By Andrew Gibson, Ph.D.,
author “ Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child”
On the web at DrAGibson.com
Avoiding is bad, right? The weak avoid; the strong confront. Clearly, strong sounds better than weak. When your out-of-control ten year old kid, Spike, gets obnoxious, you are supposed to stare him in the eye and demand something like,“Stop it NOW!”
That’s strength. Right? Maybe not. Does it produce change? If the answer is no, then it isn’t strength. Its an illusion of strength. The gospel of confrontation according to human service political correctness says do it anyway. The kid needs to know who is boss. But you know what? They’re wrong. You don’t show you’re boss at all. Ineffectiveness demonstrates that you’re weak. You don’t want that. What do you want instead? Avoidance. Distract yourself. Using distraction as a way of avoiding is essential to turning Spike around.
There are two mottos to keep in mind: If it doesn’t work, don’t do it and It is better to do nothing well than something else poorly. This is the essence of systematic avoidance. You need to consistently present yourself to your out- of-control kid as someone who is in control of themselves. The quickest way to undermine that is to seem foolish, weak or pathetic. We do that whenever we stare our kid in the eye and say something like, “Stop it NOW!” And he responds with a shrug and does whatever he wants anyway
But did you stand up to the little monster? Yup. Did you let him know how you felt? Yup. Does he care? Nope. Human service political correctness will insist that you, day in and day out, stand toe to toe with the little snake and say again and again, “Stop it NOW! STOP IT NOW!!”
The theory is, sooner or later, the snake will yield. He will tire of hearing you. He will take confidence in the strength you are showing him. You will have confronted him without blinking. He will accept that you, his parent, are worthy of respect and he will drop his resistance to you. At least that’s what it says in the textbooks. Don’t hold your breath.
If you have tried and tried confrontation as in “STOP IT NOW!” and have gotten no where, you need to get up and walk away. You should do so with quiet dignity. Say nothing, and display nothing. If you can do this, then add another element: Pick a distractor. Have a goal when you get up and walk away. It could be vacuuming, weeding, walking, exercising or anything that gets you up and out and doing something that is distracting. Is it avoiding? Absolutely. If you successfully distract yourself each time your kid is obnoxious, he will get the picture: you can’t be manipulated by his anger. Practice this same distractor every time your child gets under your skin. If your Spike wants to be obnoxious, he can do it all by himself. And your garden will look great.
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.