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Taking Over From the Little One

May 3, 2022

Not all parents understand what is meant by permissive parenting.

It is essentially a style that in the end, enables the child to get away with things they shouldn’t.

It can come about the result of neglect, but very often it is also by well-intentioned parents and even those who are quite active in their approach.

Three-year Missy throws her food at the table.

The parent approaches and explains why it is not acceptable.

Missy protests what is provided for her meal.

The parent negotiates another selection.

Missy takes the new item and throws it too.

The processs continues with parent explaining and continuing to negotiate.

This mealtime last 40 minutes with Missy having eaten little. Another 45 minutes later, Missy gets a treat as she is hungry.

The parent didn’t see an issue with their parenting although wanted things to change.

Indeed, having come from a background of harsh parenting, the parent was sure to be gentle in approach.

What the parent didn’t see in the interaction was that it was the child in charge of the outcome through resistance and throwing of food. In the end, the child didn’t have to eat what was provided and was able to hold out for the treat.

The goal of the parent was for Missy to sit and eat her meal reasonably without this daily turmoil.

Parent was instructed to remove the child from the table to have the child sit on a nearby chair quietly. No discussion, but also no negative mood or threat was to be directed to the child.

If the child left the chair, she was simply to be placed back. Time after time.

Eventually the child felt thwarted and cried. The parent stood beside, remained calm, but otherwise quiet. The parent was now modeling the desired behavior. Quiet, calm.

When the child settled, the parent helped the child, again calmly, back to the table and meal.

This went on six times. On the seventh time, the child sat nicely at the table and began to eat.

As instructed, the parent in a quiet voice, remarked at how nicely Missy was seated and eating.

Over the course of four days, Missy was siting and eating the meal provided within about 15 minutes.

Although not reported earlier, apparently the parent had similar processes in place for brushing teeth, bedtime and getting up in the morning.

The parent, without instruction, applied the same new process to those expectations.

The parent reported that not only was the child easier to now manage, but overall, a happier child. Indeed the mood of the entire household had shifted. It was lighter and more joyful.

Key to making this work was respecting the parent’s wishes for an approach that wasn’t harsh or punitive.

What was required was interrupting the child’s behavior to eliminate the chain of events and escalation of challenging behavior.

The parent also had to tolerate the child’s pushback and protest in the form of yelling and then crying.

As a result, the child learned to manage some basic frustration, self-sooth and meet reasonable expectations.

When the child was meeting expectations some basic negotiations was reintroduced but within limits determined acceptable by the parent.

Welcome to the Internet.

There is so much parenting advice available, some of which is contradictory. With that people can choose their approach and theory by which they make parenting decisions.

Each approach has its own language and perspective. Some parents adhere rigidly to a particular approach and some treat the approaches like a buffet, picking and choosing alone the way.

In the end, regardless of approach, we always want the parent to manage themselves first to bring a calm and loving disposition to the job.

With that, however you manage those limits, boundaries and expectations, your child should develop reasonably well and emotionally intact.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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