Don’t ever take your anger out on your children
Question: What advice would you give parents who recognize a tendency within themselves to abuse their kids? Maybe they’re afraid they’ll get carried away when spanking a disobedient child. Do you think they should avoid corporal punishment as a form of discipline?
Dobson: That’s exactly what I think. Anyone who has ever abused a child — or has ever felt themselves losing control during a spanking — should not expose the child to that tragedy.
Anyone who has a violent temper that at times becomes unmanageable should not use that approach. Anyone who secretly “enjoys” the administration of corporal punishment should not be the one to implement it.
And, grandparents probably should not spank their grand- kids unless the parents have given them permission to do so.
Question: Before our baby was born last month, our threeyear-old daughter, April, was thrilled about having a new brother or sister.
Now, however, she shows signs of jealousy, sucking her thumb sullenly when I nurse the baby and getting very loud and silly when friends drop by. Please suggest some ways I can ease her through this period of adjustment.
Dobson: Your daughter is revealing a “textbook” reaction to the invasion that has occurred in her private kingdom. It is typical for such a preschooler to throw temper tantrums, wet the bed, suck her thumb, mess her pants, hold tightly to Mama, talk “baby talk,” etc.
Since the baby gets all the attention by being helpless, the older child will often try to “out baby the baby” — behaving in immature ways from an earlier stage of development.
That pattern seems to be occurring with your little girl. Here’s what I would suggest.
Bring her feelings out in the open and help her verbalize them. When she is acting silly in front of adults, take her in your arms and say, “What’s the matter, April? Do you need some attention today?” Gradually, a child can be taught to use similar words when she feels excluded or rejected. “I need some atten- tion, Dad. Will you play with me?” By verbalizing her feelings, you also help her understand herself better. Don’t let infantile behavior succeed. If she cries when the babysitter arrives, leave her anyway. A temper tantrum can be greeted by firmness. However, reveal little anger and displeasure, remembering that the entire episode is motivated by a threat to your love.
Meet her needs in ways that grant status to her for being older. Take her to the park, making it clear that the baby is too little to go; talk “up” to her about the things she can do that the baby can’t — she can use the bathroom instead of her pants, for example. Let her help take care of the baby so she will feel she is part of the family process.
Beyond these corrective steps, give your daughter some time to adjust to her new situation.
Even though it stresses her somewhat today, she should profit from the realization that she does not sit at the center of the universe.
Question: We have a seven-year-old son who has been doing some pretty awful things to dogs and cats in the neighborhood. We’ve tried to stop him but not successfully. I wonder if there’s anything to be more concerned about here.
Dobson: Cruelty to animals can be a symptom of serious emotional problems in a child, and those who do such things repeatedly are not typically just going through a phase. It should definitely be seen as a warning sign that must be checked out. I don’t want to alarm you or overstate the case, but early cruelty is correlated with violent behavior as an adult.
I would suggest that you take your son to a psychologist or psychiatrist for evaluation, and by all means, never tolerate any kind of unkindness to animals.