Parenting books

Leman, Kevin.  Have a new kid by Friday: how to change your child’s attitude, behavior & character in 5 days

Ricker, Audrey.  Whining: three steps to stopping it before the tears and tantrums start

Dobson, James C.   The strong-willed child: birth through adolescence

Frost, Jo. Supernanny: how to get the best from your children

Runkel, Hal Edward.  Screamfree parenting: raising your kids by keeping your cool

Severe, Sal. How to behave so your children will, too!

Nelsen, Jane. Positive discipline

Bailey, Rebecca Anne. Easy to love, difficult to discipline: the seven basic skills for turning conflict into cooperation

Baker, Jed. No more meltdowns: positive strategies for managing and preventing out-of-control behavior

Swedo, Susan. Is it “just a phase”: how to tell common childhood phases from more serious problems

Greene, Ross W.  The explosive child: a new approach for understanding and parenting easily frustrated, chronically inflexible children

Smith, Karen A.  The sensory-sensitive child: practical solutions for out-of-bounds behavior

Kurcinka, Mary Sheedy.  Raising your spirited child : a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic

3:30 crash

Young children can only handle so much. Around about 3:30 in the afternoon they start to lose it. They start to become not quite human. Parents don’t seem to notice this because they don’t have perspective on the situation. I have worked in customer service for most of my life. I have had the advantage (?) of seeing this happen over and over again every day for many years. Around about 3:30 children start to have what is sometimes termed “a meltdown”. They start to cry and get whiny and fall apart.

One mother even said “I’m just going to smack him right in the mouth.” about her whining child. I’ve seen other mothers very impatient with their children and think that they are just being difficult. I’ve seen other mothers just stare at their children as they flop on the floor, crying and wailing loudly. They have no idea what is going on, and no idea what to do to stop it.

Children aren’t being difficult at that time of day. There’s only so much they can handle.

Do you expect to get a gallon’s worth of milk out of a quart bottle? It isn’t possible. Children are the same way. They just don’t have the capacity that adults have.

Children are not small adults. Children wear out a lot faster. Children need rest and food and water a lot more often than adults do. And by food and water I don’t mean candy and sugar and caffeine. That only makes it worse.

It isn’t fair to expect a small child to be able to go the whole day on limited resources without falling apart. You have to understand their limits and work with them. It isn’t the child’s fault that they have been out all day. Children don’t have control over their environment or what happens to them. They feel very frustrated and they don’t have the words to express their frustration. They express them in the ways that they have. With their limited resources they express that they are unhappy by crying or wailing or holding back from going anywhere. Sometimes they resist a change in their environment because it is a way to exercise control.

The whole issue is control. They don’t have it. And that is the problem. Around mid-afternoon they start to lose their self-control so they try to exert control over whatever they can. Sadly, at that point, nothing will soothe them because they just don’t know what is wrong. Sadly, many parents don’t either, and they don’t notice that their child’s inconsolable wails have little to do with anything obvious. It looks like they are crying about their dolly, or their shoe, or their brother, but really, they are crying because they are at the end of their rope because they are worn out.

When I was working at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo I often saw families that were all worn out come mid-afternoon. They had small children with them and they had been adventuring all day long. The children were not about to sit down and be still and calm while mom was looking through the craft store. I learned to dread that time of day because the parents always got frustrated with their children.

The children were just being children. There was nothing wrong with them. They were doing what comes natural to them when they are worn out. The problem is the parents who weren’t parenting. The parents were not taking into account the natural limitations of being a child.

The parents were not being kind to the children. It wasn’t fair to the children or anybody else around them. In order to travel or be around small children, you need to plan ahead to avoid problems. It is good if the whole family can have a nap some time shortly after lunch. If that isn’t possible, then at least have everybody sit and be quiet in a cool, darkish place for at least 30 minutes. People recharge better if they are away from the harsh stimuli of heat and light.

Most of all, make sure that they have had enough food and enough water. This does not mean candy bars and sodas. You have to give them the right fuel in order to keep going. But it’s also not fair to push them beyond their limits. Don’t get frustrated with them – they can’t help it. Learn from it, and plan ahead.

