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Good-natured child needs share of parents' attention


QUESTION: What are the special needs of a compliant child – one who goes along to get along? Does he have any special needs?

DR. DOBSON: That’s a great question, and the answer is yes. When one child is a stick of dynamite and the other is an all-star sweetheart, the cooperative, gentle individual can easily be taken for granted. If there’s an unpleasant job to be done, he may be expected to do it because Mom and Dad just don’t have the energy to fight with the tiger. When it is necessary for one child to sacrifice or do without, there’s a tendency to pick the one who won’t complain as loudly. Under these circumstances, the compliant boy or girl comes out on the short end of the stick.

The consequences of such inequity should be obvious. The responsible child often becomes angry over time. He has a sense of powerlessness and resentment that simmers below the surface. He’s like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son told by Jesus. He didn’t rebel against his father. He stayed behind and ran the farm while his irresponsible brother squandered his money on fun and games. Who could blame him for resenting his little bro? His response is typical of the compliant, hard-working sibling.

I strongly recommend that parents seek to balance the scales in dealing with the compliant child. Make sure he gets his fair share of parental attention. Help him find ways to cope with his overbearing sibling. And, within reason, give him the right to make his own decisions.

There’s nothing simple about raising kids, is there? Even the easiest of them needs our very best effort.

QUESTION: You have recommended for many years that parents take their preteens away from home for what you called a “Preparing for Adolescence” weekend, during which they talk about the physical and emotional changes about to occur. I’m interested in your comment that kids want this information before they become teenagers, but they won’t want to talk about it after puberty. Do their attitudes really change that much overnight?

DR. DOBSON: As a matter of fact, they do. A study of 1,023 children between 10 and 13 showed that the number who felt uncomfortable talking to their parents about sexuality nearly doubled after puberty occurred. Prior to that, they were very open to instruction and guidance at home.

Ninety-three percent of those aged 10-12 felt loved by their parents “all the time,” says Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a psychiatrist at Harvard University. He said: “I think parents may be surprised that children of this age are saying, ‘We want to be close to you. We need you and we’re still afraid. We need the sense of safety and security that you supply.’”

The study showed, however, that attitudes changed dramatically when the children reached the eighth grade. Those who had been open to advice the year before were suddenly unwilling to talk to their parents. The window of accessibility had closed.

The moral to the story? Invest a little time in the months before puberty to get your children ready for the stresses of adolescence. The effort will pay big dividends.

QUESTION: What advice would you give parents who recognize a tendency within themselves to abuse their kids? Maybe they’re afraid they’ll get carried away when spanking a disobedient child. Do you think they should avoid corporal punishment as a form of discipline?

DR. DOBSON: That’s exactly what I think. Anyone who has ever abused a child – or has ever felt himself losing control during a spanking – should not expose the child to that tragedy. Anyone who has a violent temper that at times becomes unmanageable should not use that approach. Anyone who secretly “enjoys” the administration of corporal punishment should not be the one to implement it. And, grandparents probably should not spank their grandkids unless the parents have given them permission to do so.

Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. These questions and answers are excerpted from books authored by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dr. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Copyright 2004 James Dobson Inc.