WHY THIS: Why not? After tearing my hair and cranking in my last post about not so useful parenting advice, I was delighted to find this article: Wimpy Parent Syndrome, and allowing your child to get mad and cry. I am not alone in my thoughts: good parents have been lead astray by much of today’s parenting advice.
Michael Gonzalez, MD is a pediatrician. He has studied a lot of parents and parent behavior.
Here’s a quote that says it all: “So what is WPS? It is a parenting technique where parents fear making decisions that may upset their child. They are loving parents that have the best intentions, but they have bought into the idea that “good” parenting and having their child get mad, cry, or angry are not compatible with one another.”
Like the good doctor, I am not suggesting abuse. You cannot be like Homer (from the Simpsons). He crosses the line and abuses, at least he appears to.
Not sure if he leaves marks, which is what gets you called abusive in most states. But that is a side issue.
I think most parents who watch the Simpsons do so because he does what we won’t do. That bestows a bit of vicarious pleasure and a generally harmless anger release. We also can feel no matter how flawed we might be as parents, we are better then Homer. Then there is the underlying message that his is a family that stays together, cares about each other, and somehow manages to stumble onward despite their stuggles and flaws. Which is what most of us manage to do.
Or maybe we see ourselves as Bart, doing his own thing, making his parents miserable, but still loved and in his own way loving.
Somehow Homer’s family seems more true to human nature than the Brady Bunch of my day, made larger than life for comedic affect, but mostly true when it comes to feelings.
Most of us are not Homers; when we slip into angry behavior or our kids have problems no matter what we do, guilt visits. If Homer felt more guilt, he would not be chasing Bart with a mace. Our guilt means we don’t do what he does.
Another reality keeps us from wacking our kids; we are constructed so that when others are upset, we get upset. A young child’s cries are designed to bring out parental nurturing. Crying is a survival tactic of babies.
Crying, however, soon becomes a “Have my own way tactic.” That is also a survival tactic. Wimpy kids, kids who can’t stand up for their rights, have a hard go at life. No parent wants a wimpy kid. Parents need to encourage “Stand up for yourself” behavior.
Parents also need to encourage standing up properly, for as Aristotle noted, “Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not.”
Giving into temper tantrums teaches nothing about the proper use of anger. Although I don’t like to bash parents, this is one area where I have to say, you are wrong to give in. You are.
And I know sometimes it is just too much effort. Please make those times rare and be prepared to have a longer tantrum next time. The longer it takes for a child to calm down, the tenser we get. The tension creates another problem.
When faced with a child’s anger, we have to deal with our own anger. That is where life as a parent can get messy; we want to either give in or get tougher and sometimes abusive. David Fanshel, a Columbia University professor, discovered many years ago that babies were in danger of being abused if the care-givers felt the crying was designed to frustrate the parent. The abuse could be averted by teaching the meaning of a babies cries, and by teaching parents to do what they could, but to also know some babies had to cry no matter what the parent did to comfort them. This alleviated the guilt and shame potential abusers felt.
As the good doctor notes in his article, parenting involves reasons for doing what makes children unhappy or angry. He uses the example of taking away a bottle or pacifer. There is a time when that is best done and guess what, kids do survive and find other healthier source of comfort. The problem is more what the parent feels. So here are a few tips:
Tip one: Think through how you are going to handle things. Unplanned parenting is stressful parenting. Many say follow your instincts, but that usually means do what feels right and that can be all wrong. Instinct is knowledge that we don’t know how we came to know. Instinct is also built on fight or flight. If we were abused, often abuse feels right. Moreover, another human tendency is to fight, when you are the stronger of the two people confronting each other. So listen to your instincts, but before you act also listen to reason. When both agree, you are most likely on the right track.
Tip two: Develop a self soothing program so you can stay calm enough to think. Go to my Feel Better Now Page for three simple exercises that if practiced enough help you stay calm.
Tip three: Find a self-talk slogan that works for you. The wrong self talk can heat you up; a properly crafted slogan can cool you down and make doing the right thing easier. Mine was “Now is not forever.” Find yours.
As always these are just tips, not magic. Use them if they help, forget them if they don’t. Only wimps take everyone’s advice.
Be kind to me, like this post or share. If you don’t like it tell me why. You might convince me I am wrong.
Click here for my free Ebook: The 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises. Being kind helps many, you included.
IMAGE BY: Simpson Crazy