Laurie Hollman Ph. D. is a psychoanalyst who recently wrote the book Unlocking Parental Intelligence.
What is parental intelligence? The crux of parental intelligence is trying to understand your child’s mind. Finding meaning in the child’s behavior, trying to understand the underlying issues of the behavior, and how to solve that behavior. It’s slowing down, pausing, taking no action, which may be counterintuitive to most parents, and instead taking the time to review the behavior, going over what your child did, when they did it, and looking for a sequence to track the behavior. It’s suspending judgment about your child’s behavior as well as your own parenting behavior. It gives you permission to not know what to do. If you don’t understand how to do something, then what can you do about it? When kids see parents taking their time, it has a calming effect on the situation.
What advice do you have for handling outburst or temper tantrums in public? I think the key is that you’re in public. The parent is often humiliated and embarrassed, and the child isn’t listening. If the behavior really gets out of hand, I would leave the store. That isn’t a time where you can sit and understand the child’s feelings. You need to remove them from the environment. It is inconvenient and you don’t get the shopping done, but it gives you a chance to slow the child down and not give them the experience of a full-blown temper tantrum. Once you’re home and time has passed where they’ve calmed down, you can use parental intelligence to figure out what was going on and what is behind this behavior.
Parental intelligence sounds like an effective way to parent, but do you believe in any more traditional forms of discipline? The word discipline comes from the word disciple, which means teaching. If you think about wanting to teach your child a lesson, using parental intelligence is the best avenue. Most parents give consequences for bad behavior immediately and react immediately. This is usually not effective because the child doesn’t understand the punishment necessarily. They stop and follow the punishment but they don’t learn from it. Parental intelligence is discipline, but it is from a different point of view. It is an approach that says, “I know what is in my child’s mind, I know how to solve it.”
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