Children behavior issues
the late 1960s, as psychologist B. F, Skinner's behavior
modification theory made the jump from academia into popular
culture, the focus in child-rearing shifted from molding
character to "shaping" behavior. Books such as Gerald
Patterson's Living With Children promised perfectly
well-behaved children through the proper manipulation of rewards
and punishments such as timeout and the systematic removal of
Prior to this revolution, proper parenting was a matter of
providing unconditional love and unequivocal leadership.
Discipline was the process by which parents transformed the
anti-social toddler into a pro-social human being who was
respectful of legitimate authority as well as the rights of
others, willing to accept responsibilities, and determined to
overcome obstacles. These were character issues. Now,
child-rearing became "parenting", discipline became the process
of shaping proper behavior, and parents became compliance
Please don't misunderstand me on this point. In most cases, a
child's purposeful misbehavior requires a firm adult response,
one that communicates the clear message that the misbehavior in
question won’t be tolerated. Punishment is one way of
accomplishing that, but not the only way. In some cases, a stern
one-sided "conversation" will suffice. But some misbehavior
merits no response at all.
Children are, after all, mischievous, and a good amount of their
mischief is armless. An example is a three-year-old who
discovers that the word "poopy" is bound to elicit some form of
interesting reaction from adults, whether laughter or shock.
That sort of inconsequential thing can be starved out of
existence by simply ignoring it.
It's obvious that a good number of today's parents fail to
respond adequately to misbehavior. They ignore what is clearly
more than mere mischief, they deny that their children are
brats; they make excuses for them, and so on. These parents are
a principal's and teacher's worst nightmare.
But on the other side of the discipline coin, one finds a good
number of parents who over discipline. These parents are
obsessive-compulsive when it comes to their children's behavior.
Producing the perfect child appears to be their raison d'etre,
As such, no infraction is too small to escape their detection,
and punishment is their passion. They end up micro-managing
their children's behavior, creating more problems in the long
run than they solve. No matter the context, micro-management
always breeds resentment, deceit, and eventual rebellion.
At the very least, that sort of parenting style fails to teach a
child the inestimable benefits of self-control. These parents
often complain that when their kids reached their teen years, it
was like a switch was flipped to Kick out The Jams! Or
their kids get to college, can't deal with the independence, and
collapse emotionally or academically or both.
The path back to parenting sanity lies in re-embracing the-past, the most important aspect of which is re-establishing the
training of character as the top priority. That will require
(among other things) eschewing the post-1960s emphasis on
self-esteem and rebooting the traditional emphasis on the rights
of others balancing after-school activities with unpaid
household chores, and restoring the teaching of manners,
beginning with table manners (starting with eating what is put
in front of you without complaint).
Ultimately, this will require that parents abandon the pursuit
of success and happiness for their kids and pursue instead the
goal of making the country a better place.