Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to Raise an Unhappy Child

Yesterday I saw a video of a child -- maybe seven or eight -- throwing a tantrum in the back seat of his mother's car. I won't post it, because it enrages me when parents intentionally violate the privacy and dignity of their own children. (I've visited that idea before.)

What struck me about the post -- it was on Facebook -- was the responses that took such a harsh view of the kid; comments that said he needed to be smacked and put in his place with a good beating for being such a little brat. Now, it's true -- the kid was completely flipping out and pulling his mother's hair and even grabbing for the wheel. I understand the reactions people had, but what bothers me is that no one had the initial reaction I had: It's his mom's (parents') fault. The discussion under that video prompted this post, from me, on Facebook:
How to raise an unhappy child: Allow child to get away with bad behavior over and over; then, finally put your foot down; then, when he flips out in frustration that his usually successful tactics aren't working, hit and humiliate him so that everyone admires how you "laid down the law."
(Ego among peers can lead to so many parental mistakes...but that's another post.) 

Tantrums worked for this kid, probably all his young life. In this video, the mother proclaims, weakly, a few times, "I'm the mom..." as the boy gets more and more riled up. Talk about a clear illustration of your ineffectiveness; to have to say that...and to threaten posting his behavior on YouTube... Awful. 

It is not fair, to the kid, that his mom, out of nowhere (and very likely prompted by the awareness that a video was being shot) decided to finally be firm with him. Of course, this was a convergence of things; it seems, in the video, that he is going somewhere he doesn't want to go -- maybe to the doctor's or to school. Now, the mother is forced to not give in to a tantrum, even though she has done so in the past. 

So the question remains: Does "the little creep need to be smacked"? Maybe or maybe not; it depends on your philosophy on hitting kids, first of all. But, if he does "need to be smacked" I would submit that it is the fault of his parents that he needs to be smacked. I think we all understand that but hate to admit it...

There is a treacherous line between personal responsibility and parental responsibility for a child's behavior. One person on Facebook said "he chose to act this way." There does come a time when one has to stop blaming his or her parents for his or her own flaws. (Some people never stop doing that; I know a few.) What we sow as parents grows, though. There's no denying that. But this is a little kid, still. He chose to act that way because he has been rewarded for acting that way. 

As for tantrums...if you want your kid to keep having them, let him "get away with it;" or, worse, still: give him what he wants because of it. But don't have the audacity, later, to throw up your hands and act as if it is a circumstance beyond your control; because, if it is beyond your control, you allowed it to get there. (I can list many things my sons do that are my fault. Now I am correcting those things; I would not have had to if I had done the right in the first place.) 

I know one thing: Never, ever use humiliation as a "parenting" tool. You will pay for that, later, I guarantee you. 


  1. I don't have children, I've never raised a child, but I know how I was raised and I've watched parents raising their children. I agree with you.

    1. Thanks, Joan. It's good to feel one is making sense to others.