Meltdown

All people want to be noticed and loved. All people want to have their needs met. This is especially true in children. They are helpless to help themselves in many situations. They have not been taught how to take care of themselves, so when they wear out they tend to lose that thin veneer of calm.

I was making a cart of books in the workroom the other day and I heard a loud wail. It sounded like some child was very upset. It kind of sounded like a child was being harmed in a permanent kind of way. I waited a little bit and wondered what was going on. Surely the parents would come soon. The voice sounded like it was coming from a small child – too small to be in the library by herself. The wail continued. There was no Doppler effect – the child was staying in one place. So she wasn’t running around trying to get either to or from parents. So she would be easy to locate. Why weren’t the parents doing anything? Why wasn’t a person-in-charge (the manager on duty) doing anything?

So I did something. I had no idea what was going on, but I had to do something. This child sounded like she was in killed by this point. I was pretty sure she wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Generally people don’t do such insane things in public spaces. If nothing else, she was definitely disturbing the other patrons. She was certainly disturbing me. So something had to be done – and since nobody in charge (parents or staff) was going, it was time for me to do it.

I went to the low wall that surrounds the children’s area. It is like a little fortress. I looked over and saw the child lying on her back, waving her feet and arms. The chair was upright – so she hadn’t fallen out of it and hit her head. I called out to her “What is wrong?” I said it in a sing-song voice. Sometimes that alone is enough to break the spell of the meltdown. I got nothing out of this. Then I looked nearby. What looked like her grandmother was sitting across from her, hands in her lap. She smiled at me, like this is normal, like she can’t do anything about it. I looked next to the grandmother and what looked like the child’s Mom was there. Same body language. They didn’t look like this was a total surprise. But they also didn’t seem to want to do anything about it.

Their child is their responsibility. Her well being is their job. If she is wailing like that, something is wrong. Their first concern should be to soothe her. The second concern should be the fact that she is being very loud and disturbing in a public place, and most especially a library. Being loud just isn’t what you do. If they fixed the first issue, the second issue would sort itself out. But they were doing nothing.

So I did. I went around the low wall and went up to her. I crouched down next to her and just started talking to her. She looked like she was about 2. I could tell from looking in her eyes she was very tired. It was around 4 that all of this was happening. I’m willing to bet these clueless guardians hadn’t thought to let her have a nap. Children can only handle so much. They aren’t short adults. They need more rest. They don’t know how to take care of themselves. That is why they have guardians – who are supposed to help them. These two were less than useless.

Even if you don’t know what is going on, at least pick your child up and hold her. Even if you don’t know what is going on, start with the basics. Give her some water or food (NOT sugar). Talk with her and ask her what is going on.

Sometimes children are so worn out that they can’t tell you what is wrong. They know something is, but they can’t figure it out. They are too young to know what the problem is. They just know they don’t feel well and the situation is getting worse. They yell and scream as a way to ask for help. In theory, the parent should be self-aware enough to prevent this from happening by ensuring the child has enough rest and exercise and water and healthy food.

A child who is “acting out” isn’t a bad child. It is a sign of a parent who doesn’t know how to take care of a child. Sometimes it is because that parent was in turn raised by bad parents. How can you learn how to take care of another person when you were raised by selfish people?

While I was talking to her, her mom and grandmother just stared. They didn’t intervene. I wear a name tag, but I’m not an expert. But something had to be done. I talked to this little girl. I suggested some things – “Are you tired?” “Are you thirsty?” “Are you hungry?” hoping that either she would respond to one of those or that it would wake the guardians up – maybe there was something really simple going on. Maybe they would listen to what I was suggesting and learn to ask the same questions in the future. From their lack of interest in the situation I think that this wasn’t a fluke situation. They didn’t seem surprised by her outburst. So, in a way, I was trying to help their daughter but also to teach them to help her in the future.

She calmed down, got up from the floor, and went to the bookshelf. She pulled out a random book and brought it to me. She wanted me to read it to her. I didn’t have the time for that – and she had two guardians there. I pointed to them. “Have your Mom read it to you” I said – and Mom smiled and waved the child to her.

