Parenting is our greatest joy and our greatest challenge. If the latter has been the norm for you lately, then try changing your thinking about parenting and try some new strategies that go along with the new thinking.
We want our children to be responsible, respectful and fun to be around. When parents allow children to “suck them down” then no one wins. The hierarchy in a family means that parents are on top, always in charge. That provides the structure and security that children need to grow up. Staying on top is where the changed thinking comes in. But first you need to know what things you are in charge of and what you aren’t. Click on the “Control Versus Wishes” and quiz yourself. Answers are at the bottom of this page.
Even for those things you are not in charge of, you can get clever in figuring out how to make that thing as important to your child as it is to you. For instance you can say, “Feel free to come eat dinner as soon as you have finished cleaning your room.” You will have to be OK with the child making a choice to skip dinner that night. I can assure you that the child will not starve.
- Nothing will make parenting easier in the long run than consistent expectations and consistent follow through. If your children know that homework comes before TV or video games and that you consistently supervise and follow through on that expectation, you will have a child that nearly always gets his homework done. If cleaning his room on Saturday is always expected before going to play with a friend or riding a bike you will have a clean room at least one day a week. But you have to respect a child’s choice to have a dirty room rather than play also. “Sad for you,” is a good one-liner to give your child that is making that choice.
- Click on the “One Liners” to find a list of other comments that will help you stay on top when your child has a smart mouth or is non-compliant. Some of them are edgy but they aren’t meant to put the child down. They are meant to keep you from getting angry and frustrated with your child and to maintain your self respect. Here are some one-liner examples. When you child says “I hate you,” your response might be, “I love you no matter what.” Or if your child says, “You never let me do anything,” you might say, “That’s right. I’m working toward the prize for Meanest Parent on Earth. I’m almost there.”
- Do not take the child’s mean comments about you personally. That sucks you right down and brings out your own anger. Find clever and resourceful ways to show that their comments don’t bother you or say, “Do I speak to you that way? Try it again.” Or say, “Is that the best you can come up with?”
- Never yell at your children. It means you have been sucked down and it teaches them to yell. The same goes for hitting or spanking—it teaches them to hit and it is almost always done in anger. Finding a way to be clever and stay on top will prevent the anger.
- “The broken record” is the only acceptable “nagging”. The broken record is the same exact words spoken in the same exact manner. “Please pick up your toys,” is repeated until the child is so irritated with it that he/she complies. Other nagging usually involves threats and increased irritation and arguing with the child. None of that is useful and takes too much of your energy. However, the broken record can be said while doing or thinking about other things and it won’t take much energy at all.
- Much better than lecturing children is allowing them to figure it out for themselves. Click here to download “Processing Feelings” to use as consequences for many behaviors. Send the child to their room and expect them to complete the worksheet before being allowed out. Send them back if the answers are sassy or poorly thought out.
- “Something will happen” is a useful and mysterious phrase that will come to mean a lot to your child. Often inappropriate behavior happens when you are not in a position to give immediate consequences. You can simply say, “Something will happen.” Then a few days later when your child asks you to make pancakes or gets an invitation to a birthday party or wants to go play with friends, you can say, “Remember when I said, ‘something will happen?’ well, this is it. It’s not happening.” Guilt is a major deal breaker for parents in such a case and for consistent following through, in general. Fight the guilt response to parenting by affirming “I am guilt free,” aloud 100’s of times a day.
- Genuine praise is always a better motivator than criticism. Catch your children being good and praise them even if you think that it shouldn’t be necessary to praise them for coming to the table the first time you call, for instance, or for waiting until you get off the phone before asking you a question. Click here to see “101 Ways to Praise Your Child.”
- Whisper or repeat softly, “I’ll listen when your voice sounds like mine”. The child will be curious as to what you are saying. Or just mouth words. Anything that puts the off their path of whining or complaining—dance, sing, make faces, ask an illogical and unrelated question, “How many miles did you travel when you went to the moon yesterday?” Tell a silly “knock knock” joke. Say, “hold on to that thought” when they are being mean or snarky and then walk away as if you are going to go get something, but don’t come back. All these things use humor to diffuse the conflict. They are fun, which is what parenting is supposed to be.
- Prescribe the problem. “I’m going to tell you to clean your room and I expect you to procrastinate, complain, and have a hissy fit about it. I hope you won’t disappoint me.” The child will have to “obey” you in order to do what you expect. You can then praise them for obeying you. Most likely, though they will not complain and procrastinate.
- Ask questions when you are on the verge of being defensive. “Would you like to make an appointment to talk about that?” “What is good for you?” “Who are you acting most like right now?” They don’t even have to be relevant questions—anything to get them wondering what is going on.
- “Less is more” try to keep your “lectures” to the child 20 words or less. Parents tend to be repetitive to get heard. Don’t bother. They stop listening after the first few words anyway and it is just a waste of your energy.
- Talk about the child in front of the child—to your spouse or friend.
- When children are whining, start whining about how much you have to work and how much caregiving you have to do. Use your whiniest voice. Soon the child will be quiet.
- When the child is embarrassing you in front of friends say to the child, “Don’t make me embarrass you.” It will only take one time of saying something that will embarrass them in public for them to “get” that threat. You have to be clever to embarrass them without shaming them, however.
May I suggest these books:
Parenting with Love and Logic
Parenting Teens with Love and Logic
99 Ways to Drive Your Child Sane
This is an excellent series of DVD’s for parenting. They are designed for parenting attachment disordered children but the suggestions are excellent for all parents and are so humorously presented:
When Love is Not Enough - DVD
When Love is Not Enough - Book
The following websites have excellent suggestions as well:
Answers for “Control Versus Wishes”
2, 5, 7, 8, 13, 19, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 43, 44