What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective
It’s not easy to always be firm and consistent. I mean, come on:
Our kids’ behavior puts us into Yuck, so we make threats (taking away electronics, not letting them go to a birthday party, etc.) that end up punishing us as much as them!
When we’re firm, they whine and complain and tantrum, which can be embarrassing and exhausting
And we are tired and have a lot on our plates… and following through takes energy and time we just don’t have
Sometimes they start to act better and no longer “deserve” the consequences we’ve promised
Let’s face it, most of the time it’s just easier to give in rather than staying firm.
What This Is Like from a Child’s Perspective
When we don’t show our kids that we mean what we say — if we tell them that we’re not taking them to the movies and then take them, or if we tell them we’re not reading an extra bedtime story but we do — they will constantly look for loopholes.
They’ll tantrum more when they don’t get their way, hoping that you’ll give in because you’re tired of their emotions (especially if it’s worked for them in the past)
They’ll “negotiate” more, trying to see if this is one of those times they’ll get their way
They’ll become sneaky and do things they shouldn’t do, knowing that sometimes they don’t get caught.
It’s not that they’re bad… Kids are just impulsive and self-centered. And they have a hard time with boundaries. (We adults usually do too!)
So how to we show them we mean what we say if for months or years we haven’t been consistent?
Solution: Choose 1 – 2 rules (no more than that) to enforce to re-build your credibility and authority. Here’s how…
HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH RULES TO ENFORCE
1. Write down as many rules as you’d like that you would consider enforcing.
At this point, start with a brain dump.
2. For now, remove the rules that have a lot of Yuck surrounding them.
(You can add other rules back in later once you’ve re-built your influence.)
For example, you might not want the first rule you enforce to be curbing video time, simply because you’ll get a lot more resistance. You might want to until you have more “firm muscle” built before tackling that.
3. For now, delay the rules that have time constraints attached to them.
You’re going to have to let kids “travel the Yuck curve” when you enforce your rules, so if you don’t have time for that, don’t enforce that rule.
For example, you might not want to enforce “Get your shoes on the first time I ask” if getting shoes on happens right before the bus comes. Instead, you can enforce “Put your back pack in the mud room after school” since you’ll have more time to “wait it out” to ensure that they listen.)
4. Try to choose a rule that allows you to proactively teach tools.
For example, if your rule is “Put your back pack in the mud room after school,” you can proactively talk to your child about creating reminders for themselves so they put the backpack away. (Most kids don’t put backpacks away because their minds are already thinking about what they can go play with!)
5. If you still have more than 1-2 rules left, choose ones that seem like they will take less energy to enforce.
To show them you mean what you say, you will have enforce these 1-2 rules no matter what happens (no matter how much time it takes, no matter how mad at you they get). So you want to make this as simple as possible for yourself!
Once you’ve shown them that you consistently mean what you say, eventually they’ll resist less in the future and you can add in “harder” rules.
Once you come up with the rule, be sure to let your kids know about it. You can get them involved by asking them how they can make sure they follow the rule… and what they’d like you to do if the rule isn’t followed.
The more involved you allow them to be, the less resistant they’ll be. (That doesn’t mean they’ll be happy or cooperative. It just means that it will be less difficult!)
And knowing ahead of time how you’ll handle it when the rule isn’t followed can reduce a lot of power struggles.