An overwhelmed mom leaned against the side wall of the train. She was out of breath, sweat beaded on her forehead. She had been chasing her son through the the train. I picked that time to stand up in front of him, and he came to a screeching halt. Tears filled her eyes and she was embarrassed as she caught her breath.
“I don’t understand why he runs away everywhere we go.”
“He runs because you chase him,” I replied.
She was puzzled. They sat next to me and I explained:
Parents react to their children’s behavior out of fear, anger or frustration. Of course you have to keep your children safe, of course you cannot let them run free, and nobody wants to be the mom with her kid on a leash, but seriously, who is parenting whom here?
If your children are doing things because they like the reaction, then I would suggest that you are giving them the wrong reaction. You are reinforcing their running by giving them the adrenaline rush of a chase, it is a game and you have become an unwilling participant.
At the store I used to take my son to the dollar toy isle and have him pick out a toy, if he misbehaved in the store, he had to go and put the toy back on the shelf. We only had to put it back once- he was heartbroken! When my son ran from me, he spent the rest of the day having to hold my hand. When he would pull away, “No, you have to hold my hand, I have to keep you safe.”
Find a way to reach your child in a way that doesn’t involve blood, sweat, and tears. Good parenting takes hard work and consistency. Bonding is important, but relationship is not the opposite of accountability. Your kids will still like you if you make them obey, in fact, we will all like you if you make them obey.