Kids Are Just Kids

KidsWhat do you do when your child reaches for a brightly-colored glass, after you’ve told her five times, “Do not touch ANYTHING when we go into this store”?  How about after you just reprimanded your son for hitting his sister and he immediately strikes again, providing the simple rationalization, “Because she’s looking at me”?  In the child’s world, all of your lectures as to why they should be a good boy or girl are likely understood during the moment of delivery.  However, as soon as they become distracted by bright colors or the musical sounds of a commercial, by frustration for felt injustice, or by not getting their way, these “teachings” become ancient history.  “Why can’t they just behave?”  “Why can’t they just listen?”  The answer to these questions are simple….they’re just kids!

In the egocentric world of a child, the previous messages a parent delivers are not near as important as what’s going in the present.  Dr. Thomas Phelan coined the term “The Little Adult Assumption,” and this asserts that parents assume a trouble-producing notion that kids are smaller versions of adults and that whenever they misbehave it’s due to a lack of information on how to do the right thing.  Therefore, they follow misbehavior with lectures and explanations.  This idea is often the reason most discipline attempts do not work and result in both the child and the parent feeling frustrated in the end.

Talking and explaining certainly have their place in raising children; however, in the heat of modifying behaviors, your best bet is to let the consequences do the work.  Consistent and age-appropriate consequences speak so much louder to a child than adult lectures.  Sitting a four-year-old down and explaining why he shouldn’t hit his sister because this hurts her and you; and he should consider how he would feel if, blah, blah, blah….. is NOT going to turn him into the perfect child who responds, “You’re right mother, I never thought about that before” and immediately cease his hitting from that day forward.  Kids are not little adults.  Dr. Phelan’s 1-2-3 Magic behavior management system (and many others) provides tools for using consistent discipline with age-appropriate consequences.  Over time a child learns that his misbehavior always leads to the same consequence and takes away his being able to manipulate the situation with public embarrassment, causing you to leave the store or movie early, and causing you to feel angry and frustrated for the rest of the day.  Your child learns “This is getting me nowhere…mom/dad means business” and that is when your child’s better-behaved self emerges.

To learn more about Dr. Phelan’s simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips, visit