A recent study into why we are being inundated with so many recurrent cases of out of control children in society seems to speculate that the major reason is due to misplaced adult attention. The very acts that we as parents take to reassure our children are perhaps leading to our children becoming more and more entitled. This sense of entitlement causes them to throw fits, tantrums, scream, yell, act out aggression and become defiant with authority. The behavior that stems from an out of control child is most definitely a recipe for disaster; whether it is in the home or at preschool and parents and children alike become unhappy in the process.
A child is considered out of control when their behavior is aggressive towards others or when they overwhelmingly seem to display arrogant, rude, or defiant behavior over well intended actions. Out of control children may bite others for no reason, throw kicking and screaming tantrums at will with no regard to their environment, spit, whine or cry incessantly or implement manipulative measures to get their way. These children are far gone from the ‘yes sir, no sir’ level of mannerisms that we commonly expect from children. But is it really our fault?
Far and wide children react to attention. Early in life this coveted attention comes from parental or adult figures in their life. In infancy they learn that when they cry they will get a response. So as they get older they use their knowledge of crying and whining to provoke reaction in order to get more attention from us. What we have become programmed to do for fear of letting our children down is coddle and nurture that whiny and fussiness with emotion that we feel will validate them as loved. In actuality we only further provoke more of the same. Children of all ages may not know how to ask for a hug or for a little extra TLC, but they do know an effective means at making us jump- which can turn them into little out of control children in no time. Think about how many two year olds stand at moms feet screaming up, up, up, with their hands outstretched for us to hold them. The longer they stand the more hysterical they get until we pick them up! The more out of control they become the more we react. Suppose we just ignored them?
That question was asked by a group of psychologists back in the early 1990’s. It seems as parents were being retrained on how to parent their children more compassionately the out of control children epidemic started to take over. In a classroom study, children who normally were defiant, aggressive and who acted out boldly in class were ignored for a period of time when they misbehaved. After a few short days they seemingly modified their own behavior because they were no longer getting the attention (negative or positive) from the teachers. When the teachers resumed paying attention and even disciplining these children again in front of their peers, the out of control children’s behavior regressed to its normal state. Yes, one study does not prove anything but it should give all parents, especially those with out of control children a good reason to pause.
Let’s be for real a minute. As busy as parents are today and as much as we try to pack into a year we are all left feeling guilty about how much time we spend with our children. This guilt leads us to emotionally indulge issues with our children. Perhaps it is because the whining, crying and out of control behavior makes us feel needed. Or perhaps it is because we are afraid to correct our children especially in lieu of all the new age fluffy parental rules and regulations that we subconsciously follow. Our children need to know that they are loved, but this love does not need to be validated in spite of all else. We end up not doing our children any favors by allowing them to get away with bad behavior. The spare the rod generation may not be spanking but we aren’t really disciplining either. Truth is it shows in our school systems and in our juvenile correctional institutions. Actually, it is even evident every time we walk into a store and see some out of control child yelling at their parents and throwing canned goods in the aisle because mom wouldn’t buy them a bag of cheetos.
Chances are if we have an out of control child they will end up being a hellion during the teenage years and beyond. By then it is almost too late to intercede or re-teach them life lessons that are supposed to be learned by age 5. Two decades ago parents believed that children were soft clay until around age 5 or 6 and that by 7 children were pretty much set in stone. This prompted our parents and grand parents generation to act quickly and often without the help from a parenting handbook or behaviorist. No wonder older people walk around saying how terrible our youth is. Nowadays few even say thank you or hold a door open. All of that goes back to entitlement.
If we are faced with an out of control child in our home there is nothing to lose by trying to breach it from a different angle. Your child will love you even if you don’t indulge in their fits and you may end up finding more quality time together that can be indulged in more happily together. Attention is important for a child, but it is also important for a child to understand that they are not the center of the Universe and that the whole world will not lie down to suit them. Mom and dad, sister and brother, friends, family and other people also have an important place in life and deserve respect’ always! When a child is out of control- spitting or throwing things and acting like a raving maniac; it can be awful scary especially when they are our own; but try to walk away from it and let the emotion roll off your back like water on a duck. When the child is calm again, attending to that behavior may just show them how it is they can earn your attention.
Parents dream of having children and exploring the special kind of relationship that can only come from our kids. This relationship takes a long time to unfold and until they are adult like it is pivotal that we remain in charge and in control of what is going on. It is not as important to be liked and needed as it is to strong and committed to raising a human that will be a responsible citizen of the world one day. If you have an out of control child the time to make changes is definitely now and if what you read or what pediatricians tell you isn’t working than it is completely up to you to find a viable and loving solution. This should be attempted before medication. Parents know their children best and should always be confident in making decisions on their behalf.