Actress Charlize Theron recently caused a media stir when she wrestled her adopted 4-year-old son Jackson to the ground when he began throwing a public tantrum. For this, Theron was labeled a “monster mom” and was raked over the coals of parenting correctness by the media.
When photographs of Theron subduing Jackson went viral, the media sought comment from Gilda Carle, a therapist who bills herself as “relationship expert to the stars.” Carle opined: “It’s clear that Charlize is dictating. Instead of telling him, she should be selling him. … My concern is for parents to ask the child ‘why?’ after (a tantrum) is over.”
Carle believes in what I call egalitarian parenting, also known as the same-old, same-old dumb and dysfunctional parenting that mental health professionals have been promoting since 1965.
Egalitarian parenting proposes that the parent-child relationship is a relationship between equals. As such, parents are obligated to explain themselves to their children, persuade rather than dictate, and negotiate conflict. It is because of egalitarian parenting propaganda that so many of today’s parents, when they give instructions or convey decisions to their children, grab their thighs and do a deep knee-bend, thus “getting down to their children’s level.”
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Carle is disturbed that Theron took immediate control of her child when the tantrum began. Photographs of the incident along with first-person accounts confirm that when Jackson began his defiant fit, Theron did not soothe, console, counsel or try to persuade with promise of reward. She simply took over. Good for her!
Contrary to Carle’s advice, parents should definitely tell children what to do as opposed to trying to sell them on it. Authority is not about persuasion; it’s about communicating expectations unequivocally. No one recorded what Theron said to Jackson, but one thing is certain: She made it clear that he had no choice but to do what she was telling him to do. Her actions were appropriate to the situation.
As for Carle’s advice that parents ask their children “why?” after a tantrum is over, she is wrong again. That approach only serves to give validity to a tantrum. It suggests that there was a legitimate reason for the child’s explosion when in fact there is never a legitimate reason. Besides, there is but one explanation for a tantrum: Parent does not obey child.
My hat comes off to Theron. In that tumultuous moment during Jackson’s defiant fit, she realized she had to demonstrate that she was the “decider,” the authority figure, the big person, the final word on the subject — not him. She should consider becoming “parenting coach to the stars.”
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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