Just imagine you’re in a public place. Doesn’t matter if the place is quiet or noisy to begin with. Nearby, you spot a couple with a really young child no more than three years old. For some reason or another, the kid suddenly starts bawling at the top of his/her little lungs while the parents struggle to control the kid (but in vain).
Grarrr, when will the kid just shut the fuck up already? Most of us would think.
Well, one of my best friends has this theory of how to get kids to quieten down. Kids often yell, scream and cry for attention. Positive attention, she says. They want to be mollycoddled by the parents, and basically have the parents fall to their knees coaxing the life out of them just to get them to stop crying.
And when the parents actually give in, they are reinforcing the behaviour. In future, the kids will resort to making one hell of a noise to get what they want because … well, it worked before, didn’t it?
So, she says, what if we gave them attention that is contrary to what they want instead?
She continues. The next time you see a kid crying, look in their generation, point and laugh. She assured me that so far, this has had a 100% success rate for her.
This evening, I decided to put her theory to the test.
While queuing at a restaurant, this kiddo standing nearby suddenly began bawling loudly. The mayhem lasted for a good two minutes and showed no signs of slowing down. The younger cousin and I were trying our darnedest best to hold a decent conversation but it was hard when every sentence was punctuated with an even louder wail.
In a mixture of exasperation and bemusement, I decided to share my friend’s theory to the younger cousin.
“So you see, my friend has this theory. Next time, when you see some kid crying somewhere and the parents can’t seem to calm them down, you should just start laughing at the kid.”
That was when I did a live demonstration – on that kid.
Imagine me looking straight into the kiddo’s eyes and laughing. Not a loud, MUAHAHA kind of laugh – but a slightly muted version of that. Well, I was trying this for the first time, so I wasn’t quite sure about err … how the parents will take to it.
And damn, it worked.
The kid clammed up instantly and looked straight at me. Big wide, innocent eyes. As if wondering “waiiiiiiii is this girl laughing at me?”
And it was back to blissful silence.
Awesome. My friend is such a genius.
Caveat: I doubt the parents were very pleased, though – because the kid’s dad was constantly shooting me disapproving looks after that. In response, I returned him a look that was meant to say well, it seems like I can control your kid better than you. (;