Behaviour org uk

How Parents Create 'Badly' Behaved Children
And How To Reverse the Process


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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Restoring Childhood
How We Create 'Badly' Behaved Children
©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016
(Copyright Unedited Beta Version)
(To be read online only)

Book One

Chapter 8

How we parent is not a matter of personal choice

In key areas of family interaction all children in every country and every culture require the same things from parents. Parents cannot afford to follow any interpretation of parenting ideology that negates these basic needs. Parenting choices are restricted at a very basic level. Parents do not have a choice because their children have no choice. Sometimes people feel that becoming a parent has the potential to stop them from being the person that they were or the person they want to be. Many of parents I have spoken to tell to me of their desire to preserve their pre-child self. They speak of their determination that having a child would not change them. It is not unreasonable to want the essence of who you are to stay the same. Some may want to hold on to some healthy anti-establishment antipathy. The question is how can a parent preserve their pre-child self and still be the effective trainer that every child needs?

Most children want a stereotypical parent

Sitting on the top of a nearly empty bus, I listen to the mobile phone conversation of a teenager of about 14 or 15 sitting a few seats ahead of me. She makes it clear that she is going to a party that is being held at the weekend, and goes into detailed account of what she will be wearing and how she will get there. Then she suddenly thinks to ask her friend if she will be going. Her friend tells her that she does not know yet, that she will have to find out if her mother will let her go. The girl on the bus then says: “Oh, of course, I will have to ask my mother too.”

What makes this interesting is that it was so clearly a lie. Up to the point when her friend told her she would have to consult her mother, this girl had been certain that she was going to the party and did not have to ask for permission. What this lie indicates is that, despite all appearances to the contrary, this teenager views her friend’s need for her parent’s permission as a sign of care and a source of pride.

Even when teenagers are doing everything in their power to make their parents’ authority fail, they have a strong tangential need to have parents who are perceived as requiring respect. At a time when their own identities are still being formed, children’s first sense of pride is not in themselves, but in their parents. They look to their parents for the main clues to their own identities. The saddest outcome by far, when parents fail to claim firm leadership in the home and children attempt to become the de facto leader or king or dictator in their homes, is that these children are effectively undermining their own self-esteem and security.

Parents, as people, are human and vulnerable, but they need to protect their children from any recurring reminders of this. A child’s relationship with his or her parents begins at the earliest imprinting stage of their development so it is natural for them to believe their parents to be flawless. They are predisposed to believe this and they do in fact invest everything in their parent’s skill. They only begin to react negatively to the ‘person’ behind parenting decisions when parenting behaviour is flawed.

I had just finished explaining to a parent that she had missed on her audio tape four contradictions her son’s description of events that proved that he was lying. She said that she knew that he did this but she did not want to appear to be nagging by constantly pointing this fault out to him. She did not ‘want to be a person who constantly finds fault.’

It had never crossed her mind that in these circumstances this might be exactly the person her son required her to be. A central part of the parent’s role is to monitor for faults that will harm their children future relationships and gently point them out. By ignoring this fault she inadvertently teaches her son not only that lies work but that lies that are foolishly constructed and inconsistent work. She ‘did not want to be a person’ that every child absolutely requires a mother to be. If we want to train our children to fit into society we do not have a choice we have to be the parent that all children require us to be. Yes, we all have the right to preserve our pre-child identity, but we also have to accept that children require defined and unchanging parenting behaviour. We can only be ourselves if we understand that in key areas we have to be who our children need us to be. If there is a conflict between what our child needs and what we are predisposed to give then for our child’s emotional and developmental health they have to come first. I, me, the person blows hot and cold: on one day I may feel disposed to allow behaviour that, on another day, I am not going to tolerate. Children will always be insecure without a minimum amount of routine. If I am delight in being zany and unpredictable I need to reserve these qualities for my adult friends. My child requires me to be more constant and unchanging. My child requires me to refer all parenting decisions to a more constant ‘parent-figure-me’.

Parents do not have a choice between ‘Me’ and ‘parent-figure-me’

Parents clearly need some mechanism that enables them to manage this distinction. They need a mechanism that enables them to stay true to themselves and be a parent. Some parents appear to be able to do this naturally others struggle. I first became aware of this issue when I realised that many of the interactions with our toddler at home seemed to mirror what I was doing with my pupils in the classroom. I resented the fact that an aspect of the ‘role’ of teacher, essential to survival in an inner-city school, also seemed to be required in my interactions with my son at home.

