Kids - they are all different. Photo Similkameen Spotlight.

Column: One parenting book certainly doesn’t fit all

Like the fingerprints they are born with – each child is different.

Like the fingerprints they are born with – each child is different.

This is a surprise to many parents, who don’t unreasonably expect if they put the same ingredients in the same pot, and stir and simmer for equal amounts of time, they will dine – approximately – on the same bowl of chili.

For whatever reason, it simply doesn’t work that way.

This reality was cause for reflection in the homestead recently, as a significant birthday was celebrated.

It was unfair to those who followed, that the DeMeers’ first attempt at reproduction was so successful.

Call it beginners’ luck.

No child is perfect. However – comparatively and retrospectively speaking – that one was extremely easy to raise.

It was the early 1990s, when western Moms and Dads were embracing the wisdom of that parenting philosophy known as Behaviour Management.

There were many books written about practicing Behaviour Management in the home. Barbara Coloraso was an especially influential author at the time. The basic idea is that young children should be treated like miniature adults. Above all, they need to be given choices. Positive behaviour is met with rewards, and negative behaviour is discouraged with a series of escalating consequences.

This worked a charm for the DeMeers’ first born. It was as if she read Barbara Coloraso in-utero.

Dressing in the morning, for example, was never an issue. Do you want to wear the orange t-shirt, or the pink-t-shirt?

Pink, please.

We can’t have a snack until your toys are all picked up.

Okay, Mommy.

Barbara Coloraso was a hero. Parenting was practically effortless – couldn’t imagine what others made such a fuss about – and we decided to do it again.

At the risk of mastering understatement the second DeMeer fry never read Barbara Coloraso. (He was, however, once smacked on the bottom with a copy of her bestselling tome, Kids Are Worth It.)

None of the tried and true strategies that had served our little family so well for nearly four years seemed to work.

Do you want to wear the blue t-shirt or the green t-shirt?

Blue. No wait. Green. No, no. Blue. Green. Blue. Green. Blue.

Red.

We can’t have a snack until your toys are all picked up.

He picked them up and threw them in the hallway.

Where’s my snack?

Albert Einstein determined the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.

Accordingly we ramped up our efforts. We must not be giving him enough choices. We must not be promising enough rewards, or effectively explaining the consequences.

Do you want to wear the blue t-shirt, or the green or the orange or the yellow or the pink?

The clothes ended up in the hallway with the toys. Even the most simple daily tasks became battles. We were exhausted, guilty because we knew we were screwing up, and actually fearful of what the next years, to say nothing of the very next day, would bring.

Briefly we seized on an alternative parenting craze, premised on the bestselling book One, Two Three Magic.

This theory promises that if your child is misbehaving you count aloud slowly to three and he disappears…er…he stops tipping cans of Campbell’s soup off the grocery store shelves.

Suffice to say when you start counting to three and find yourself at 659, the plan is not working.

A sympathetic preschool teacher eventually recommended a parenting class, hosted by a local psychologist, who suggested that children…well…they are all different.

To knock off Einstein again, you can’t parent a squirrel the same way you parent a fish, otherwise the squirrel drowns.

She put the family back on track by proposing we try the exact opposite of everything we were doing.

No choices. No rewards. No threats or promises. Just plain and simple “do it because I said so” kind of toddler boot camp.

There was even a sign posted on the fridge door: “We do not negotiate with terrorists.”

It was very tough, and very worth it.

In as much as the child in question eventually matured to be a kind and responsible adult, who is a pleasure to spend time with, we consider it a success.

It probably would make a great book, too.

Andrea DeMeer is the editor of the Similkameen Spotlight in Princeton.

To report a typo, email:publisher@similkameenspotlight.com.


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