She was quiet the rest of the time there, which was about an hour. She just wanted some attention. This isn’t being needy. This is being normal. I can’t tell you how often I see parents sitting in the same area with their children but they aren’t interacting with them. They care more about their cell phone than they care about their child.

They are there in body only. They expect the child to do all the work. The child cannot learn to read just by picking up a book.

Don’t have children if you aren’t ready to raise children. If you aren’t ready, then put them up for adoption. There are hundreds of people who want children and can’t have them. Or find a parenting class. There is no reason for a child to be emotionally abused because of the immaturity of the parents.

I’m not a parent but I have the basics figured out. Feed them. Give them water. Let them have a nap. Let them go run and play. Do this every day, several times a day. And spend time with them. They need love and attention. Children are just like plants. If you don’t nurture them, they grow up a little stunted and warped.

Get your way (get out of your way)

There was a mom who came in the library recently. She picked out a bunch of books with her young son and then came up to the front desk to get a library card. Then she found out that because she lives in a different county she would have to pay a $50 annual fee to use this library.

She handled it perfectly. Some people get indignant. Some will shout “This is a free public library!” This is illogical. The books have to be paid for somehow. They don’t magically appear. Some think they are being clever and ask if they can use their relative’s address in this county. Or they ask to use the address on their license, which they have already admitted isn’t where they live.

Don’t try to get me to help you lie. It isn’t going to work. I’m not going to get fired for something stupid. I’m ok with bending some rules, but not the ones that I totally agree with. This one I agree with. You get what you pay for. Library funding in this state comes out of property taxes. You have to provide proof of current address to get a library card. It isn’t much to ask for to get to read all the books you want for free.

This lady not only took it in stride, she helped her son with it. He was distraught that he couldn’t get these books. He was sobbing, and his voice was going up in pitch and volume. In his mind, we were stealing from him. Some parents have not known how to deal with this strong emotion from their children and turn it back on the staff. Some have actually spun on us and said “you tell my daughter why she can’t have her books”. This is bad parenting.

We are strongly discouraged at work from saying what we want to say. Sometimes we are provided scripts for tricky situations. This is not one of those that we have a script for. I’m pointing out the ways this interaction has gone wrong in the past to illustrate how surprising this one was.

This mom picked up her son and hugged him. She patted him on the back. She made consoling sounds. And she totally took the blame. She realized that she should have checked about getting a card before she got the books with him. And she let him cry it out. She didn’t distract him. She let him have his emotion.

We are not comfortable with strong feelings. We are so afraid of them in ourselves and in others that we often try to cover them up or run right through them.

Breathe through them. Let them happen. If you push them down or shove them aside they will resurface in uglier ways, with terrible faces. Resentment becomes alcoholism. Being abused becomes incessant pain, stomach upset, or road rage. Feeling left out or ignored produces a bully.

It is ok to not get your way all the time. It is the mark of a well adjusted person who can handle that. It isn’t the feelings that are the problem. It is what you do with them. We’ve either forgotten that, or we never learned it. We want to push through the bad feeling straight to the good feeling. We shortchange our growth when we do this. Our society teaches quick fixes and instant gratification. Nothing good comes of this. There is no abiding sense of satisfaction that comes from this.

I remember once I’d spent the day hiking the dry riverbed at Fall Creek Falls state park with a friend. It was a bear of a hike. What would have been a 6 mile hike was more like 11 because it wasn’t a straight path what with climbing up and down the boulders in the riverbed. We were sore. We were exhausted. We hadn’t quite prepared for this.

When we finally got to the end, we went to the restaurant and had a fine meal. We were surrounded by people who had just driven there. We’d spent the day hiking, and they’d spent the day driving.

I have a strong suspicion that we appreciated our meal more.

The same is true with maturity. It takes the long path, and a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts. And part of getting there is pain. But pain can be transformative. It can be alchemical. Work with it, and through it, and because of it. You’ll savor life more. Sure it hurts. But as Carl Jung says “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”