Only ‘parent-figure-me’ has parental rights

Surely, I thought, my son and I both deserve to be able to interact with each other with nothing artificial in between, with no role; surely we should just be able to be ourselves? Although I knew that parents, like teachers, have to lead I did not see why I could not lead as myself. I did not see why leadership needed to be associated with a role. I did not understand why a parent could not relate to a child just as themselves - person to person. Well, my subsequent work with parents supplied a very good reason. It is simple but fundamental. It is that as ourselves we have absolutely no right to tell our children what to do. If we insist on being the same person we were before we had children then we have no right to make categorical statements. We have no right to insist on all those aspects of the child’s development that are necessary for their security, social integration and happiness. Why, because this right is based entirely on our being a parent?

Children instinctively know that we have no person-based right to tell them what to do. They refuse to accept any corrections that appear to be based on personal whims or from a parent acting too much like them. As people we might resist being too consistent and predictable, but as parents we cannot. Most of us are not exactly happy when we need to insist and deny something strongly desired to a human being we care about. For this reason we quickly need to understand and acknowledge that we have a role and how we feel is irrelevant. When necessary we have to insist because we are parents and because we know the best interests of our children require us to insist.

Some parents feel secretly proud of their child’s ‘bad’ behaviour, thinking it shows spirit or is creative or unique. They may see their child’s stubbornness as a sign of strength of character or their displays of anger as an indication that they are brave. But ‘bad’ behaviour is never a sign of individuality or strength. It is always stems from a child’s insecurity derived from parenting deficiencies. As individuals, parents may be anti-establishment, challenging, exciting, unpredictable and experimental; but they need display these traits sparingly or they will find themselves correcting their children for a childish copy of their own behaviour. If we undermine our leadership then our children become insecure. This is just the way it is and there is no way round it.

A very clear job description

The key to being a parent is to recognise that this word comes with a very clearly defined job-description. Parents cannot avoid that fact that in key areas parenting is no longer about what they want, not even about what they want to give or how they want to give it, it is entirely about what their children need and how they need us to give it. There is no problem if, for instance, we want our children to call us by our first names but there is a problem if we think the role of being a Dad or Mum can ever change. It can’t. When a parent says a grown-up child is their ‘best friend’ it is truly heart-warming. When parents still bringing up children say this about their children, alarm bells should start to ring. They also ring when they tell me that interacting with their child reminds them of their relationship with a brother or sister growing up. Parents can never allow themselves to be tempted to allow their children to fill an adult-friendship gap. The relationship with their child is fundamentally different. Children used in this way will always become insecure. Why? Because parents are required to do something that a friend never has to do, namely, make categorical statements and provide consequences. At key times all parents have to prove that they are the ones who lead using the only proof a stubborn child will ever accept – the provision of consequences. Creating a stable childhood is not about constantly dishing out consequences but it rests on the principle being firmly established that we can.

Winning can never be an emotional need

Children have to be trained to accept that sometimes they have to give up an ego-based need to win. They will not be able to do this if they continually see this same need graphically displayed by their parent. Parents cannot change their children’s behaviour if their need to do it becomes increasingly ego-based and emotional. Parents in role find it much easier not to display ego. At times they need to win but must find a way to depersonalise this need. Having a sense of our role enables us to train our child to show basic respect while simultaneously showing them that we do not have a personal need for it. Parents win for their children, not to beat them. Showing a child that we have an ego-based desire to win just strengthens their desire to beat us. It is completely counterproductive.

‘Badly’ behaved children are incapable of changing the way the ‘battle’ is fought and the consequence applied. Only parents can do this. Without a sense of role parents can contort themselves into ridiculous positions trying to justify their own behaviour. A single mother of three boys with whom I worked excused her own behaviour by trying to convincing me that it was bad for her children to have the even-tempered and consistent handling that I was advocating. She claimed that this would “not prepare them for the real world”. If a parent can argue that giving her children emotion-altered inconsistent handling helps prepare children “for the real world” that being inconsistent actually benefits them - and I have heard many similar nonsensical justificatory arguments - then parents desperately need a role or plan that gives a non-emotional framework with which to judge their parenting behaviour.

Parenting cannot consist of one ego telling another what to do. It will never work. Only correction based on our being a parent is a correction that our children can learn to accept. Parents would be strange people indeed if the type of person they were in general coincided exactly with the person their child needs them to be. Becoming a parent should not require us to negate our personal feelings and wishes but it does require us match them to parenting priorities. Only parents who can do this will be able to manage the marriage between person and parent.

The invisible role of parent

If parent’s can accommodate their behaviour in the home to their leadership role the fact that this role even exists becomes virtually impossible to detect, it becomes invisible. When parents continually pass the tests that their children set, children stop testing. The need for correction diminishes and when it does the safeguards, principles and morals behind the parent’s rules have a chance of being internalised and accepted by the child. More than one parent, striving to train a seriously ‘badly’ behaving child, has asked me “how long do we need to keep staying calm and providing consistent consequences?” I am tempted to say that the question could be rephrased to “how long do we need to behave like parents?”

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©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016

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