Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am at a loss with my nine-year-old daughter. She wakes up in a bad mood and stays in it all day. She mopes. She rolls her eyes when her father and I talk. We try to cheer her up. We talk to her about how to have a more positive attitude. Nothing helps, unless we take her to do something really fun, and that only works briefly. We are not sure what to do now. -Jennifer, Dayton, Ohio
Your daughter is not in a bad mood. Your daughter is obnoxious. Your daughter is obnoxious and it’s your fault. You are at a loss because you have some profound misunderstandings about what it is to be a parent. These misunderstandings are so profound that I honestly doubt that you will take any advice that I give you. You will probably hate this advice and think that I am mean. Here goes anyway.
It is not the job of a parent to entertain their kid, curate their existence, make them comfortable at all times, make sure they are happy and content, and treat them as a visiting head of state in their own home.
You are confusing the job of a parent with the job of the Head Concierge at the Ritz-Carlton.
It is your job to put out into the world a person who is kind and who makes people’s lives better instead of worse. She’s clearly not doing that now, and this clearly isn’t the personality you’re going for. It’s time for some serious retraining, and here is how I would start it the moment she walks out of her room tomorrow morning.
Kid: I’m in a bad mood. I want freshly squeezed orange juice now and I want to be escorted to the amusement park later. You shall wait in the car while I attempt to elevate my mood.
Kid Whisperer: Oh dear. I’m sorry you are feeling badly. Also, I wanted to apologize for the way I have been parenting up until this point. I think I have mistakenly given you the impression that I am here to make you happy, or be in charge of your mood, or to make you comfortable. I am hereby quitting all of those jobs.
Kid: Are you even going to get me orange juice from the carton?
Kid Whisperer: Nope. I’m so sorry that I have acted in this silly way up until now. Things will be different from now on, I promise. From now on it’s always okay to feel badly, but it’s never okay to act badly. To act badly is to cause a problem for someone. For example, treating me without respect is a major problem.
Kid: Stop being ridiculous. I am in a bad mood and therefore don’t have to take this nonsense. I demand breakfast. I believe you know how I take my eggs.
Kid Whisperer: Please go to your room. You can come back as soon as you can refrain from causing problems for us. We’d love it if you can be with us while being kind, so come back then!
Refusal to go to the room immediately should be met with massive, overwhelming consequences. The room should have no screens, since Kid cannot learn anything when having her brain rewired by addictive technology.
This is only the first step on a long road. Retraining your kid to be a person who can exist properly in the world is your responsibility. By shifting your paradigm, and changing your actions, you can turn your kid into an adult the world won’t mind being around in the future.