In my coaching practice, where I work with parents on a wide range of parenting challenges, I see more and more kids coming in with drama…big drama in response to relatively little events.
In the early years, big drama on the part of little kids is excused with comments like…”Oh he is just a boy”….or…”She’s such a little drama queen.”
So what’s the problem with a little bit of drama?
Well there are five specific ways in which drama will destroy a child’s future. Let’s go through them:
1. Big drama multiplies pain.
When kids tend to be overly dramatic, minor moments become major moments. The amount of anguish and emotion is exaggerated, and thus life is filled with more pain than necessary.
This leads to my second point.
2. Big drama promotes a sad and negative orientation toward life.
Because big drama tends to exaggerate and magnify small moments into major moments, life appears more pessimistic and negative than necessary. Its as if children are looking out through a selective lense, that searches for small moments, and exaggerates these in ways to fill their lives with more pain and sadness than needed.
As time goes on, such drama is more and more unattractive to well adjusted and healthy kids. Therefore…
3. Big drama tends to attract more drama.
Kids prone to drama end up making friends with other kids prone to drama. They share their drama stories, and life is filled with upsides about not only my life, but about the big drama that my friends are experiencing.
In this process, kids are also learning…
4. Big drama distorts reality.
This occurs in several ways. First, as mentioned, small events are seen as large events. However, there is more.
When kids linger in an emotional state for extended periods of time they perceive a much more dramatic and emotional world than really exists.
5. Big drama hampers their chance for life success.
In order to succeed in various arenas in life, challenges need to be embraced, frustrations mastered, and an ability to persist in the face of obstacles. These traits are requisites for success in almost every arena.
When big drama emerges early in life, kids often display drama rather than persistence. Rather than turning toward the source of frustration, and pursuing a path through the difficult obstacles, they get lost in the drama and disengage from the task at hand.
For all of these reasons, big drama is an obstacle to your child’s future success. So what can you do about it? Here are a few simple suggestions:
First, big drama is like an addiction….so make sure you don’t feed it.
Even though it doesn’t make sense, kids can become addicted to the drama. During their early years, this drama often leads to efforts by parents to intervene…to console….to help their kids through these difficult moments.
However, once the pattern of drama is clear, it is essential to avoid feeding the addiction with your attention. If the drama continues to get a significant portion of mom and dad’s energy, the drama only continues.
So see the drama as an addiction…and stop feeding it with your attention.
Kids need to get through their drama on their own.
This is a critical point. In reality, we all ultimately need to get through our emotions on our own. You’ll find, when your kids are allowed to have a moment of drama, they’ll get through.
If fact, they’ll get through it more and more quickly…when you simply allow them to have their moment.
Instead of trying to help them through it, or to coax them around it, or give them feedback in any form…pull away from the drama. Remember: don’t feed the addiction.
Finally, above all, don’t reward the drama.
As kids get older, the drama emerges when they are not getting what they want. If you’ll allow yourself to reward the drama, in order to make it go away, you’re setting yourself up for a long and miserable adolescence.
Make sure that the drama gets no reinforcement. Instead, I encourage you to consider the opposite approach. Make sure that the drama gets no-thing.
That’s right: no-thing. When the drama emerges, give it nothing. Give it no energy. Give it no attention. And above all…don’t give it what it really wants!
If you reward the drama by giving your child what they are demanding or wanting, you’re teaching your kids that this is the way the world works. You’re teaching them to throw a big fit…show lots of drama and emotion…and expect the world to give them what they want.
This will not lead to healthy relationships. It will not lead to healthy employment. It will not lead to a healthy and satisfying life.
The bottom line here is that it is critical to view dramas as toxic and dangerous part of your child’s life, and you must not feed it in any way shape or form, and instead…trust that your children will get through it. The more you simply allow the drama…the more it will fade away with time. As soon as the drama dissipates, then re-engage with your child. With time, the drama will fade away and your child’s reactions will appear more appropriate and suitable to the circumstances.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His Web site, www.TerrificParenting.com
, offers free parenting guidance and an e-mail newsletter.