“I have tried everything as a parent with my kids, but NOTHING works.”
“I can’t get my kids to stop fighting, and they are SO disrespectful.”
“I can’t get my kids to brush their teeth.”
I know parenting can be a challenging job. I understand that parents have come to see me because they are frustrated, sad, angry, worried, depleted, etc. They often wonder how they have failed. It really is not that parents have failed. Rather, it is how parents are delivering their messages that matters most. Also, some strategies may need some tweaking, or some different ones may need to be implemented.
▪ Do you tell your children what they should do?
▪ Do you answer for them if someone asks them a question?
▪ Would you tolerate such disrespect from a friend?
▪ Do you yell or acquiesce out of exhaustion?
▪ Are there some rules you did get your children to comply with?
Do you tell your children what they should or shouldn’t do?
When you tell your children what they should or shouldn’t do, they might resent you. It implies that they aren’t smart enough to know what they did. Besides, who likes being told what to do? When you involve children in expectations, they are more likely to be compliant. Before you go in a grocery store, ask your children what kind of behavior they think you expect. If they mess up, they know it is only themselves to blame if they receive a loving delayed consequence and they know they are still loved and secure.
What now? Are you angry and frustrated?
Do you know that when you look or sound angry or frustrated, you have wrecked the possibility of a positive effect? Your kids will be mad at you for being mad at them rather than mad at themselves for poor behavior. So when you deliver your messages, it is best that you smile kindly because you love these children. This will feel very awkward, but can you sound or look angry and frustrated while you are smiling? If you remember you love these children, it will help you look and feel genuine and sincere
What kind of consequences do you enact?
Do you tell your children they are grounded for the rest of their lives? Guess who has to stay home with grumpy children for the rest of their lives? Do you ground them from technology for the rest of their lives? Consider what your goal is and what would be reasonable. Perhaps no technology for that day, and the message “we’ll try again tomorrow.” Do you want your children to think they committed a crime or that they can learn from a consequence for their poor choice?
Are you consistent with follow-thru?
You can present enforceable rules by letting children know what you are willing to accept. For instance, if you say you will be happy to drive your children to soccer practice after they clean their rooms despite their protest that they will be late and their coach will bench them. Do you think they will learn from this disappointment? What would happen if you yell at them to clean their rooms and you take them to soccer practice anyway despite not cleaning their rooms? Which scenario do you think will best teach responsibility? Which scenario do you think will best promote compliance and respect? Do your children harass you until you give in, or do you stay firm so they learn you mean what you mean—not fear-induced, but rather, self-responsibility they can internalize?
Do you include play and fun in your lives?
If you would like resilient and well-adjusted children, let them play. I am not referring to play with technology. According to Psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown, play is “not frivolous and not just for kids, but something that is an inherent part of human nature.” Play and fun with your children tends to engender happier, more compliant, and respectful children.
Parents: This is not Mission Impossible!!
Interested in reading more about play therapy? See “Want resilient and well-adjusted kids? Let them play.” by Jackie Mader.