By Andrew Gibson, Ph.D.,
author “ Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child”
On the web at DrAGibson.com
Ten year old Spike is out-of-control. To live with him is to yell. Spike brings out the yelling in everyone, especially in his family. They just can’t control themselves. He’s outrageous and, therefore, the center of attention. So everyone yells. Funny thing; he isn’t the least bit upset by the commotion. It reminds him that he’s boss.
“I’M NOT PUTTING UP WITH THIS ONE SECOND LONGER!” Spike’s folks yell.
Spike’s folks yell when they get worked up. They think he‘ll care. He doesn’t. They sometimes threaten to call the cops but the cops aren’t going to do anything. Spike knows it. Spike has pushed his parents beyond their ability to cope. It’s easy to do: Swear at them a few times, disrespect them in public, beat up his little sister; get thrown off the bus; that sort of thing. The only weapon they have is yelling. It’s a pathetic weapon. Yelling gives the illusion of strength, power, and determination. But Spike knows his parents have none of these. Nobody knows us better than our kids. Yelling produces nothing but a headache. So why do it? Frustration.
“It isn’t my fault, I was frustrated.” Mom says?” He just makes me so mad!”
Meaning what? I’m weak? Is that the message Mom wants to send? She broadcasts that she’s vulnerable, easily manipulated and frazzled. She shouldn’t. It’s a bad idea. Spike will show no remorse about wrapping weakness around her neck. Surrendering to frustration is a mistake.
Mom needs to project strength. It’s is a hard when you are at your wits end. It is challenging and requires discipline but it can be done. What does she do? Simple: Stop yelling. Stop it cold turkey. Keep her voice so low it can’t be heard in the next room. Ever. But Mom says,
“ Aren’t I supposed to do something?”
Only if it is effective. If it isn’t, stop it. Whoever told Mom she needs to ‘do something’ never had a Spike. Nothing short of a fire should get her voice raised. If Spike is outdoors and it is supper time, she needs a whistle. If he is upstairs, she either walks up stairs and delivers a calm message or forgets it. Is this effort? You bet. Does it work? Beautifully. And, yes, it throws all the effort to produce change onto the shoulders of the rattled parent but remember the old adage,
“If you want something done well, do it yourself.“
It’s true. It takes a few weeks of this new strategy but it isn’t long before Mom notices that the household is calmer. Mom has an optimism that she hasn’t had before. Her family is following her for a change, not Spike.
About The Author
Dr. Andrew Gibson was born in Detroit at the close of WWII. He grew up in the midst of farming country in central Michigan. Both parents were teachers. He keeps a picture of his childhood companion, Wags, to this day (you had to see the tail to appreciate the name). After discharge from the Navy after the Viet Name war, he graduated with a BA and MA from San Diego State University and earned his Ph. D from the University of Connecticut. He has taught at Portland State University, n Portland Oregon, at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and at SUNY New Paltz. He resides in Eastern Connecticut, with his wife of 41 years, where he conducts a private practice in parenting seriously difficult children. His book “Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child’ is the first of a series examining seriously difficult children at various age and emotional disturbance levels. He invites you to find him on the web at DrAGibson.com.