Disciplining Your Kids: Chocolate, Anyone?

I read a great article in Slate last week appropriately titled “No, You Shut Up!” about anger management and how best to discipline your children.

What I liked most about this article – in addition to its very social scientific approach to discipline (note to self: must try “parking ticket” method!) – is that it openly acknowledges the very real issue of being furious with your kids (for an equally refreshing acknowledgment of anger towards spouses, see this article in Parenting as well as this post on Motherlode).

I think that one of the great myths of adulthood is that you somehow get rid of your anger when you grow up. Wrong. You may no longer lie down and kick your heels on the floor (or throw a fork at your brother’s eye, as someone I..ahem..know quite well once did), but anger is a very real – and constant – part of adulthood and particularly of family life.

I was therefore amused when attending a recent parenting seminar to see how others (in this case, mothers) deal with their frustration when their kids act out and/or don’t do what they are told.

We were sitting there going through some of the standard “parenting book” fare on eliciting cooperation from kids – e.g. look them in the eye when you want them to do something, don’t multi-task, use descriptive praise to encourage good behaviors, acknowledge their feelings etc etc. (True confessions: I attended a nearly identical seminar about 1.5 years ago and I still had to take notes. You know it’s bad when you’re having a senior moment during childcare 101…)

So, anyway, there we were sitting around learning how to pry our 8-year olds off the computer screen without ruining our vocal chords and/or threatening a time-out for a month, when this woman pipes up: “Well, what if I’ve already given her a chocolate and she still won’t do what I ask?”

Instantly, twenty heads shifted their gaze towards this maternal pariah.

You could see the parenting coach gulping back her horror. “You…em…give your daughter chocolate when she does something you want?”

“Yeah, all the time,” came the blahzee response.

Stay tuned, reader. It gets worse.

“I mean, how can I tell her not to eat chocolate? I eat it all the time myself.”

“Well…,” the coach stammered, clearly having no index in her handout for completely bat-!$%# parenting. “If that’s your value system,” she continued, “…and you’re comfortable with that…then yes, I suppose you can use that as an incentive…” (Translated: “If you wish to poison your child and make her obese, feel free…”)

I don’t know about anyone else in the room, but I felt a great deal better after this woman spoke her piece.

I’m not always consistent with my kids, and I do occasionally scream, but chocolate? Really???

One of the great things about parenting is that just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you see that someone else got there first. And, if nothing else, it encourages you to plow on…

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