Drama kings and queens

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A COU­PLE of weeks ago, I was in­vited to be on na­tional tele­vi­sion to talk about chil­dren who like to drama­tise any­thing and ev­ery­thing. These chil­dren are known as drama queens and kings.

I came across a def­i­ni­tion by one parenting ex­pert and psy­chother­a­pist, Alyson Schafer. She said: “A drama queen is usu­ally a child who uses his or her emo­tion to ma­nip­u­late and whose emo­tional re­ac­tions are dis­pro­por­tion­ate in in­ten­sity to this sit­u­a­tion.”

These chil­dren know how to use their emo­tions to ma­nip­u­late and ex­ag­ger­ate. They are known to use this in al­most any sit­u­a­tion, big or small, from not want­ing to eat veg­eta­bles to try­ing to avoid go­ing to school.

One of her stud­ies showed a very in­ter­est­ing statis­tic. Pre­vi­ously, it was thought that only girls had a strong ten­dency to dis­play this emo­tional ma­nip­u­la­tion but Schafer found out that this was not true. In fact, there is a 50-50 chance that boys and girls will be­have in this way, given the right sit­u­a­tion.

In her anal­y­sis, Schafer also found four rea­sons why chil­dren and adults throw tantrums and drama­tise their emo­tions. These are to seek at­ten­tion, dis­play their power, ex­ert re­venge and to avoid do­ing some­thing.

The first one is the most com­mon. We see peo­ple drama­tise their sit­u­a­tions be­cause it gets peo­ple to look their way. Par­ents will be fa­mil­iar with this sit­u­a­tion. Many chil­dren cry and yell to get their par­ents’ at­ten­tion.

The sec­ond rea­son is true for chil­dren who al­ways get what they want with par­ents who tend to give in just to calm the sit­u­a­tion. Over time, they feel pow­er­ful and use their emo­tions to get what they want.

In the third sce­nario, chil­dren who don’t get what they want or are pun­ished use their emo­tions to am­plify small is­sues. This can be very trau­matic to par­ents as they of­ten don’t un­der­stand why their chil­dren are be­hav­ing this way.

The fourth rea­son is about avoid­ing some­thing. For ex­am­ple, when chil­dren don’t want to eat their veg­eta­bles or take a bath, they will fake be­ing sick to avoid do­ing what they are sup­posed to do.

All these can be a night­mare to par­ents who don’t know what’s go­ing on. As smarter par­ents, we should be able to recog­nise the rea­sons why they throw a tantrum. Once we are able to recog­nise the true sit­u­a­tion, we should be able to make a more ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion in a fairer way. As par­ents, this is just one of our many chal­lenges.

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