By Dr. Vicki Panaccione
Every month I put a sign up on the marquee outside my office, touting the joys of parenting.
Sometimes I am proud of myself for my creativity. This month happens to be one of those times. July's motto reads: "Your kids are gifts . enjoy their presence." I wish I had had a chance to drive this mother by my office.
She was knee-deep in water, wading in the Gulf with her two children and their grandmother. She had the 4-year-old by the hand, and the 2-year-old in her arms. The girl was complaining, wanting to go out a little farther so she could swim.
Her exasperated mother was scolding her, declaring that she (the mother) could not go out any farther because she had her clothes on.
"Maybe tomorrow, when I have my bathing suit on, we can go out farther," she assured her. But the girl was not appeased. When was tomorrow, anyway?
As I passed this foursome, I encouraged Mom to go on and get wet. Seize the moment, as it were. But her comeback to me was more disturbing than her refusal to get wet. "We have five long days to go." And all I could think of was, by then, today would be gone.
Now, how do you think those next five days will go for this mother? This apparently was her first day, and she was already bemoaning the duration on this "vacation." If she wasn't going to stop and enjoy the experience with her children, the days would, indeed, be long.
Have you ever taken a handful of your child's favorite candy and proceeded to hold it just out of reach? My guess is you have. We all have, in one way or another.
For example, when we take our children to the toy store to pick out a present for a neighbor's birthday party. Or when we go down the cereal aisle, but bypass all the boxes with cute little cartoon characters on them. And how about when we go in the water, and don't allow swimming?
Sure, kids need to learn that they can't always get what they want. They need to develop frustration tolerance and the ability to delay gratification. However, if we know that the situation might be difficult for our children, why do so many parents act so annoyed and angry when their children react as expected?
Depending upon the age of the child, this could be a very daunting task. Particularly, when parents try to explain their child's tantrums by clarifying, "It's his naptime." To me, this explanation makes the situation even more absurd. Why would anyone put a child in a very tempting situation at naptime, no less? And then chastise the child for wanting what he wants? If it's hard to resist when well-rested, how could sleep deprivation help a child have more self-control?
Scheduling the day around our children's biorhythms makes for a more productive and enjoyable day. And preparing and planning when taking children into difficult and tempting situations can turn a dreaded activity into a more pleasant one.
Discuss with your children ahead of time what the trip to the store, for instance, is for.
Also decide what you will do if tantrums occur, or cooperative behavior is shown. Be sure to praise cooperation and good tolerance, and it's OK to empathize with the feelings of frustration.
However, be careful not to give into the tantrum. You don't want to encourage that behavior. And if your children have difficulty with the experience, you may want to consider scheduling it at a different time.
And if you are wading in a situation where the choice is to have fun and be spontaneous, or stick to the logical path, sometimes, you might just want to get your clothes wet.
Clinical psychologist, Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., has a specialized practice in Melbourne, working exclusively with children, adolescents and families.
To contact Dr. Vicki regarding her workshops, seminars or publications, call (321)-722-9001 or visit www.askdrvicki.com.