for parents who are unable to reason with or meet their child’s unrealistic wants

for parents who are unable to reason with or meet their child’s unrealistic wants

#1 Reasoning deficits

Many children have executive function issues, which are guided by the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that coordinates reasoning, self-control and problem-solving, among others.

The child’s central nervous system is not always equipped to cope with not getting what she/he believes she/he desperately needs.

 #2 Irrational and inflexible

children can sometimes seem unable to switch to an alternative plan, and can instead remain inflexible and persist in a behavioral plan driven by impulse.

Such unrealistic expectations could include: seeing a cereal commercial and demanding a trip to the store immediately; demanding a trip to the pizza parlor in the middle of the night.

They are unable to think what it would mean for their parent to drive to the store at 2 a.m. and instead feel unloved when they are refused.

#3 Understand the obstacle

Parents need to take themselves out of the adversarial and disciplinarian role and step into the role of a teacher.

They must teach their child to develop the necessary internal structures in order to cope.

#4 Install the ‘software’

Cognitive psychologist Dr. Paul Schottland suggests parents manually install the ‘software’ that isn’t naturally on their child’s hard drive, (as it is with other children) and then constantly reinforce it.

“Wait until the emotions settle.

Then, approach the child and talk about the situation. Say something like:

‘This is not a good situation.

We have to figure out a different way to make it better next time, because I love you and I don’t want us to be this way.’

#5 Change the thought pattern

Provide the child with a ‘thought’ that can replace the irrational thought he’s thinking.

Dr. Schottland calls it a “cognitive mediator” and says this can get them unstuck from the rigid place in their thinking.

Parents can even write the new thought out on a card for the child, i.e. “I won’t get it this time, but maybe I’ll have a good shot at the next thing I ask for.”

 #6 Reinforce the steps

Try installing an empathic, caring, reflective, problem-solving “program” by engaging the child in the following steps:

first, have him/her acknowledge that the demanding behavioral pattern has real limitations and doesn’t work;

second, it doesn’t work for the family; and

third, it is possible to work together to establish a different, more adaptive approach to getting his/her needs met.

Such an approach could go a long way to reducing the enormous tension and negative outcomes that accompany “mission mode.”


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