From the editor
Kids somehow emerge from the womb already programmed to know how to
push our buttons. That's why many of us can relate to New York mom
Madlyn Primoff-but just to a point. She's the mom who made national
headlines when she ordered her bickering pre-teens out of the car
and drove off.
I hate to admit this, but when my kids' fighting and arguing
reach window-shattering fervor and I've had way more than enough,
I've threatened to "stop this car right now and leave you here,"
words Primoff allegedly told her 10- and 12-year-old girls. Of
course, unlike Primoff, most of us parents who have leveled similar
threats would never even stop, much less drive off. Our threats are
Parenting experts have long warned us against threatening our
kids without following through. Empty threats do nothing to make
them behave long-term, though it just might scare them enough to be
quiet for the rest of the trip.
Primoff's story has fascinated me since it broke because with a
13-year-old, 9-year-old and 6-year-old I've been in her shoes too
many times. I know I'm not alone in these sibling battles because
other parents have told me about their own struggles. So I reached
out to Parent Coach Cathy Cassini Adams, because I like the
no-nonsense advice she offers in her zen, been-there-done-that sort
I wanted to know: Are there a couple of tricks that really work
to get past the fighting without doing or saying something
inappropriate and ineffective?
She says yes.
Tip number one: Focus on yourself, she advises.
"When you feel your frustration growing because things are
getting loud and out of hand, be conscious of how you are feeling,"
she says. "If you respond to your children's fighting with fighting
words or threats it will potentially make matters worse."
Instead, she says, take a few breaths or say a calming mantra
like "this too shall pass".
Tip number two: Defuse the moment with humor.
When her kids are arguing in the backseat, she'll jest, "I just
love how everyone is getting along and it's just so peaceful." Or
she'll turn up the radio and start singing at the top of her lungs.
"The comment or the singing will usually get the kids' attention,
they might crack a smile or they might just look at me with
confusion (but at least they're not fighting!)," she says.
Tip number three: Distraction. Change the subject or start a new
conversation, she says. Just maybe the kids will even forget what
they are arguing about.
None of us start off intending to be parents who yell or
threaten. In my case, it takes an extreme amount of bickering and
nails-to-a-chalkboard whining before I react (though I must admit
that getting to the end of my rope is a lot shorter these
I also have tried old-fashioned timeouts, separating them by
sending them to their rooms and screaming above the mayhem. In the
moment of quiet that follows, though, comes the guilt.
Primoff now admits she made a mistake. As parents, we all make
mistakes from time to time, but thank goodness our mistakes don't
often catch the attention of the national media and bloggers.
As the kids leave school for summer this month, I'm sure we will
all have plenty of opportunities to practice our patience and
forgiveness of mistakes.
I wish you all luck with that and a happy Father's Day to all
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