UPDATING “BECAUSE I SAID SO”
All parents would like to have their children cooperate and show some responsibility at home and at school. Threats, bribes, and multiple reminders are used to get our children to complete their tasks. When it does not work, we often end up using “Because I said so.” This authoritarian method of parenting is on its way out, as demanding compliance will fuel more power struggles. Instead, collaboration and respect produce more positive results.
Here are 4 ways to help your child improve her/his behavior:
1.” When…Then…” Phrase your requests by saying “When you have finished all your math problems, then you can go out to play with your friends.” Or “When your hands are clean, then I know you are ready to eat.” This technique is a way to communicate with your child positively rather than trying to “make her/him” do something. Even though the choices are limited, your child still has still the power to decide when she/he will be ready to move to the activity you are asking to be done.
2. "Anything you can do to…” This sentence invites cooperation from your child. For instance, say “Anything you can do to help us get ready to the beach would be really helpful.” Or “Can you help me rake all these leaves before it rains?” Although it is not guaranteed your child will respond positively, there is a great chance that she/he does so as the wording requests her/his participation and contribution rather than strict obedience.
3.” What is your plan for…?” Instead of telling your child “You need to finish your oral presentation due on Friday.”, ask her/him “What is your plan for getting your oral presentation done in time? “In addition to being more encouraging, this puts the ball firmly in her/his court. She/he is clearly the one in charge who needs to think about ways to get the job done.
4. ”Asked and answered.” This tool derived from the concepts of positive discipline stops whining in its tracks. When your child asks you for the umpteenth time if she/he can roller skate in the living room, the first time you try this strategy, remind her/him that you are not going to change your mind when she/he asks the same question over and over. Then, tell your child that from now on, when she/he repeats a question you have already answered, you will tell her/him “Asked and answered.” If you remain firm, she/he will quickly get the point.
Inviting cooperation and participation rather than handing down orders and yelling, will benefit everyone in the household and make everyone happier. Your child will be more willing to accept and fulfill her/his responsibilities.
STAYING CONNECTED WITH YOUR TWEEN
As your child hits the preteen years (10 - 12 years), you may think that parenting her can be quite a challenge. Everything (discipline, homework, school, family time) is renegotiated. The pressures of the peer groups intensify and the need for more independence increases. However, it is essential for tweens to feel they have a secure nest as they start new experiences in an exciting, but scary world. Maintaining a strong bond with your preteen while encouraging her to take healthy risks will help your child navigate these years.
Here are a few tips to positive parent your tween:
1. Stay connected. For instance, having dinner with your child every night or as much as possible is a good way to talk about her day. Another option is to spend 15 minutes at bedtime when it is more grounding and intimate. The goal is to schedule regular alone time with each parent so that your child gets an opportunity to open up about what happens in her life. If you listen closely and adopt a collaborative approach, then your tween will feel safe emotionally to share her inner world with you.
2. Re-evaluate your ideas about discipline. As your child grows up, some techniques will stop working. As soon as your child says: “You cannot make me”, then the power-based punishment strategies become ineffective. You will never win a power struggle. Maintaining a strong bond based on reciprocal love and respect is the most useful tool to get your preteen to follow your rules.
3. Be aware of the effects of hormones. Your child’s body is changing, creating mood swings, distractibility, competitiveness, and preoccupation with sex. Like toddlers, your tween can experience full-blown tantrums without even understanding the situation. When it happens, let your child know that you see how upset she is. Then, give her time to put herself together before discussing the issue further. Your tween does not necessarily understand her mood. Once she has calmed down, listen to her, acknowledge her perspective, even if you do not agree with her position, and work collaboratively toward a win/win situation.
4. Pay attention to the impact of popular culture. Tweens want to feel grown up, so they naturally mimic adult popular culture. They want to fit in with their friends, but they rely on their parents to keep them safe and let them know what is age-appropriate or not. They need you to enforce strict rules about Internet use or what movies are appropriate. Preteens want and need your guidance, even if they cannot show it.
The tween years can be difficult to journey through. However, with your strong emotional support and firm, yet age appropriate boundaries, your preteen can thrive and get ready to move toward her teen years.
BUILDING DAILY CONNECTIONS WITH YOUR CHILD
The desire to feel connected is wired into everyone’s brain. It is an emotional need we all crave. When you think about your own childhood, you may remember times you hold dearly. It could be fishing at the lake on a hot summer’s day, playing a board game, or gathering over mashed potatoes and baked chicken. It was during those moments that you felt present with and attuned to the people with whom you shared these activities. Likewise, to connect deeply with your child, you can implement a few daily habits that will help build and deepen the connection between you and her.
Here are these daily habits:
1. Start the day with a morning gratitude. Since mornings are a hassle for most parents as they try to get everyone up and out the door on time while children are often tired, grumpy, or preoccupied, it is then highly beneficial to take 2 to 3 minutes to focus on your child’s face and say something positive that can have a meaningful impact. For instance, you may say “Good morning sweetie, seeing your face makes me happy.” Giving attention, affection, and affirmation are the keys to start the day off on the right foot.
