Where thoughtful parenting replaces impulsive parenting

Cooperation Counts


    Family fun in pool

    Image Credit: eLLen

    By Jean Hamburg, LICSW

    This is a classic parental lament.


    Kids tend to hear perfectly well when it’s time to get ice cream, but when it’s time to get out of the pool they suddenly become deaf.


    The problem can be incredibly complicated. The solution can be simple if adults are armed with a few tools and a plan.


    Ten year old Jeb loved to swim, and Mom did everything she could to set him up for success. Each time before they went to their friend’s pool, they agreed on the pool rules, which included a time warning before the anticipated departure from the perfect pool. The sad truth is that agreeing is easy when a child is on dry land.


    Things usually went delightfully well until the agreed-upon time warnings. Then Jeb acted like he had never seen or heard of the person who had, until that moment, been known to him as his Mom. As a matter of fact, he purposely swam across to the deep end and couldn’t or didn’t hear a thing she was saying


    The easiest response for poor Mom could have been to scream at him that if he didn’t get out of the pool he would likely not see one for the rest of the summer—or for that matter, for the rest of his natural life. Usually, this is ineffective.


    Indeed, there might be a written accounting of The Awful Afternoon When Jeb Wouldn’t Get Out of the Pool, and there might be a consequence, or the whole ugly matter could disappear from everyone’s radar screen, and hope for the best the next time.


    No matter what, it is a good idea to at least listen to kid accounts, even if it is VERY different from the truth. Connecting with the kids and including them in solving the problem has more of a chance to improve the next pool scene than punishing them in ways that place the Bad Guy Hat on parental heads; this will only make everyone mad at each other, which usually causes things to be worse. Consider:


    Mom (calmly) at another time when nothing was going on: “I’m really curious: The other day we agreed that when it was time to get out of Ginger’s pool, even if you didn’t want to, you said you would. What happened?”


    Jeb (not calmly): “You never gave me time warnings. And I was only in the pool for a few minutes. It’s just not fair. You’re always doing that. You never even let me have a good time. I actually don’t care if I never see another pool again!”


    It’s tempting to head for letting our adult emotions get the best of us with “Don’t talk to me that way young man!” or “That is most definitely NOT the way it went, and you know it!” A brief break here might help, and then consider:


    Mom (in the it’s not easy, but it’s right mode): “I hear you, Jeb. How can we make it better for everyone next time? We both want the pool fun to happen.”


    Including the kids in problem-solving often helps. Avoiding the tempting traps of needing the real story or teaching the lesson of obeying pool rules again and again can lead to hard feelings towards each other. A safer way could be to stay connected with the kids and move on.


    After all, having fun in the pool with our kids is really the goal. Let the splashing begin!

    Contact Jean for consultation options at: jeanhamburg@comcast.net __1-877-813-0004

    Cooperation Counts (sm) is a service of Jean Hamburg, LICSW

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