Parenting Vivian | 24 May 2011 09:39 pm

Does Your Kid Get Your Goat? How to Stay Objective When Your Kid Acts Up

Your child is unique and wonderful in every way. Truly. It抯 a warm feeling to see yourself in your child. It can also be humbling – even startling – when your child displays aspects of your personality you抎 rather forget. Worse, if your child shares some of your more salty manners you may be tempted to punish them for being who they are. But when you monitor your response to your child抯 behaviour your objectivity will help you enjoy all their wonderful quirks.

Let抯 meet Libby.

Libby is one bored nine-year-old girl. Her family is on a long car ride and Libby抯 stuck in the back seat with her older brother Eric. All he wants to do is read his book.

After what seems like hours of being good, Libby playfully swats Eric抯 book – but he just digs deeper into his chapter. She keeps swatting and he keeps reading.

Mom抯 sitting in the front passenger seat next to Dad. She turns her head and shoots a warning look at Libby.

Libby tries to sit quietly, but it抯 no good. She starts singing rap, scissoring her arms back and forth to her beat. The lyrics are offensive and Mom turns again, half smiling, half scolding. “Okay, Missy Elliott,” says Mom. “Show抯 over.”

Libby抯 whole body goes limp. “Ugh,” she says. “I抦 so bored.”
“Travel game?” Mom says. Libby rolls her eyes. “Game Boy?”
“Dead batteries.”
“Book?” Silence. “Well then.” Mom shrugs and swivels forward.

Through the window Libby sees a collie chasing a ball in a rest stop. Libby spins and pats Eric抯 head. ‘Good boy,” she says, smacking the top of his head. “That抯 a good boy, Eric.”

Eric squirms but he抯 jammed against the car door. There抯 no escape. He places his book on his lap and looks at her. Finally, Libby thinks. I thought he抎 never pay attention to me. She strokes her brother抯 hair and he glares at her. “Good boy, Eric.”

Suddenly Mom yells at Libby. “Leave your brother alone and give your father some peace and quiet!” The whole car goes silent. For a full 15 seconds, no one makes a sound. “Finally,” Mom says. Eric buries his head in his book. Libby is quietly grinning.

That night, Dad is in bed trying to read, but Mom keeps talking about Libby抯 antics. At last she turns to Dad and says, “Don抰 you have an opinion on this?”

Dad looks up from his book and starts laughing. “Libby takes after you, not me. I love her just the way she is.” Mom stares at him and then joins in his laughter. She wrestles his book away and tosses it on the floor.

Why is Mom angry with Libby for pestering Eric? Why not at Eric for being unsociable? Mom抯 anger reveals what she doesn抰 like in herself. Seeing the humor in this situation makes it easier for Mom to accept her slip-up and be more objective in the future.

Awareness: Monitor your child抯 behavior. Children behave in certain ways based on age. They also have quirks. Get to know these qualities in your child抯 behavior and remain objective about your response to them.

Communication: Make clear rules. Children follow warnings and transition times when they know what抯 expected. And communication grows even stronger when you create rules with their input.

Unhook, Take a Look, Make a Stand, Walk Your Plan: Unhook: Take a deep breath and count to ten. Focus on the numbers. Take time to calm down. Take a look: Is your child acting up for a good reason? Is your response appropriate? Determine what抯 really happening. Make a stand: Decide what you want your child to learn and be clear when you teach them. Walk your plan: Follow through with clear, consistent actions that support your stand.

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