The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Really, Mom?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Really, Mom?

I was just coming into the women's locker room when a mother and her four-year-old daughter were leaving.  Daughter had a pouty mouth and Mom had a furrowed brow.  Neither was happy.  Mom said, "So do you want to spend the rest of the day listening to what Mommy says or spend the rest of the day in your room?  Which one would make you happy?"  Obviously the mother didn't actually look for an answer because when the daughter failed to respond, Mom didn't press her for the reply.  It's no wonder!  If I had the choice of working for Hitler or staying in my room, I'd pick staying in my room!  And I'll bet that poor little girl couldn't even opt for the room scenario.  If she had, I can pretty much guarantee that Mom would yell for her to come downstairs - NOW!  Mom was on the ultimate power trip and daughter was having a very bad day as a result. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog regularly or who had me as a teacher would probably know how to change this from a dictator parent to an effective parent. Right - guided choices.  I don't know what pouty mouth did or didn't do to deserve Mom's wrath, but let's assume she was dawdling, which I see frequently in the locker room.  Mom could have said this:  "We need to hurry so we can pick up your brother on time.  Do you want me to help with your shoes or your shirt?"  Hmmm... Pouty mouth gets a choice, angry mom gets some cooperation, and everyone leaves the  locker room in a much better mood, offering the blogger little fodder for her blog!

This was a classic case of offering an ultimatum rather than a true choice.  What's the difference, you ask?  An ultimatum usually gives the child nothing she can live with (eat spinach or go to bed) when the parent knows which answer will ring the right bell with her.  A guided choice will give the child the information she needs to comply (finish dinner) with the choices that BOTH parent and child can accept (one more spoonful of spinach or sweet potatoes).  Granted, the child may not like either of those choices, so the parent should make sure he or she knows the child's taste before giving a choice like that. 

Parenting isn't easy and it doesn't come with a step-by-step list of instructions, but with a little patience and creativity, offering guided choices will make your life easier.

Happy parenting!

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