I despise sulking. In my opinion it is the worst type of passive aggressive behavior that can be used by my kids. And they do use it. Often. Why? Because it works…
Sulking or pouting is a silent temper tantrum. You can spot the lip from a thousand miles. I have reached the point where I actually spot the downwards turn of the lip as I utter the word “NO” . Usually the lip is accompanied by a stomping of the foot and an abrupt 180 degree turn. Have you ever noticed that a sulking child will never go out of our sight. They hang around to punish us for not giving them their way.
Have you ever wondered why your child continuously sulks at home, but no teacher or friend’s parents ever notice this behavior? They think it is only their children who sulk! Children do not sulk at school, because they know that it will not change the situation, they will not get their way, sulking does not get reinforced at school.
I have found that children coming from very strict homes, where the parents are over- controlling sulk because they are not allowed to verbally express that they are unhappy with the situation. On the other hand, children coming from homes where the parents are very permissive, use sulking plainly because it works… Somewhere in between we have to find a way to deal with the ugly habit of sulking.
There are three ways of dealing with sulking:
- Making a rule against sulking. It takes time to teach your child not to sulk, by making a rule that they are not allowed in your personal space when they sulk, you take away their ability to punish you. They soon learn that it is silly to still sulk when they cannot see you and you cannot see them.
- No consequences. When you do not respond to sulking by blaming, accusing or trying to reason with your child, you take the incentive to sulk away. In other words you do not give your child her way and she is also not rewarded with attention, even though it might be negative attention. Ignoring “the poor little me” act will lead to the habit dwindling very soon.
- Visual cues . A technique that might work with younger children is to call her name, mimic her downward facing lip and use your fingers to turn your sulk into a smile. I did say younger children, because I tried it with my 8 year old and she did not find it amusing at all!
As a parent you need willpower to deal with sulking. To give in to one act of sulking, is to start the whole process of getting rid of sulking all over again. You have to teach your child that they have to use their words to deal with unpleasant situations and sometimes just to accept that life does not revolve around them.
By Lee Miller