The Norman Transcript

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October 4, 2013

Behavior problems say more about parents than children

(Continued)

NORMAN —

A “tell” is an instruction that uses the fewest words possible and, again, is devoid of explanation. A “tell” is not “I think you’ve been up long enough, and it’s obvious to me that you’re getting overtired, and I think it’s important that you be alert for tomorrow’s test, so how about let’s go to bed, OK?” The proper form is “It’s time for you to go upstairs and get ready for bed.” Why? Because you said so.

Then there’s “my child won’t leave me alone.” That simply means the parent in question has failed to define and enforce a boundary in the parent-child relationship. The parent complains that the child interrupts constantly and asks for one thing after another, but the reality is that the parent has never said to the child, “You’ve got your nerve coming to me for something as trivial as that. I am not your servant. I am your mother, but the fact is you don’t need a mother right now, and I’m not going to be one.”

I heard those very words from my mother on several occasions. Several was all it took. And by the way, that sort of reprimand did not “traumatize” me, nor do I need to speak to a counselor to “resolve” conflicted feelings concerning my mom. I have no conflicted feelings about her.

Today’s mothers — not all, of course, but way too many — don’t set clear limits on their children’s access to them, then complain that their children won’t leave them alone. Under the circumstances, it’s understandable that their children treat them as if they were vending machines.

The long and short of it is, your child is a mirror. Look carefully at the image reflected therein.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents questions at johnrosemond.com.

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