Q: Our 16-year-old son is talking of going to a local community college after high school and living with one of his friends. He says he needs to find a job soon so he can prove to his friend's mom that he is hard working. I was so shocked I just listened and haven't said how I feel about this whole thing. What would you say to this obviously delusional teen about his grand plans?
A: I would just nod my head and say things like "That's very interesting" and "More power to you!" and "No man is an island." Note that what you say doesn't have to make a lot of sense. You would need to make sense if you had even a small chance of causing your son to realize that his fantasies are nothing but that: fantasies. That small chance does not exist; therefore, you are relieved of trying to talk him out of his "grand plans."
Yes, your son is delusional, but anyone who is not/was not somewhat delusional at age 16 isn't/wasn't having any fun. Why, at age 21, married with a child, I still thought I had a shot at becoming a rock star. In fact, I still think I can become a rock star. I'm still delusional; therefore, I'm still having fun.
Let's face it, your son's fantasies are harmless. Furthermore, they reflect a strong need to emancipate, which is good. They also reflect the desire to become a responsible, contributing member of society. That's double-good. In the life of every delusional teenager, reality - not the youngster's parents - will be The Great Awakener. In the meantime, let the young man dream his dreams. Where would the human race be without its dreamers?
Q: When she is happy or receiving a lot of my attention, my 12-year-old daughter often speaks in "baby talk." Examples: "I wub you" and "You my mommy." When she's in one of these moods, she constantly asks for hugs and kisses and then, if I tell her I'm busy, proceeds to whine. It may sound like this child does not receive enough affection but be assured she most certainly does. After a while it's infuriating and just makes me want to get away from her. I've tried talking to her about it, but to no avail. I don't think she even gets it. Have you heard of this before? Any ideas as to how to get her to stop?
A: Yes, I've heard of this before. I've heard everything, in fact. This is known as "post infantile articulation thrombosis." It's a very rare condition that can be cured with repeated beatings with foam rubber baseball bats, but if you don't like that idea...
Sit down with her and clearly define the problem, as you see it. Don't pull any punches. Be clear, concise and use examples. Tell her that her baby talk eventually becomes very annoying to you and that on any given day, when you reach your limit of baby talk, you're going to tell her, "I've reached my limit for today." And by the way, your limit can be one time. That's your parental prerogative. From that point on, every time she crosses the line her bedtime is backed up by 30 minutes because "this sort of immature behavior indicates to me that you aren't getting enough sleep."
Then, follow through. If you can manage to be dispassionately consistent, her PIAT should be cured in about four weeks.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his Web site at www.rosemond.com. Copyright 2010, John K. Rosemond
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Living with Children
Q: Help! Whenever our two adult children, their spouses, and our four school-age grandchildren (tweenagers, all) visit us, as they did this past Thanksgiving, chaos reigns. The children are nothing short of wild. They run, jump, and scatter toys and clothing all over the place, all with much yelling and screaming. They act like they’re on vacation at a beach rental, and the parents do little to control the situation. We have tolerated this for some time now because we don’t want to create discomfort for our guests. But we’ve pretty much had it. Do we talk to the parents or should we just discipline when we feel discipline is needed?
A: This can be the stickiest of wickets, one that I’m hearing about from an ever-increasing number of grandparents. Apparently, too many of today’s parents fail to realize that proper parenting is an expression of love and respect for one’s neighbors, including friends and relatives. Lacking such fundamental social awareness (they have some mass disorder, no doubt), they inflict their little (and sometimes, as in this case, not so little) terrors on everyone who is kind enough to let them in the door.
Willie and I laid down the law early on concerning grandchild behavior in our home. We told the kids that two rules prevailed: First, when in Rome do as the Romans do, and when the Romans come to you, do as the Romans do. Second, it is our job to spoil, your job to discipline; do not do our job and we won’t have to do yours. That pretty much sums up the grandparent/parent relationship.
Thankfully, our kids were and are still on board with our expectations. We certainly aren’t draconian, but things like running, jumping on furniture, loud noises, and disobedience (in any form) are not allowed. Those clear understandings make for much better visits for adults and children alike.
Were I in your shoes, I would take this issue up with the parents. If you react to the grandchildren’s behavior out of the proverbial blue, and especially given the unfortunate precedents that have been set, you are likely to run afoul of parental protectiveness. Furthermore, you are not and should not be responsible for the discipline of your grandchildren. Their parents are responsible, and they should accept that obligation. Doing so is a matter of respect for you not to mention good guest etiquette (a word in danger of extinction).
Assuming you and Grandma are on the same page (Caution! Do not proceed unless that condition is satisfied!), talk to the parents. Tell them what bothers you and what your expectations are. No need to be critical, mind you. No need to imply that you don’t approve of their parenting. Explain that the older one gets, the less tolerant one becomes of child chaos. It’s true, unless one is blessed with hearing loss.
The parents, in turn, should convey your expectations, in no uncertain terms, to the grandchildren before they get in the car to come to your house and again in the driveway before everyone gets out of the car. They should make a further commitment to you that enforcement will not be in your court. And it really doesn’t matter whether or not the parents agree with your expectations; they should back you unconditionally. That’s one way parents teach children respect for adult authority.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.
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