As a pediatrician, I feel more than a little bit of pressure for my four young children to behave outside our home. I certainly understand there are challenging stages of development, emotional lability and stresses that all children will face and all parents will encounter, pediatricians and their kids notwithstanding. However, it still does not dispel my discomfort when one of my children starts misbehaving. And frankly with four children, the possibilities and permutations are pretty much in the favor of misbehavior. I always feel it such a negative testimony to my professional skills and parenting when my children are getting in trouble at school, acting unruly or partaking in an all-out temper tantrum. From my perspective, who in their right mind would want to see a pediatrician whose children are poorly behaved?
On the other hand, being in the midst of temper tantrums, time outs, 123 Magic, behavior charts and school conferences also allows me to relate to my patients’ parents. I truly believe the practice of medicine is partially a science, but mostly an art. There are many ways to approach childhood development, behavior and discipline. Hands-on experience being in the trenches of parenthood can be invaluable to my practice, right?
This is a perfect segue into a portrait of my four spirited and opinionated children. My children have inherited their parents’ strong personalities, so they do come by it honestly. They tend to be the loudest kids in any given setting. For example, while I was waiting outside my two preschoolers’ nature center class last week, I could hear the cacophony of their laughter or complaints. I could hear my 3rd son singing Christmas songs before Thanksgiving and my daughter belting out a “days of the week” ditty. In those instances, I may smile and chalk this all up to their zealous effervescence. Conversely, I may also hear the wailing of my son because he was not able to finish his art project and had such difficulty with transitions. Most parents probably have felt this way sometime in the past, that their children are encountering bumpy tortuous paths while other kids are effortlessly sailing along.
My two older boys are pretty spicy as well. At a birthday party two summers ago, they met and introduced themselves to everyone at the party (adults and children non discriminating), and showed them the contents of their sticky blue ice-cream filled mouths! At another party, my oldest introduced himself to an adult stranger with virtual ease. He enthusiastically chirped, “We four are the McIntyre kids!” He then proceeded to introduce his siblings. Both my grade school boys love to talk, disregard paying attention and following directions in the classroom, and get overexcited and overstimulated easily. I can probably never hope to see an outstanding conduct grade on their report card!
Even though I have the benefit of education and experience to recognize that many prickly childhood behaviors are pesky stages of development that shall pass, it certainly still is just as achey to parent through it. I also feel sympathy for my four children. When they misbehave, they certainly are not exerting any bad intentions. They are children and all children will misbehave. It is actually good to misbehave. In making poor choices, they have the opportunity to learn from past wrongdoings. It is also challenging for my children to be held to a higher standard by myself and possibly the public. Ultimately, I realize it is perfectly fine for children to misbehave. The true reflection of parenting skills is how a parent reacts and responds to such misbehavior.