or your feet in the air?
Kid: No! I want…
Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. Feet in the air it is.
Kid Whisperer picks Kid up and calmly carries the child to the car. Kid Whisperer is glad that the Kid is kicking and screaming, knowing that he is learning that no matter what he does, the adult is the boss, and that resistance is futile. Kid Whisperer gently and firmly puts the child into his car seat and drives away, whistling a happy tune.
Again, notice that I did not try to control anything that could not be controlled, but I controlled everything that I needed to control. I didn’t warn, lecture or threaten him. I didn’t have to because these are things that we do when we are trying to make kids do that which we cannot control!
I hope this helps. Please keep coming back to the website. I will be announcing a very exciting opportunity for people in the Dayton/Southwest Ohio area in the coming weeks. Sign up for the RSS feed! Share and Like this on Facebook! Do it!!!!
-The Kid Whisperer
*This may be a bad analogy, as all knowledge of computers used here has been gleaned from watching Tron when I was eight.