Originally Posted by tadamsmar
Training can happen inadvertently.
If a kid crosses a limit that the parent has set and the parent reacts by launching in a teaching session then this can function as a training reward (because parental attention is a reward). If this happens repeatedly, then the parent will have inadvertently trained the kid to cross the limit. In this case, I think the parent is not being manipulative because the training is not intentional, I think manipulation has to be intentional.
After our earlier discussion of inadvertent rewards for bad behavior, I tried to remember what it was like when my son was little. It was really hard to recall. Have I been rewarding bad behavior? Maybe. My son is really great though.
Last night, my friend needed an emergency babysitter for his three-year-old son. My son was at his dad's house. The little boy's mom was out of town and there's a lot going on in their family right now. I expected him to melt down, which is what he usually does when I see him with his folks.
When he got to my house, I cut up a watermelon for him, his dad and me. (I put the other pieces in a container.) His first response when his dad and I offered him food was to say no, so I told him he should just watch my technique with the fruit cutting and see if he wanted some. He did. (Ha, the fruit-cutting trick worked AGAIN! Muahaha, I am the master manipulatrix.) He felt so much better once he'd had some food. He said goodbye to his dad and kissed and hugged him at the door.
He played really nicely and quietly with my son's old toys while I made him dinner. We sat and ate and he was very polite and a good companion. Then I taught him how to excuse himself from the table and I cleaned up.
After dinner, we went outside and blew bubbles. I shared a book with him. He was at my house until an hour that would have been too late for my son at that age, but he was totally fine. He enjoyed everything that was available to enjoy. He was able to say when he was hungry or tired without whining. He helped me put away the toys! I didn't have to guide him through any of it.
This is the secret: there were no distractions. He was as rested and fed as I could get him. It was mellow, so he was mellow. There is absolutely no way this could be true in a family all the time!
But, I did do the two things I did with my own kid at that age: I built in resilience and good temper by thinking ahead about his food and sleep and the environment, and any adjustments I wanted him to make to his behavior I asked for explicitly. (I also worked hard to model the right behavior myself, which isn't always easy. I sometimes want to whine, pick my nose and be messy at the dinner table. When you have your own kid with you all the time, they see you do those things. Uh oh.)
You don't need to affirm that the child is smart because he understands a story or that he's good because he ate all his food at dinner, even if you're enjoying how he listens to a story or likes his dinner. He knows you like to be with him because you laugh at his jokes and engage him. I think we should have confidence that we know why our kids are wonderful, and that we know how bring it out in them. Or maybe they know why we're wonderful, and how to bring it out in us?