2. Set an afternoon gathering. After your child is done with school and/or her after school activities, organize a time where you spend quality time with her. This could be a tea time, a round of Uno, playing with a ball, or reading aloud a chapter from a book. What matters is to share a privileged time with your loved one.
3. Share a meal at the table. Family meals give a meaningful opportunity for family members to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company. It is the right time to encourage positive comments, adjust meal experiences to the family’s needs, and create a warm and relaxed setting in which emotional connection is prioritized.
4. Special time at bedtime. Take the time to spend about 10 minutes with your child every night before she goes to bed. If you truly listen to her, she will open up her heart and talk about personal topics. If you do not know how to start, you may try these questions “Tell me something good that happened today.” or “Is there anything you are worried about or want to ask?” or “Tell me one of your next dreams or goals.”
It doesn’t take a lot of time to connect deeply with our children. In just a few minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, we can bring our focus onto them and fill their cups with attention, affection, and affirmation that can affect their day in a positive way.
EMPOWERING YOUR CHILD TO BE SELF-SUFFICIENT
As a parent, you may have encountered numerous situations in which your child asks you to do something she can do herself. Your reaction might be to feel annoyed or irritated. All families deal with helplessness from time to time. However, when your child acts helpless daily, then it is time to change that dynamic. Helplessness is often associated with manipulating the parent for attention or power.
Here are a few strategies you can put in place:
1.Train your child to do the task all by herself. Take the necessary time to make sure your child knows how to do a specific task. Oftentimes, a specific skill needs to be reinforced over time. For instance, if you notice your child is having difficulties to put her shoes on, you may want to say something like “I have noticed you seem to have trouble putting your shoes on. Let’s take a few minutes to practice, so it will be easier tomorrow morning before going to school.” Train her on the how-to and role play it. Support your child in a gentle way and it will boost her self-confidence.
2. Set the expectations. As your child grows up, she is capable of mastering more refined skills. Discuss with her what her next tasks will be. For instance, say “Now that you are 5, do you think you can water the house plants?” Also, ask her what she thinks she can handle on her own and evaluate if it is feasible. If so, see how she can do it.
3. Walk away. If your child pulls the helpless card while you know she can do her task, remain calm and simply say “I am confident you can handle it. I will be in the kitchen (or another room) when you are done.”, and then walk away. The exit is essential as it helps to avoid the power struggle.
4. Include the When-Then in your talk. For instance, tell your child “When you get yourself dressed, then you can go outside and play for 20 minutes.” Using the When-Then structure makes the message clear and consistent, without any need for further discussion.
With practice and consistency on your part, your child will get the point that you will not jump through hoops at her whim and demand. In the end, your child will feel empowered as she will become more and more capable at managing her own tasks.
MOTIVATING THE UNMOTIVATED CHILD
As parents, we often find hard to motivate our child to do something. Even worse, our attempts to motivate our child may be counterproductive and ineffective. The reality is we cannot make our child care just because we do. Trying to motivate our child may turn into a power struggle. As hard as it sounds, we cannot motivate another person to care. Ultimately, our child is responsible for her own choices. However, as a parent, our role is to inspire and influence.
Here are a few tips to get your child self-motivated:
1. Be inspiring. Ask yourself if you are trying to control or to inspire your child. Share with your child what you truly enjoy and what it brings you to do it. For instance, if you like running, playing piano, or dancing, tell her why you enjoy these activities. For chores, you may want to state that cleaning the house is not really fun, but when it is done, you feel good about having the house clean.
2. Let your child make her own choices and face the consequences. Unless it is unsafe, let your child decide for herself. If this is a poor choice, she will deal with its consequences. For instance, if your child chooses not to do her homework, then there will be no video games. It is essential to ask yourself “What do I put up with? What are my values and principles?” Once they are defined, stick to them.
3. Ask yourself these 4 questions:
What motivates my child? What does she really want? How can I help her find out and explore her interests? What are her goals and ambitions? In order to find responses to these questions, observe your child, listen to her, talk to her, and respect her answers even if you disagree.
4. Encourage self-motivation. As a parent, you want to influence your child so that she works towards the things she is interested in. The goal is to have her to do the right thing because she wants to. So, instead of asking her “Have you done your homework?”, you might want to ask “I have noticed you chose to do history today and yesterday you did geometry. I am interested in knowing why.” By investigating, exploring, and uncovering your child’s reasons behind her choices, you get to understand who she is and what her real motivations are. Over time, encourage her to keep making healthy choices that reflect who she is and what she wants to accomplish in life.
As a parent, you want to strengthen your child’s skills in defining what is important to her. You want to help your child define for herself who she is, what’s important to her and what she is going to do to make those things happen. Your responsibility is to help our child do that, not to do it for her. You need to stay out of her way enough so she can figure out who she is, what she thinks and where her own interests lie.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.