The key to family harmony is setting limits for your child and sticking to them. Stick to your rules and be consistent with each child. If Susie isn’t allowed to chew gum after supper, then as a parent you shouldn’t be allowed to chew gum at that time either. Try your best to stick to the rules and what your child can and cannot do or say. Set limits and make sure the entire family abides by these rules.
Being a predictable parent isn’t necessarily your ultimate goal. According to Patti Cancellier, education coordinator for the Parent Encouragement Program in Kensington, Maryland, “Consistency lets children know that they have a decision: They can listen to you or they can live with the consequences.” As a parent you must remain strong while still inspiring good behavior for your children to mirror. The following are common reasons why parents give in when it comes to rules.
You’re at the store and your child won’t stop whining for a piece of candy. You continually say no to her but she won’t listen. Next thing you know she’s flopped herself on the floor kicking and screaming for that candy. People in the checkout line are whispering and rolling their eyes at this behavior and your parenting tact is (sound familiar)? Feeling extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed you tell your child to get off the floor and you’ll give them candy. What do you know, your child instantly pops off the floor, puts a cheesy smile on their face and walks out the door with that lollipop in her mouth. She’s got you now…
These tantrums won’t go away on their own, you have to enforce good behavior on your child before they change their actions in the grocery store. Yes, short-term buying her the candy will solve the problem, however long-term, the tantrums will only get louder and more mortifying.
Take a breath. Activating your prefrontal cortex (self-controlled center of your brain), will help make this part of parenting feel easier, according to Dr. McGongial. Feeling this sense of calmness (amidst the chaos that’s going on 2 feet below you) you might decide the groceries can wait and leave the store with your child immediately. You could also ignore the behavior and let your child kick and scream on the floor, who’s she harming anyways.
I tried the latter strategy recently when Kaarina had a conniption on a beach boardwalk. I sat on a bench while she writhed and screamed belly down right in front of me. Yes, people stared, but no one called the police and her antics did come to an end.
When your child doesn’t do something you ask or tell of them to do, should you continue to ask again and again? Do you try to get louder and more stern with your voice? Instead of getting your child’s attention, which will encourage them to tune you out, thinking in their heads, “I know my mom isn’t going to do anything about this until she asks on the fourth time.” So your child waits until that fourth stern request to respond or show action towards your request. And when you respond with a punishment, follow through with that consequence. If you said you will take away TV for one week, then you better take away TV. If you don’t follow through you’re setting yourself up for the next time because all your child will think then is, “oh, she’ll threaten me, but nothing will happen” so your child continues acting as they do.
When your child acts in a manner that is inappropriate, it is up to you as a parent to take control of the situation. Whether you ignore their behavior or act upon their whining, you must take that responsibility and understand their behavior will change or continue depending on your actions. Parenting can be a challenge, especially when it comes to being the “bad guy”, but that’s why you’re the parent, to guide your child and show them the right path to take. Start that path with good behavior and sticking to your “parenting plan”.
Picture courtesy of www.goodtherapy.org