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By Dr. Tina Lepage Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Parenting Page: Verbal Skills As A Parent-Control Tool

By Dr. Tina Lepage Posted June 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings.

Great verbal skills are a good thing, right? Well, mostly. Until you realize your child can run circles around you in their chase to get what they want. Pair verbal skills with persistence, and the person is pretty powerful. Add to that the parents of our generation who have been socialized to listen intently to their children, and the child may as well be the ruler of the world… or at least your world and theirs.

In retrospect, the first glimpse I had of Page’s ability to manipulate me verbally was when she was just a few months old. I had realized I needed to stop making eye contact while rocking her to sleep because eye contact was her way of engaging, so when I wanted her to sleep I started to not look her in the eye. She caught on to that and didn’t like it at all. Her first attempt was to fuss, which I adeptly ignored. Then she was quiet for a while – I see now she was thinking through and plotting strategy – followed by “ahh-ga.” This sound, ahh-ga, was the sound we had recently been using during the day to mimic one another back and forth. She was “talking” to me, which I of course could not ignore, so I looked at her and said “ahh-ga” back. And so began Page using her words to get what she wanted. I will say that when I told this story to older friends who were parents at the time, and they laughed hysterically when I explained that “of course I couldn’t ignore her so I had to say it back.” They assured me that there would come a day when I’d be able to ignore my child easily; I think I might still be waiting for that day. Lack of skill development on my part, it seems.

The persistence thing is hereditary, and from my side of the family tree, so I have only myself to blame. As a child, my siblings would send me forth to talk my mother into whatever we wanted, because no amount of saying no, explaining, or even yelling could dissuade me from my pleading. I recall that many of those conversations ended with a spirited, “Fine Tina, whatever, just leave me alone!”… But being the new-generation parent I am, I say OK and try to tie it to some reason for why I have come around, some logic… while my brain is screaming inside, “FINE! Good Lord, just stop bugging me!”

I may over-listen and give in too often, but I’m doing it with poise and feigned logic. Not sure if that’s evolved or devolved parenting.

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