Have you ever been to a supermarket and witnessed what can only be described as a small child bullying his or her parent? The bullying is normally emotional but sometimes physical. A child demanding something like sweets, particular biscuits or a toy, the parent saying “no”; the child placing something in the trolley and the parent putting it back on the shelf resulting in a tantrum of epic proportion as the child screams so loud and at a pitch that could shatter glass, let alone our eardrums. This is sometimes followed by kicking, pinching and ultimately lying down on the floor, arms and legs flailing and a parent looking on absolutely powerless to do anything about it, red faced and wishing the child has been left at home with a relative.

Some years ago, these sorts of scenes wouldn’t have occurred because an element of fear existed in our bringing up of children, the fear of consequences. Now that element of fear has been transferred to the parent. From the days when children were expected to be seen and not heard, it seems that we have moved to children being heard and indulged in the extreme.

Setting limits of behaviour
Parents no longer appear comfortable in setting limits of behaviour and being the pilot of the family aircraft. Parents mean well, trying to rear their children in a “better” way than their own parents might have raised them. However, in trying to be more attentive to our child’s needs many parents in this generation have laid an incorrect foundation in being afraid to say “no” just in case they hurt their son or daughter’s feelings. In consequence, bedtime or leaving a shop without buying something our child wants can become a traumatic and stressful ordeal.

Children should never be given this much power irrespective of how demanding and anxious modern day society has made them. If we don’t assert our parental authority, children often believe that “no” means “possibly”. We should never allow children room for negotiation because by doing so we encourage the belief that if a tantrum is thrown the parent will give in. Bad behaviour becomes a child’s weapon against us since learning that the louder he or she screams; the more likely it will be they will get what they want. This is the ultimate in emotional bullying

Emotional bullying won’t enhance a child’s future
Consider the future if you have allowed your children to use emotionally bullying to get their own way. How many teachers will be happy to teach them? How many employers will give them jobs? And how many dates or social functions will they be invited to?

As parents we have a duty to tolerate the tantrums and bad temper without rushing to appease them since in doing so we are inadvertently crippling our children. We want our children to be resilient, not weak with an arrogant sense of entitlement. Our children need to understand that they are not the centre of the universe (even if we believe they are), that not everything is about them and that buying a less fortunate child a gift is the best way to learn about helping others. These are essential life lessons!

We should remember that discipline is less about punishment and shame and more about teaching. There’s no reason why we can’t acknowledge a child’s request or even empathise with their emotions but by stating “We won’t be buying that new game you want today” and sticking to that decision, you are setting the ground rules before you go into a shop. If a tantrum still ensues, you need to leave the shop because that is the right thing to do for your child. As parents we are not in a popularity contest; we are the experienced adults. It isn’t your job to indulge your child; your job is to be the parent and to raise your children as strong, resilient, caring people with respect for others.

So keep a copy of this article with you to share with any parent you encounter, who is about to give in to a child in order to avert a scene in a public place. The best gift we can give a child in those circumstances is saying “no” and never to allow emotional bullying.
Your Family Coach