Kids behaving badly

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I’ve seen kids who, on numerous occasions, smack, kick, hit and pinch other kids and the parents excuse the behavior as the result of a bad day, too much sugar, too much gluten, too much T.V., society, or the influence of another even worse behaved child.
I’ve seen parents coddle, cuddle, and–I swear to God–actually give a sweet treat after their kid was rude to adults, bullied a younger child, and refused to obey requests to behave properly.
I was once at a party where the child smacked nearly every kid present with a plastic bat and, rather than remove the child from the setting, the parent rushed over to each parent to explain that the child was having a “tough time” .
In this age of helicopter parenting and neurosis over the latest trends in child rearing, good old fashioned discipline has become an anachronism.
Time outs? Oh no, that’s far too harsh, say some.
There’s “1,2,3 Magic” , which is frankly a revision of the countdown to getting your little butt in order that your parents probably gave you as a kid. But, some see that as too punitive.
A systemrewarding good behavior with stickers or stars (to be traded in when enough are collected) and losing them when a kid is naughty?
That’s bribing, one mom told me moments after her kid’s umpteenth, banshee-like meltdown over a very minor frustration.
So we pour hundreds of dollars into parenting classes to learn how to navigate behavior which, frankly, a good dose of common sense and a reality check could have told us how to deal with.
Yes, our kids are all special little snowflakes.
But no, neither their behavior nor our issues with discipline are unique.
So it’s up to us to take a hard look in the mirror and figure out what we’ve been doing to enable bad behavior.
Then, after taking that personal responsibility…fix the problem.
That might mean owning that your bat-wielding tike is overly-aggressive and needs some quiet time away from other kids. And, oh yeah, he needs to apologize to the kids he hurt cause, y’know, personal responsibility and all.
No, your whining, rudeness, and/or bullying does not get you a treat. You get in trouble and will lose some sort of privilege. Yep, you too need to apologize for your behavior to the people affected.
And, while we all want to be sensitive to the needs of “that kid”, you know, the one whose physical assaults are motivated by perhaps some other deep seated and complex reason, it is unfair to expect other kids to become patient punching bags while the grownups figure it out.
Because it really is up to the grownups to get their stuff together and figure it out.
In some cases that might mean accepting that routinely reaching first regardless of the danger, not hearing adults’ instructions, and running into traffic means the kid has impulse control issues that need to be addressed.
It might mean investigating the root causes of compulsive hitting, kicking, etc…and being prepared to accept the possibility that a behavioral health professional might need to be brought in. It might mean, for the safety of other kids, your kid might need to be in another setting.
Parenting is hard work. We love our kids and want the best for them. We agonize over their health, happiness, and well being.
And sometimes, in order to achieve those things, we need to face some hard truths…for the good of all kids.

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About domesticpolichick

My life is a crazy jumble of sitcom-level domestic hijinks and fast-paced political reporting in the nation's capital. Breastfeeding while doing a phone interview with a senator...yep, I've done it and no, I won't reveal the name. Toddler calling a member of Congress on the cell..yeah, that really did happen. Pregnant in high heels on Capitol Hill trying to chase down a particularly grumpy senator, yeah...that was nuts. But what can I say? I'm just one domestic polichick trying to figure out the work-life balance.
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