Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Part Two: Dr. Foster Cline's response to Sympathy Trumps Reason

Okay, Lisa, I get your point: kids go for both positive and negative attention. However, your important and well- written example brings up another issue. Parents (and evidently hospital staff, too) get the behavior they overtly or covertly okay. In this case, evidently the staff’s conscious or unconscious response was: "Poor little three-year-old, feeling lonely… It’s understandable that he would pull out his oxygen tube to get company."

I'm sure most readers know that three-year-olds are among the brightest animals on earth! The only animals brighter are older human beings. And I don't mean to be up obnoxiously crass here, but any dog could quickly be taught not to engage in this type of behavior.

Most three-year-olds respond to firm requests, particularly when provided by a no- nonsense stranger. So I can't help but wonder if anyone went in and firmly explained to this little guy that pulling the tubing just won't work for him and perhaps set up some kind of reward for leaving it in. It would seem to me that this is at least worth a very good try as, if the child didn’t respond, there is an immediate alarm to ensure no harm.

Having hospital staff act as babysitters for this kid is a pretty expensive proposition. To me, this story may be a perfect example of how adult covert "permission" for obnoxious child behavior causes the unhappy adults more time, energy and strife while the adults never realize that in one way or another they okayed the behavior. Certainly this kid’s behavior worked for him.

I have a recent example of this type of covert permission. A neighborhood four-year-old tended to lose a lot of friends because he chewed on them! When I talked to his parents about it, they brought up his "need to bite"! Some parents live with whiny, rude or demanding kids and have grown to simply accept, expect, and covertly okay that behavior.

I'm very interested in seeing the responses to our posts, Lisa. Perhaps people will see me as an old curmudgeon.

Lisa’s Response:
Foster! Of course you are right! It makes perfect sense to give “setting limits” a try.  And, in fairness to the people involved, I don’t know whether or not they did. But, in my own sympathy for this little boy, I didn’t even ask!

As a mom of two children who spend a fair amount of time in hospitals, I couldn’t imagine leaving my three-year-old there alone for an extended period of time. So, my own feelings caused me to commiserate with the nurse telling the story who is a caring medical professional as well as a loving, attentive mother. We both felt bad for this little boy.

As I read your response, I see it so clearly now. Isn’t it interesting how our own feelings about a situation can cloud our judgment when it comes to responding to children in intense situations? Whether a parent or a medical professional, this is a very important point.  

Thanks for helping me see it. I hope others can learn from this, too.

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