Avoid These Common Mistakes
Kids and parents attach wildly different definitions to the same concepts. For example, when you say, "Clean your room," you mean, "Put your toys away, throw away the trash, hang up your clothes." Your child hears, "Shove everything under the bed." Giving clear instructions will allow your child to know exactly what you expect.
An example of a parent who learned how to give specific instructions was Noreen, mother of Ryan, age eight, best friend to another eight-year-old Ryan. (She calls them Ryan Squared). She uses this principle whenever they go out to eat at a restaurant. In the car she pulls out a notepad. On it is a list called "Restaurant Manners." She reads, "Okay, Ryan Squared, remember: Sit in your seat. Quiet voices. Use your silverware. No fighting. Got it?" If a rule is broken once they're in the restaurant, she reminds them by using the shorthand phrase, "Restaurant Manners."
Look at these examples of Fuzzy versus Clear expectations: Fuzzy: Be good. Clear: Sit quietly in your seat. Fuzzy: You know better! Clear: I expect
you to ask before you eat a cookie. Fuzzy: Jessica! Clear: Be gentle with the cat.
Being specific leaves less room for confusion and misunderstanding. Making a clear statement will keep your emotions under control. Flared tempers rule when a parent makes a fuzzy request that focuses on the child rather than on the situation. Be good! You know better! or Jessica! give the message that the child is bad. You want to give the message that your child is exhibiting a problem behavior, but that there are available solutions. Stating your expectation in a clear, uncluttered way will accomplish this goal.
You say No. Your child asks why. You explain. Your child asks again. You say No. Your child pleads. You say No. Your child tries to negotiate. You say No. Your child whines. You say . . . Yes. Often, a parent starts off on the right track, but children can wear down even the firmest parental intentions. Make yourself a promise in two parts. 1. Think before you say Yes or No. 2. When you say No, stick with it - even if you change your mind. Children learn very quickly that a parent can be convinced to change a decision. Once they have this figured out, you will never have peace again! It's much safer for you to take a moment to think before you say Yes or No so that you can be prepared to stand behind your decision.
Now that I've got your promise to stick with a No when you say it, I'm going to turn around and tell you that there are times when it's okay to change your mind. You need to know your children and yourself enough to know when to allow for flexibility and compromise. These traits are important to teach your children, and, as with most values and skills, they are best taught by modeling. It's important that you choose to be flexible, as opposed to being pushed into compromise by a whining, nagging, pleading child. There is a big difference.
BEING INCONSISTENT - CONSISTENTLY
"Children are unpredictable," writes Franklin P. Jones. "You never know what inconsistency they're going to catch you in next." I'm sure that Mr. Jones was a parent at the time - because it takes one to know one. Of course, it's okay to bend the rules now and again. It's even okay to change your mind from a No to a Yes once in a while. However, problems arise when inconsistency is the rule rather than the exception.
In the Harris household, inconsistency is the norm. Mom and Dad Harris rule
the roost through trial and error - every day. Emotions typically run high. The kids, Kyle and Matthew, don't have a clue as to what's expected of them. On Saturday, everyone was in a good mood. The kids took the cushions off every piece of furniture and built a great fort. Mom even served lunch in the fort. Later that night, the boys ate snacks as they watched a movie late into the night, and fell asleep on the floor in their clothes.
A few days later, the kids built another fort. When Mom walked in the door, she took one look at the fort and screamed, "Look at this mess! Clean up this stuff right now!" the boys shrugged their shoulders and cleaned up. Later, when they were snacking and watching a movie, Dad stormed in and yelled, "You guys are getting pizza all over the carpet! If you're gonna have a snack, eat in the kitchen!" At bedtime, the boys brought their sleeping bags into the room and got ready to settle down for the night. Mom, however, had other ideas. "Put these sleeping bags away, get your pajamas on, and get in bed!"
Mom Harris later said to her husband, "I don't know what's wrong with these boys. They're always pulling something." Dad responded, "Yeah. It's just kids these days. They never follow the rules."
Kyle and Matthew, in the meantime, are struggling to figure out just what the rules are!
When parents are inconsistent, children will test the rules constantly. It is much like the gambler who plays the slot machines. A gambler will put money into a machine only so many times with no return. If he hits the jackpot every 10 or 15 times the gambler will stick like glue to that machine. However, if after 30 or more tries there is still no reward, the gambler will find a new game. Keep this in mind when disciplining your children. It's okay to be inconsistent once in a while. But if your little gambler knows that it's possible at any moment to win the game, he'll pull that lever every time.
What helps a parent stay consistent? Well-thought-out-rules, routines, and the use of skills keeps parents consistent in their everyday interactions with their children.
In this book we will help you create your own family rules, routines, and methods of discipline. Once you have rules - and your children know what those rules are, and what the consequences are for breaking them - your household will run more smoothly. You will be calmer and more in control because you have a plan. And you will be more able to handle the everyday issues and problems of parenting with a cool, level head.