As I was showering at the local pool one evening, I could hear a mother in the next booth trying to get her four year old 'Coby' out of the shower. There were warnings and threats being told to the child repeatedly. Coby stood under the shower giving no response. He was silent. Mum used all kinds of techniques; Initially it was counting to 3. Then there was counting backwards from 3. Then there was counting to 3, but this time she was 'serious'. While being 'serious', she added in, not only 2½, but 2¾. All with no movement from Coby. He knew, based on past experience with his Mum, that there was going to be no consequence for non-compliance and no reason to comply.
She fell silent. Coby suggests that Mum counts to 11. So, Mum counts to 11. Coby then requests that Mum count backwards from 11. So, Mum counts backwards from 11. Mum then threatens, "We will never be showering at this pool ever, ever again. And I'm serious!" Somehow not even I believed her. And I'm not sure that Coby even cared.
After telling him to hurry up several times, she then asks him to wash his face. This request is asked of Coby at least five times. Then the counting begins again. Was Coby as confused as I was?
By this stage I am ready to go into the shower next door, turn Coby's shower off and remove him myself. I felt sorry for the Mum. She was being totally manipulated by this small little human that she had given birth to.
Carl Pickhardt, Author of 'Keys to Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem' states that structure is the power of punishment. "In consequence of violating a major family rule, there is a penalty you must pay. To show they mean what they say, parents should not threaten what they are not prepared to carry out."
Mum wants Coby out of the shower. Coby needs to comply. He needed to comply within the first set of 3 numbers.
Carl continues, "Parents who do not train their child to live in two-way relationships (each giving to and doing for the other) often end up resenting a son or daughter who acts like his or her own needs are the only ones that matter. Even worse, they send a "spoiled" young person out into the world who is too self-centered for his or her own good, and who painfully discovers that what parents allowed, other people will not tolerate.
Later in life, Coby's boss might need him in a meeting immediately, he cannot take his time, dawdle or get there when he is good and ready. When in high school, he is instructed to do something immediately, a non-response will not end well for Coby.
James Lehman was a renowned child behavioural therapist for over 30 years. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to empower parents. (www.empoweringparents.com)
James says, "Kids manipulate their parents. It's part of their normal routine. They learn to use their charms and strengths to get their way and negotiate more power in the family. You can be sure your child knows what it takes to make you back down."
Kids watch their parents for a living. They learn which parent can be manipulated and how much it will take and what tactics to use to get that parent to give in.
"Kids use the silent treatment as a way to freeze you out ...and to push your buttons. What most parents don't realise is that under the surface, something else is going on: the silent treatment is giving your child a feeling of power and control over you. When you stop responding to the silent treatment, it will die by neglect – and that's exactly what you want." Empowering Parents, James Lehman. (www.empoweringparents.com)
Coby is using a passive aggressive behaviour. And by withholding information or thoughts, he has found a way of getting the upper hand. This type of passive aggressive behaviour can be destructive in relationships later in lifeâ€"and it's definitely a pattern that you don't want to give in to. He then sets his power and begins to control the counting game.
Your child doesn't have to like discipline, correction or compliance, and that's OK. He or she is not going to like everything you do as a parent, even when you have his best interests in mind. He's also not going to like a lot of the things that occur in his life when he is older, but he will have to realise that you can't control other people with noncompliance, and sometimes you will just simply have to comply. For example; the laws of the land, office rules, work site safety, maintaining relationships, doing courses or university studies. We must empower our children with the skills of perseverance and compliance.
While there is still time
In Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible it reads, "Chasten (correct) thy son while there is hope,.... Of guiding and keeping him in the right way, as long as corrections are or can be hoped to be of use; while in a state of infancy, childhood, and youth; while under parental government; and before habits in sin are grown strong, and the case become desperate, and he is hardened, and proof against all instruction and discipline."
Proverbs 29:17 says; 'Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.'
Coby did get out of the shower, eventually. His mother looked frazzled.
Then, he wouldn't put his clothes on....
Belinda Croft is married to Russell and has a son BJ, 11 years. She has a heart and passion for God, mission and social justice. Belinda is a part of Katalyst Church in Victoria and serves on the leadership team.
Belinda's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html