In the past two posts, I discussed the initial three steps of my simple system for bringing responsibility and ease to your home. When doing so, your life, as well as your children’s lives, become filled with a rhythm and predictability that can be remarkably enjoyable.
Yet, sometimes my new clients respond with something like, “Oh, that will be work.” Yes, it’s work. Yet, compared to a failing system that crushes your happiness, your energy, and your time, this is a walk in the park. And I forgot to mention; this system works! Your children will learn from this because the process is designed NOT to control children, but instead to teach them. This distinction is critical and almost always overlooked when trying to correct a problem. In the times of COVID, it seems that more than ever, we tend to resort to controlling methods as parents, and this will inevitably lead to failure.
However, these struggles translate to more emotion and overwhelm and make the transition seem more challenging than it is. Please keep in mind; the prior three articles have all laid a foundation for these added steeps we cover today. Thus, without them, these will be of limited value. The practical starting points covered last week included:
- Tackle one goal at a time, not the whole thing.
- Keep in mind what you want constantly; avoid language about what you don’t want.
- Use leverage systems to create ‘pull’ rather than constantly pushing.
Step 4: All Irresponsible, Miserable & Unwanted Behaviors Do Not Get Validated
Most of you reading this have provided your children with safe, loving homes with lots of entertainment and activity. Yet, many of your children have stumbled upon habits that promote unhappiness and misery. The repetitive whining and complaining, the talking back, the incessant drama over small disappointments, and even tantrums or meltdowns when things don’t go their way…these are all unhealthy habits supporting the growth of unhappiness. Other unwanted habits emerge as well, where irresponsible, negative patterns come to dominate your home.
What if, unintentionally, you were validating and thus encouraging these unwanted patterns?
The tendency for most of us is to validate these ‘moments’ rather than allow them to pass by without validation. Contrary to trendy beliefs, validation occurs every time we give our energy to these unhealthy habits. We make a comment; we give corrective feedback, we ask them to stop complaining, we yell at them to cut the drama, or perhaps we try to soothe the moment to make it better. It doesn’t matter how we do it; giving attention to these habit patterns validates them.
Thus, please understand that we must stop validating PATTERNS of behavior that supports the growth of irresponsible, negative, and misery making habits. Almost every negative pattern that nurtures the growth of unhappiness is validated regularly, and it’s this fundamental that you must change. Similarly, we validate and argue with negative, disrespectful, and irresponsible teenagers. All this must stop if we want to turn things around. Starting today, walk away from those misery-making behaviors and let them resolve themselves. Commit to this test for four weeks (give or take), and you’ll discover happier kids…IF you do this flawlessly.
Step 5. Get comfortable with watching your kids experience the consequences of their choices.
Instead of fixing every moment, allow your children to experience the disappointment that comes with a failure to be responsible. To put it simply: stop protecting them. For example, stop running home to retrieve your son’s baseball glove that he regularly forgets to bring to practice. Or, don’t bring your daughter to school late so she can use the morning to study for an exam because she “forgot” to do so the previous night. In both cases, you are not preparing your children to be responsible.
These are critical teaching moments if you allow them to happen. The consequence of a poor choice needs to be felt if your son or daughter is to learn from that choice. And for many, the same poor choice repeats itself weekly or even daily.
The key here is to get comfortable with allowing them to feel that discomfort. It’s where the learning happens.
Step 6: Substitute action for words when you want responsible actions.
Words are great for conveying concepts and teaching certain lessons. Words stink when it comes to building responsibility.
Thus, stop talking to your kids about being more responsible. It just doesn’t work. Instead, take control of your home. If you want more responsible behavior, require it. Don’t ask for it.
Let me repeat: Require it, don’t ask. Don’t beg and plead and then get frustrated because they keep ignoring you. Take action today that establishes control of the ‘stuff’ in your home. Once you control the goodies your kids care about, then you will compel action.
Your action is quite simple. If it’s Saturday morning and you want the kids to complete a few simple chores around the house, stop asking them to help. First, write down your list of responsibilities for the morning. Then, shut down the car rides, the friends, the phone, the video games, the toy room, etc. And now stop talking. Let your action do the work, and you will see that cooperation unfolds quickly. This is the proper use of leverage that will create motivation.
If your kids have a blatant disregard for the limits you have set, we need better action, not better words. If you have repeatedly asked your son to keep his phone out of his bedroom at night and he always wakes up with it, please do not yell at him. He will get used to that and tune you out.
Instead, check on his phone at midnight. If it’s in his bedroom, then simply take it out and keep it for two days. Don’t let him touch it. Repeat as needed. In my experience, you will only do this once or twice. Again, it’s the power of right action over wrong words.
Bottom line: Get focused and start in areas that most concern you. Don’t try to do it all. Recognize the importance of having a clear mental goal of what you seek, rather than what you want to get rid of, then use leverage to get better behavior. This is the critical piece of bringing more action (not reaction) into your home to get more responsible habits. Finally, do not validate (with your attention) the habits that build misery and unhappiness. Don’t get pulled into the same repetitive, futile exchanges where you validate the unwanted moment. Instead, reserve your attention for moments that point to happiness and responsible character traits. Then, just let the system do its work because it will!
Want to learn more? Perhaps one of our Parenting Guides will help.