Feeling Invisible to Your Kids?
Are you feeling invisible to your kids? Try keeping quiet.
Parents of small children often feel like invisible spirits. After spending a day cajoling, reasoning, arguing, threatening and even screaming in an attempt to get their kids to behave, many moms and dads feel like they—the parents—almost don't exist.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, all that talking is precisely the problem. "If you feel like you're invisible," he says, "you're probably way too audible."
Phelan, author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, has discovered that when it comes to discipline, silence often speaks louder than words. "Many parents complicate the job of discipline by setting for themselves two goals instead of just one. Their first goal is to get the kids to do what they're supposed to do, which is fine. But when kids don't respond right away, many parents add a second goal: getting the youngsters to accept, agree with or even like the rational principles behind the discipline. So Mom and Dad start reasoning, lecturing and explaining."
All this extra talking accomplishes three things—all of them bad. "First, it distracts the child from his immediate task—shaping up and behaving," says Phelan. "Second, the extra talk also aggravates the child, so that now the parent is in the difficult position of trying to get a distracted and angry youngster to cooperate." "And finally," says Phelan, "additional explanations give the message to children that they really don't ever have to behave unless their parent can give them four or five good reasons why they should."
According to Dr. Phelan, one explanation is fine. But the mistake many parents make is trying to reason with their kids as if the kids were "little adults," and too often adult logic does not impress or motivate young children. "Once you say 'No' to an obnoxious behavior, you should save your breath," the author says. "Further pleading will irritate both of you more; it will also give the child a chance to continue the battle—and the behavior."
Both kids and parents have to learn a better way. Through his books, videos and audios, Dr. Phelan has been helping parents to manage their children—gently but firmly—for over 35 years. 1-2-3 Magic, his most popular program, is equally effective in getting kids to start doing the things they're supposed to do, such as homework, eating and going to bed, as well as in getting the kids to stop their arguing, whining, teasing and fighting.
"When parents first hear me describe our 'No-Talk, No-Emotion Rules' and counting procedure, they are usually skeptical," says Phelan. "But when they start doing it—and doing it right—they have an 'Aha!' experience." It may not really be magic, but Dr. Phelan's approach may be just the tonic you need to make you feel "visible" to your kids again.