Child Caring

You can't always make your child happy. PS. Don't try

My 8 year old girl is stubborn. When I take away her time to watch T.V, she cries and smacks the table and hits a thing. I don't want to make her sad, but I don't know how to make her happy. Could I just pat her to calm her down? Her grandma says she will grow up to learn to be mature, but my daughter doesn't seem to understand. How can i not make her sad, but make her understand a lesson?

From: Jianjun, San Diego

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Dear Jianjun,

Part of a parent's job is learning to tolerate a child's unhappiness; you're a parent, not a playmate. Part of a child's job is learning to cope with age-appropriate doses of unhappiness. That's how they develop coping mechanisms.

Also, keep this in mind: Children tend to act out more when they either don't know what the limits are or when they can't trust that the limits will consistently be enforced. That's because, without consistent limits and limit-setting, they don't feel safe and secure. They tend to repeat an unwanted behavior, almost as if they are saying to themselves, "What will mom do if I do this again? What about this time? What about now?" They actually act out because they are looking for consistency so that they can trust their world.

Let me put this another way: When children don't learn about rules and appropriate behavior, it's often because parents are inconsistent in our response to a behavior so she has no reason to listen to you when you say something.

Here's a way to break this down in to steps:

1. Set limits on behavior that are appropriate to her age and stage of development.
2. Set consequences that are also age-appropriate, that have a relationship to the infraction, that seem fair to you, and that you can enforce.
3. Communicate these rules and consequences to her in a calm, matter-of-fact way.
4. When she violates the rule -- which she will do, especially in the beginning, as a way to test you: Does mom really mean it? --quickly enforce the consequences. Stay calm and matter-of-fact.
5. Repeat as often as necessary.