Let’s start with one of the most misunderstood words in the English language: “control.”
Most people, including parents, confuse the concept of control with dominance. After all, that’s most likely how you were handled by your parents, teachers and bosses on many occasions.
Witness the all-too-familiar scenario in the grocery story of the frustrated mom yelling; “you put that down right now!” to her 2 or 3 year old who has just grabbed a fistful of candy from the shelf. When the child does not comply there is either a slap or more yelling with threats of no TV or no iPod or the dreaded “time-out.”
There is also this one: a well-meaning parent yelling out things like: “don’t do that, you’ll fall down and break your neck,” or “you’ll land in the hospital like our neighbor did.”
Finally you have the parents or teachers who have totally given up on trying to get children to do anything at all and they just gaze out into the distance as little Judy or Johnny wreak havoc in stores, restaurants or other pubic places.
Don’t feel badly if you have occasionally thrown your hands up in despair on this issue; even the poor muddled psychiatrists have no real answers despite the fact that they are supposed to be the experts on human behavior. No, they have simply done what they do best; vote in a name for the non-optimum condition and match it up with a drug that will simply gag the child through chemical means, collect their cut and call it a day.
I can’t help but feel embarrassed for these folks in thinking that they can buy you off by calling a good healthy headstrong child the unwitting victim of “oppositional defiant disorder.” (c’mon, really)?
What we parents and teachers need first is an understanding of what good control is – and it is simpler than you think. When trying to get your child to do something, do what the best managers in business do: communicate a goal that is worthwhile to the employee which is attainable and is obviously in alignment with the job description. Set out a time frame and be clear that you are there to assist if needed because this is your goal too.
Example scenario: brushing teeth before bed. Warning your child about tooth decay is a waste of time. Enthusiastically telling him that you can’t wait to read his favorite bedtime story as soon as his chompers are all clean and shiny will get a much better response.
You get the idea.
It takes a little thought, a lot of patience and some good communication to control your kids smoothly but it is very satisfying and you will end up with a child who has a great start on learning to control himself – which is the whole point, isn’t it?