Act, don’t Yak

Matthew, 4, started to bang on a stainless steel trash can while his 18 month old brother was sleeping. Mom says, “Matt, stop it.”

Matt continues to bang the trash can. Mom says again, “Matt, please stop it, now.”

Matt continues to bang the trash can. Mom says, “Matt, if you bang on the trash can, you’re going to wake the baby.”

Matt continues to bang the trash can. Mom offers an incentive. “I’ll give you a star if you quit banging the trash can.”

Matt continues to bang the trash can, smiling. Mom yells, “Stop banging that trash can now! You cannot play on the computer today, young man.”

Matt bangs the can again. “You’re on time-out, mister!” Mom drags Matt upstairs to his room, where he uses his “water power” to get even and has an “accident.”  Tears are another form of water power.

Mom feels hopeless and defeated.

Mom could have evaded the whole scenario at the first bang on the can by putting the trash can out of Matt’s reach. Immediately, without words. Then she could say, “Let’s read a book together and have some quiet time.”

The power struggle is defused. Mom and Matt feel better. Matt receives positive attention at a neutral time. They develop a positive relationship and avoid power struggles.

Mom can consider a long-term solution and replace the trash can or keep it out of his reach. We dog-proofed our trash can because the dog does not understand words. She has little self-control when something smells really good in the trash. Matt enjoyed the power and attention of banging the trash can and like the dog, had little self-control. 

“But I feel like moving the can or buying a new trash can is like giving in to Matt,” Mom said. The only winners and losers in power struggles are the participants. What is the cost to their relationship to carry on?

To avoid a power struggle, Act, Don’t Yak, coined by Dr. Sam Goldstein.  Children under age 5 can be managed by following three guidelines.

  1. Take action and use fewer words — before getting angry. Action prevents and eliminates conflict.
  2. Be kind and firm when setting limits. Healthy boundaries make children feel safe. Being kind and firm makes everyone feel better.
  3. Temper expectations.  A young child needs practice to master self-control. They are able to reason at age 7. Follow numbers one and two to help them develop self-control and reasoning.

Staying out of power struggles means parents don’t have to bully children into making better behavior choices. Parents feel bad when they resort to bullying behavior — intimidation, and using size and strength. Bully proof your family through positive parenting.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bullying, set boundaries, use action


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One Comment on “Act, don’t Yak”

  1. Bonnie J. Toomey Says:

    Well said, thanks for the post! I enjoy reading your common sense approach. My children are all grown now but this is exactly how we raised them. It’s rewarding to see them using the same loving and positive methods on their children today.

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