Most of us can agree: We see more and more ‘drama’ from our children. It’s not true of all kids, by any means. But overall, we see more exaggerated emotions over relatively small events. This is the very definition of drama. Little disappointments create reactions that are extreme.
What the big deal with a bit of drama?
Big drama multiplies pain. When kids experience small issues as if they are major problems, minor upsets become major events. The amount of anguish and emotion is inflated, and life is filled with more pain than necessary. Thus, life is lived with a distorted sense of exaggerated pain and unhappiness.
Big drama promotes a sad and negative orientation toward life. Because drama tends to magnify small upsets into major moments, life is pessimistic and negative than necessary. It’s as if children are looking through a selective filter that constantly finds reason to seek what’s wrong with the world, ignoring all that is right.
Kids with drama tend to attract kids with drama. Over time, drama becomes unattractive to well-adjusted kids. Therefore, children prone to drama end up making friends with others prone to drama furthering a life filled with emotionality and upset. There is little room for noticing and appreciating positive aspects of life.
Big drama destroys self-esteem. Self-esteem evolves from a sense of personal mastery and competence. As children develop, they gain awareness of their own coping capacities. But, it’s difficult for kids to develop a sense of personal competence when little events easily upset them. Therefore, they don’t feel prepared to handle life.
Big drama hampers their chance for life success. In order to succeed in life, these three traits are required in almost every arena: challenges need to be embraced, frustrations mastered, and an ability to persist in the face of obstacles developed.
When big drama emerges early in life, rather than turning toward the source of frustration and pursuing a path through the obstacles, kids get lost in said drama and disengage from the task at hand. The drama becomes the center of attention, when efforts at persistence and problem-solving are needed.
Here’s what you can do:
Drama is like an addiction; so make sure you don’t feed it. Early on, drama may appear as sincere, deeply-felt emotion, so we naturally intervene to help our kids through difficult moments. However, the truth is revealed over time, as habitually BIG emotion is seen for the smallest of moments. Once a pattern of repeated drama is clear, it is essential to avoid feeding the “addiction” with your attention. Any repeated attention becomes an invitation for future drama – not a solution. So recognize the drama as an addiction that feeds on your attention, and stop today.
Kids grow and evolve by learning to have drama when no one is interested. In other words, children actually mature by engaging in drama, and then discovering that there is no interest in it. In fact, they learn from parents who surrender trying to fix the moment of drama, and simply allow kids to get through it. This is a critical point. You’ll find when your kids are allowed to have a moment of drama, they’ll get through it (if you leave it alone). Over time, they’ll get through it more and more quickly. Remember: don’t feed the addiction. When you can walk away from the drama, they, too, can learn to walk away from their own drama.
Above all, don’t reward the drama by giving in to demands. Drama often intensifies when kids are not getting what they want. At times, this drama shows itself as demanding, tantrum-like behavior in a public setting where you might be inclined to ‘give in’ to the drama. If you allow yourself to reward the drama, in order to make it go away, you’re setting yourself up for misery extraordinaire in the years ahead.
Bottom line: It’s critical to view dramas as a toxic and dangerous part of your child’s life. Never give in to drama demands. Make sure that the drama gets nothing – not energy or attention. Above all, don’t give in to demanding drama! If you do, you’re teaching your kids that this is the way the world works. That if they throw a fit, the world will give them what they want. We both know that this will not lead to healthy relationships or employment or a healthy and satisfying life.
Instead, trust that your children will get through it. The more you simply allow the drama, the more it will fade away with time, and your child’s reactions will appear more appropriate and suitable to the circumstances.