What parent has not been pushed to their limits by the antics of their children?
Be it a defiant adolescent insisting they know best, or the stubborn incoherence of a tantrumming two year old, I’m sure every parent has had at least one moment of not knowing what to do with their offspring.
If we’re honest, it’s likely that these moments occur more frequently than we’d like!
But although every parent has probably had at least one experience of shouting ill-thought out threats at their children, these sort of scenarios are not particularly effective in terms of behaviour management, or helpful in terms of relationship.
And unlike Mike Wazowski, who we see here losing his cool with the unreasonable Sulley, most of us can’t smooth over the situation by pretending we’re actually rehearsing a scene for a company play!
So what can you do to minimise these sorts of scenarios in your daily life as a parent? They’re still going to happen from time to time, but here are a few tips and tricks to help keep them to a minimum.
1. Establish clear rules and expectations.
Whether it’s the need to wash your hands before eating, saying please and thank you, taking your shoes off in the house or asking for permission before leaving the table, children need to know what is expected of them.
It may seem basic, but just as you wouldn’t expect someone to be an excellent football or netball player without understanding the rules and aim of the game, so children are much more likely to behave “well” if they know what you want of them.
Having clear expectations gives children guidelines for how to behave so that they don’t need to try to figure it out for themselves by trial and error, and that it is clear to everyone if an expectation has not been met.
For example, if the whole family knows that they’re expected to speak kindly to one another, then being rude or unkind to someone is clearly not ok.
By establishing clear expectations for behaviour, you can avoid unnecessary (or “accidental”) misbehaviour.
2. Frame it positively
It’s generally easier to work toward something than away from it. At work, most of us tend to be motivated more by the idea that we’ll get paid at the end of the week, than by fear that we might lose our job.
The same principle applies with rules and expectations at home. As a rule of thumb, it is better to establish a “do this” expectation than a “don’t do this” expectation.
For example, while setting up the expectation that we “Don’t hit” is a good principle, it’s more helpful to say “Be gentle with others”. This is a broader but more succinct concept covering not only “Don’t hit”, but also “Don’t kick, pinch, scratch, bite, pinch or pull” (particularly important for the pedants amongst us!).
Framing something positively also means that the child knows from the expectation/rule itself what is required of them. They don’t have to search for an alternative behaviour to the thing they were just about to do.
For example, the expectation “Don’t interrupt while Mum/Dad is talking” requires the child to think of what else to do. That’s fine, but it is easier (and therefore more likely achievable) for the child to do what’s required if the expectation itself states what they should do, eg “Wait your turn to talk”.
3. Keep your cool
There will be times when your children don’t follow your expectations. Many of them are champion “button pushers”, knowing exactly what to do to get a rise out of you, but when you lose your cool all you achieve is two (or more) extremely irritated people and quite possibly an escalation to the situation.
Remember, you are the adult in the situation. As much as they may resist, refuse and refute your claim to that role, you are still the adult! Your child needs you to be mature, to manage the situation, and to guide them in their behaviour.
It’s part of what parenting is.
So if you feel your blood pressure rising and your frustration soaring,
– Take a breath.
– Close your eyes for a few seconds.
– Close your mouth, figuratively bite your tongue, and count to ten in your head.
– If it’s safe to do so, step outside the room for a few moments to gather your thoughts.
– If there’s another adult there who is able to take over, now would be a great time to “sub out”, but if not just do your best to keep your cool.
And remember, even the best parent messes up from time to time, so cut yourself some slack if you’re not always perfect. It’s still helpful to aim high.
Tips and Tricks Part 2 can be found here