By: Christina Dalton, MSSW, CSW
There are times when a parent may need to take drastic measures. By drastic, I don’t mean shooting your child’s laptop full of bullets or publicly humiliating them on a street corner. I recently watched a program highlighting parenting gone too far and the events I described are real. As I watched each story, I thought to myself– it doesn’t have to be this difficult, does it? Often times kids act out because they simply can. They don’t respect parental authority. They may not believe the warning that you’ve given out for the hundredth time and why should they?!
This is the story of a family–Mom, Dad and their three boys (all of elementary age)–that took drastic measures to regain their credibility. These parents took control back and in return gained enormous respect that may have been lost somewhere along the way. The biggest problem that these parents faced was fighting in the car. Imagine, if you will, three boys arguing, fighting and bickering on the way to each and every place you went. Just the thought sends a little shiver down my spine. This particular family had a trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” rapidly approaching. Luckily for them, they were taking my parenting class and at the time we were covering something called, Strategic Training Sessions. To summarize a training session, you pick an issue that is a huge problem for you and devise a detailed plan to eradicate it, planning for every twist and turn that may happen.
So….back to my family. They decided to do a “fake” trip to Disney before the real one, and fingers crossed, the boys would argue and Dad would turn the vehicle around and rip Disney from their tiny, little fingers. This is exactly what took place, suitcases were packed, loaded in the car and they headed for Disney on a lovely Saturday morning. Not a mere 20-30 minutes into the trip the fighting began and Dad said, “I will turn this car around if you guys don’t quit fighting!” How many times had they heard that before?! About 10 minutes later, Dad gets off on an exit ramp, turns around and gets back on the interstate, only this time headed in the opposite direction of Disney. He never spoke a word. These were the words they heard coming from the backseat, “We’re so SORRY! We’ll never fight again! Dad! Mom! We promise!!!! [insert sobbing and loud wailing] Pleeeeeaaaasssseeeee……..”
Dad told the class that he didn’t know what he would have done if they had actually behaved that day! Back in the car, Dad wasn’t angry. He didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t even have to explain why he had turned around. They knew! Dad told them when they returned home that hopefully they would make better choices next time and maybe they could try again next year. Just imagine being an 8- or 9-year-old thinking that you are headed to Disney World and because of YOUR bad behavior it’s ruined. No Mickey. No Minnie. Space Mountain, buh-bye! The devastation would run deep and hurt badly. Turns out that the boys ended up calling their Dad’s boss and asked if their Dad could please have more vacation time because they had ruined their trip. The end of the story is that Dad, Mom and the three boys went to Disney World two weeks later, on the original planned date and I quote, “It was the best vacation we’ve ever been on as a family and no one argued!”
Moral of the story: When Dad says he will turn the car around…HE WILL!