Not long ago, I would look at infants screaming aboard flights, or toddlers wiping their dirty hands on the walls (or sofas or curtains), or siblings chasing each other in busy restaurants, or teens talking back to their parents, and I would judge.
I would blame the parents for being incompetent, unskilled, ill-mannered and clueless. I’d question their child rearing methods and criticise their inability to mould and reform their own children.
And then I had my own kids.
Baby # 1 was bewilderment. I conceded, I was young and I improved as I moved along the learning curve. Yes. I allowed myself that. And to be honest, he cooperated, so not many complaints there.
Baby # 2 was bewilderment all over again. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get him to cooperate half as much as baby # 1. Now, no one at my house balls up their fists and starts kicking and punching others when angry, or arches their backs and becomes slippery and immoveable, if you interrupted them or tried to take them somewhere they didn’t want to go. So, I couldn’t for the life of me fathom, where he was learning his “manners” from. And then the realization came: he came pre-installed with his own software, and his own hot buttons. He’s not a robot I can program and forget.
If I were a student of human behaviour or psychology I would have known about the New York Longitudinal Study, but folks like me have to google stuff to enlighten themselves. Turns out parents cannot give their kids “new” personalities. They must work with the personalities or temperaments that kids come with. Some kids are high-maintenance, and others not so. Rules that work with one child will most likely not work with his or her siblings. Here’s the bright side though. These studies do conclude that parental handling can result in positive outcomes for difficult kids – yep, your responsibility for their behaviour doesn’t go away. You just need to learn more tools. So go ahead and read up on all the parenting manuals and self-help books you want. Better still, if you want results get your infant, toddler, tween or teen to read the good doctors’ prescriptions.
Finally, have a sense of humour. When you can’t get any angrier, get a good laugh.