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Help – My Kid is Driving Me Crazy

“Your goal is nurturing, protecting, and strengthening your child so he can learn to operate in the world successfully,” argues David Swanson, author of Help – My Kid is Driving Me Crazy.  Unfortunately, many parents make the mistake of thinking their main goal is to meet their child’s needs, and as a result, they fall prey to manipulation.

Swanson discusses three common misconceptions most parents believe and need to let go of in order for more successful parenting to prevail:

  • The mechanics of parenting always work.
  • Your child possesses empathy when she is emotionally invested in getting what she wants.
  • Your child possesses a strong ability to delay gratification.

Furthermore, while most parents assume their child would not want to exhibit defiant behavior when it is met by a punishment, Swanson maintains this isn’t true.    Since children aren’t as logical in their approach to problems as adults, defiant behavior works for them, as “an angry child wants to see his parent equally upset.”

Therefore, Swanson argues, parents need to recognize the three innate desires that lead to inconsistency:

  • to keep their child safe
  • to look out for their child’s future interest
  • to ensure that their child is happy

The problem, of course, is that at any given time at least one of these innate desires is being compromised.  “Setting a limit or delivering a consequence often goes against a parent’s desire to ensure his child’s happiness.”  But it must be done.  As a result, you need to “learn to better cope with your own level of discomfort” and accept the reality, which is “it is impossible to be a responsible parent and always make your child happy with your decisions.”  The solution Swanson believes is to prioritize your desires rather than strive to satisfy all three at once.

Don’t worry.  There’s no need to panic.  According to Help – My Kid is Driving Me Crazy, “Manipulative behavior is not an indication that your child is lacking moral character.  It doesn’t mean he is a terrible person.  It mostly means he has not reached the level of maturity to be able to delay gratification.”  Swanson insists these struggles are normal and that despite your child’s claims otherwise you are not a terrible person.  “It’s simply a reflection of the fact that parenting is a difficult task, perhaps the most difficult one your will ever face.”


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Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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