In the first two installations of my 30-day plan for a better home, it is clear that you must learn to master your own behavior, rather than trying to control your kids. This is especially true with the more challenging, difficult child. If you have done well with the first two steps, I suspect things are calmer in your home. At the same time, I am fairly certain you still need more cooperation and less resistance.
We can quickly shape and improve behavior/cooperation by recognizing what we can control, and putting our efforts there. In essence, you do not control your kids, but what you do control (i.e., yourself and your home) DOES matter. It will turn things around, if you manage this with precision and correct understanding.
Your Words Matter: Don’t do it this way.
First however, let’s review what it sounds like when you’re frustrated, upset and struggling to get things under control. It could sound like any of these comments:
- “Stop screaming at me.”
- “Don’t follow me. I am walking away.”
- “I can’t listen to you anymore. Leave me alone.”
- “Go to your room right now. I’ve had enough.”
- “Stop hitting your brother.”
- “You’re going to eat everything on your plate.”
- “Clean up your room.”
- “Do your homework.”
- “Get off the phone.”
You notice the theme. You’re responding and talking to your kids as if you did have control.
It’s demanding. It’s desperate. It’s ugly…and it doesn’t work.
As adults, do we like to be talked to in this way? Of course not! And neither do your kids.
Instead, do it this way.
If your children aren’t listening to your words, then more intense words, or more demanding words, is not the solution. This will always erode over time, so abandon this.
Instead, when it’s time to inform the kids of a change or transition, do just that. Inform them.
Use your words to inform, not to demand. I often suggest a very magical phrase…
It’s Time to _______.
This is a very useful phrase, and allows you to stop trying to control the situation, but instead to (pleasantly) use your voice to inform your kids of what is happening. Here are a few examples:
“It’s time to eat now.
“In five minutes, it will be time to leave.
“It’s time to put that away because it’s bedtime.
“It’s time to go.
Will this immediately have them listening to you? No. That’s doubtful.
But it does position you for sanity, and to get the right tone set for your home. We must add at least one other step.
Control the home so you always have leverage.
Let’s be clear from the start: you control everything that your kids really care about. You control whether or not the electricity works in this room or that, whether there is a TV or Internet, whether the car goes to soccer practice, whether the IPhone works, and even what food is in the refrigerator. You control everything that they care about.
Most of you tremble in fear about asserting control over these luxury items that your children enjoy. Do not be afraid to use these tools. They are your main source of leverage, in order to get cooperation.
For many of you, your children have always won. If they hold out, or push hard enough, you cave. You give in. In essence, they get what they want while not cooperating or earning anything.
This is not reality. This is not the way the world works.
In my private practice, often dealing with problems ranging from the typical homework battles to the more extreme acting out teenager, I find children respond to reality (i.e., limits) very well. While (of course) they rebel when limits are put in place, they quickly settle and learn to respect and honor those limits.
Limits work to teach reality. The primary reality we all face is this: Do your part, and the world will reward you for that. Effort brings reward. No effort…no reward. Life seems to put this limit in place, regardless of whether we agree or not.
Be kind, and the world is generally kind back. Be respectful, and you get respect. Put forth effort for someone, and they will pay you for that. Work harder, and you will get paid more. Contribute our best, and we tend to get the best back.
And in your home, this translates to a very simple fundamental. Your children must display some work or effort, before they get to the rewards. If you give them all the goodies, with no effort required, they learn to think the world works this way. They think they deserve everything, while putting forth little effort.
While there are details yet to be covered, the essence is clear here: Control the goodies, and use this as leverage to get results. Abandon controlling words, and focus on the optimal use of leverage. This is key.
There are a number of great articles here on how to control the goodies, so please explore more here at TerrificParenting. However, you get the optimal implementation through direct 1-1 coaching. Some of you can benefit from just four sessions of coaching, and dramatic changes can occur…once you have a precise understanding of where your power comes from. Consider giving us a call, if you want help now.
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