How often does the behavior of politicians remind you of unruly eight-year-olds? Put that another way, how often does the behaviour of politicians not remind you of unruly eight-year-olds? Indeed.

Could it be that here we have the answer to the tensions now besetting the federal liberal leadership? Could it be that these are people not in need of steely party discipline of the type favored by Alexander Downer, but rather people yearning for firm, yet loving, parenting?

Brendan has been made form captain. Malcolm wanted to be form captain too and has taken to punching Brendan in the arm during little lunch. What to do?

The type of child who reacts badly to being told No is “one who is used to having power and one who can feels that they can manipulate situations to their advantage,” says child psychologist Kimberly O’Brien. “It can be quite embarrassing socially when a child expects things to go their way and they don’t. It can often lead to tantrums and other problems with social skills.”

O’Brien points out the importance of negotiation and communication. “If someone hasn’t learned to negotiate they basically just make demands and become used to getting everything they want. They’re used to the power and they feel that they don’t have to try to understand other points of view.” 

According to O’Brien, there needs to be consistency and predictability in the responses of one’s parents/party elders.

“It often comes back to sitting down with the person and explaining the rules, and keeping it really simple. You should always discuss the consequences as well so that they know there will be a warning system in place. It may be that they will lose their Gameboy or their pocket money. And that’s often something that’s negotiated between parent and child.”

Maybe the party powerbrokers should consider the virtues of discipline as espoused by the Raising Children Network:

… [the true goal of discipline is] to teach children the rules of behaviour, as well as what society and other people expect of their behaviour, so that they grow up to be socially productive and personally fulfilled individuals.

And if they’re wondering how to go about it, here’s an abridged step-by-step guide to keeping Malcolm’s leadership ambitions in check:

  1. Find the root of the problem;
  2. Ignore bad behavior;
  3. Reward good behavior;
  4. Prioritize and set limits;
  5. Start early. If you set rules now, your child will respect you later. If you don’t set rules now, it will be much harder to control your child as they get older.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey