by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: What are some of the most common parenting issues you have seen in your practice?
Answer: Probably the most common parenting issue that I see is one parent sabotaging the authority of the other. It can work both ways, but more often than not it is the mother sabotaging the father’s authority. Often times the mother will direct the father to take corrective action, and when he does, she steps in and takes the child’s part. This diminishes the child’s respect for the parent whose authority has been sabotaged. It also is very destructive to the marriage, as the disciplining parent feels betrayed. And it sets the child up for future violation of other authority figures, such as schoolteachers.
Instead of sabotaging one another’s discipline attempts, both parents should agree ahead of time on the rules and consequences for breaking the rules. Both parents should have equal rights to discipline, and one parent should not push the discipline off on the other. Whichever parent discovers the violation of the pre-established rules should take corrective action.
Possibly the second most common parenting issue is trying to appease a child to keep her from crying. Whining is a form of tantrum and steps should be taken to extinguish it. If you know the child is not hurting physically and the child has had sufficient food to eat, allow the child to cry. It is important for a child to learn the meaning of the word “NO.” Have a time-out room where the child can cry, put the child in the room and let the child know she can come out when she is done crying. Expect some loud crying initially, because the child is going to try to persuade you to change your mind. If you are easily persuaded by your child’s crying, your child will likely continue throwing tantrums for years to come. Children are much happier when they realize that “NO” means “NO.”
Sometimes older siblings are told to appease the child to stop the crying. This only results in older siblings developing a rescuing mentality and does not benefit the child. Also, it is not an older sibling’s responsibility to become the caretaker of the child. That role belongs to the parent.
Another problem is parents trying to discipline by yelling. This usually means the parent is too lazy get up and go to the child, so the path of least resistance is yelling at the child from a distance. Children develop a keen awareness of decibel levels. When Mom’s voice reaches a certain decibel level, it finally means she might take action.
A better way is to go to the child, rather than screaming at the child. Speak to the child in an authoritative manner. Ask the child to stop the unacceptable behavior and inform him of the consequence of the behavior if he does not stop. If the child defies you and continues the unacceptable behavior, follow immediately with the consequence.
To scream at a child without any action is about equivalent to a police officer without a gun or a car that stands at the side of the road and screams at motorists as they speed by over the speed limit. It is not going to cause the speeding motorist to slow down. They may wave at the gun-less, car-less officer, but it will not cause them to change their behavior.
There are other parenting issues, but the above three may be the three most common I have seen.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]