Ever notice your child’s ‘manipulative behavior’? Do you know that it is often us that nurtures it? Here are a few parenting traps compiled from the Positive Parenting Program I’d like to share with you.
So the little one’s tantrums would stop, we give these accidental rewards, with a roll of the eyes, an exasperated sigh, a shout, whatever it is that you first think of- ice cream? A new toy car? A trip to the movie?
Be careful; this might be a cycle your little one would soon enjoy. The price of these prizes will go high as your child grows, and when we are caught in this trap, how then?
Tell me, if your child grows to be a teen, asks for a car, and you can’t afford it, what happens next?
Or if your teenager asks to go to a drunken party with friends, you say no, and he punches the walls, breaks things as he used to when he was three years old. You give him free passes to some concert, think that will stop?
You see, the trap is if we continuously give in to every whim as our child grows, we’ll be caught in this cycle; there won’t be any chance for self-discipline, accountability, and responsibility to flourish.
We reinforce behavior when we laugh or smile at something we think is cute: a little girl rolling her eyes for the first time, expressing her dislike, or a little boy stomping feet and making roaring noises, or when dad suddenly shouts a curse word, the little one utters and everyone laughs.
What we need to ask ourselves is HOW MUCH attention should a child get- especially for behavior we want to do away with?
See this classic example- our baby has just discovered the joy of throwing things like his bottle or the spoon or his bowl, and we keep reinforcing the behavior by getting it for them. He throws the thing again, and we stoop down and get it.
He throws it yet again, we roll our eyes, and he laughs, but we still get it.
He throws it for the nth time, and we say, ‘That’s it, I’m not getting that anymore, sorry!’ But we still get it because we realize our little one is not done with his food yet.
Know that our child is onto his discovering what strategy he can use with us, so he gets that funny reaction (even when we appear upset already). When he screams and we give in, we condition that behavior. Let’s wait out a bit if the circumstances allow and if it won’t lead to danger or harm. Now is always a good time to start teaching patience or waiting for their turn.
Ignoring desirable behavior
When a 3 year-old girl stacks up her toys, falling all over again, the parent usually notices the wrong thing first than the fact that she is exhibiting creativity, trying to build a structure by herself.
Or when 2-year-old gets his wash cloth (instead of the rug) and wipes the dirt, and you‘re more concerned about which proper cloth to use, or the way to wipe.
Or when a child tries to carry her bowl of food but trips and spills everything on the floor.
Or when you see the messy floor first when your little boy is actually building some sort of a war scene with the upturned legos and scattered cars.
When we’re not present, it is easy to ignore the miracle or the teachable moment happening before our eyes.
This is when we don’t follow through our instructions when we say, 'No', and our child just keeps on doing the things he does.
Or when we've said several times, 'Last na ha!' (That's the last time you'll do that, okay?)
When we use threat, or no backup consequences, children will learn to just ignore our request (unless we escalate things by shouting at our them!)
We cannot wait too long when we say, 'Stop'. We cannot wait until our children get so intolerable or unstoppable because it inevitably will lead to us overreacting.
Dear Present Parents, timing is everything, so is being mindful of our emotions, our words, and actions.