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Do Not Feed the Weed

do not feed weedThere’s an amazing phenomenon that happens when parents decide,That’s it! It’s time for our child to stop this pesky / bad/ annoying behavior!

As soon as they get out their lazers and try to zap it and watch it shrivel away forever, they inadvertently (and unknowingly) begin to do do the opposite. Instead of killing it off, they begin to tend to this behavior.  And water it. And give it light. Play music for it. And feed it fertilizer. And suddenly, what started as a well-intentioned “nip it in the bud” effort becomes an overgrown situation, and like a weed, it grows quickly and heartily.

What Are Common Parenting Weeds?

Common parenting “weeds” are all those behaviors parents feel the need to “do something” about- the whining, crying, babytalking, not eating dinner, fussing, complaining, acting out, talking back, cheating, lying, stealing, noodling, etc. These behaviors range from absolutely harmless to fully problematic if given a chance to grow. Key word: grow…Kids don’t grow out of, they grow into.

Why Does this Happen?

When mom and dad say repeatedly, “I don’t like how you do this, (but I’m always focused on it)” it sends a very basic message “this is who I really think you are and I don’t trust that you have what it takes to try another behavior.” So, guess who shows up every time? The whiner, noodler, complainer, babytalker, and so forth.

The truth is, when kids find their place in the family, they aim to please! They are wired to feel safe in their social space — they know what behaviors get which reactions. They know that while mom might not like it when I ______________ she sure pays attention.

And finally, bottom line, if this gets mom and dad to interact, well, then, fine. It works. Kids are far MORE interested in having a relationship (in any form) than they are in not getting in trouble, grounded, etc. From day one, their relationship with mom and dad is number 1- even if it means they aren’t having much fun along the way

Why is it a Bad Idea?

With each, more focused attempt to “get rid of” (often by way of convincing, tricking, steering, pushing, pulling, bribing- you name it) a child out of using any and all pesky behaviors, the more these unwanted behaviors take root. Why? Because all that attention is just like food, water and sunshine – it feeds the weed, planting the behaviors that will define your child within the context of the family.  Over time, both parent and child will begin to believe this as pure truth. And from there…well, kids don’t grow out of they grow into, right?

Also, whenever parents feed the weeds vs. watering something else, it sticks a label on the child. Once labeled as the whiner, noodler, etc. she’ll know who she is in every context and commit. If mom introduces her or sets teachers up with a “she’s a complainer” statement, well then she may decide “offer accepted” and take you up on your offer to always deliver what mom thinks of her.

Bottom Line

Even the most well-meaning parents unknowingly care for the very weed they cannot stand. Do not feed that weed!