Sunday, September 24, 2006

Life With an At Risk Child

There is a common belief that if we are “good” parents our children will be magically transformed into obedient, compliant, quiet young people. If we work hard at parenting and this doesn’t happen, we may be left questioning our methods. While good parenting does help moderate a child’s temperament, the result may depend on the starting temperament of the child. A hyperactive, domineering child will be calmer and easier relative to what he/she would have been without thoughtful parenting. He/she is not likely to turn into a submissive, quiet soul.

Daily life with an at-risk child demands that a parent tolerate that child’s temperament and set firm but loving limits. My son is going through a new stage. At the age of nearly four, he has suddenly decided that he does not want to sit at the table to eat his meals. He repeatedly gets up and tries to wander around the room carrying his food. I don’t know why he has suddenly become more restless, but I do know he has to train himself to tolerate sitting with the family. I discovered long ago that saying “come and sit down” repeatedly has no effect. So each time he gets up I get up, pick him up and carry him back to his seat. He protests loudly, “I don’t want to eat.” Then the procedure is repeated over and over. It can take four or five trials for him to get the message that he has to sit and I’m not backing down, then he stays in his seat. I can see what would happen if I was not sure of myself. I might be inclined to give up after the second or third trial to leave him aimlessly wandering while everyone else eats. Then, he would not be forced to practice controlling himself. Instead, he would get a lesson in how to control me.