OUT OF CONTROL PARENTS = OUT OF CONTROL KIDS
You just know you gotta be an out of control parent when you unplug the mains fuse so they can’t watch t.v,; or you cut the cord from the television, even if it means you now can’t watch; Or even if instead of sitting demurely at the side lines of the sports game you are screaming your lungs out encouraging your child on. Of course, the most common trait of out of controllers would be the yelling at your kids, for whatever reason applicable at the time.
Why is it important that a parent get back “In Control”? The main reason, and the most important, is that it is affecting your kids. It affects them in a lot of different ways: developmentally, physically and mentally – if a kid feels good about himself he eats properly, and matures at a natural pace; Educationally he copes better; Socially he is able to socialise and make friends and not be a loner; Emotionally he is able to express his feelings and not store them; He will stop becoming defensive; His brains are not as scattered and can focus better; and hopefully he can mature into a responsible parent who doesn’t yell or be out of control with his kids…cos that’s what you taught him… Right!
HOW TO BECOME AN “IN CONTROL” PARENT
As soon as you realise and acknowledge you are an out of control parent, the rest becomes easy. Mostly. You can begin to learn to change your habits. I know it is easier said than done, but the following are a few tips on how to do it
· STOP – PAUSE – COUNT TO TEN. You’ve just given your brain time to THINK instead of REACTING
· STOP DISCIPLINING – A child will learn in a healthy environment not an environment where he is constantly told off, criticised, or being manipulated to be the perfect child. CHOICES, either this or that, and CONSEQUENCES, preferably positive ones are the way to go. You are winning if you can laugh with your child, not whine at your child.
· TIME OUT – YOU NOT THE CHILD. Plain and simply state “I can’t deal with this at the moment. I need a time out. We will discuss this later”. This gives you time to REFLECT NOT REACT. You are also modelling positive behaviour to your child.
· TURN AWAY – this momentum will give you time to not jump into react mode or Preach mode.
· STAY CALM – If you speak in a reasonable tone you will be listened to better
· PLAN for what you might say next time, Plan what you will do to prevent a reoccurrence. Plan the three most problematic issues that your child has and discuss them with him. Be SPECIFIC as to what your expectations are and be reasonable with those expectations.
HOW TO CALM THE OUT OF CONTROL MOMENTS
Generally, your child is the product of what you install into them. I say generally because some children can have ADHD, ODD, ADD, Aspergers, Autism and other such symptomatic disorders that are not necessarily going to cause them to be easily cooperative. Conversely, it may be the lack of attention they are receiving from the parent, whether through busyness or tiredness. NOT GETTING THE RECOMMENDED HOURS OF SLEEP FOR THEIR AGE GROUP, or it may simply be hypersensitivity to certain food products or emulation of parental behaviour. However, all require handling. And mostly all can be handled in the same way – and this is how.
Almost universally if a kid feels listened to, he will respond. So, first off give your undivided attention to your child. You may want to throw your arms up in horror but instead LISTEN with full intent. If sibling rivalry is involved, you listen first to one side and then listen to the other side. You then ACKNOWLEDGE their points of view. You do this quite simply by paraphrasing what they are saying, then put a name to the emotion they are feeling “It sounds like you are really angry…really upset about….” . It doesn’t have to be agreed with, but by listening and acknowledging they know they have been heard. This generally calms them down, especially if done in an EMPATHIC manner. Having made such productive steps, you then state “We need to discuss this, how about we sit down after tea and discuss your points of views and how we can resolve this”. They present their point of view, then you give your point of view and let them offer a couple of solutions, then you present a couple. Then voila, between you an amicable solution can be reached. At the time of altercation, you may have to enforce separation or time out, but don’t make it a punishing timeout rather some time to reflect on their behaviour and get it all together again. Give your child the respect you would an adult. After all they are deserving of the same human dignity an adult is, and they in turn will respect you back.
HOW TO RETAIN THE CONTROL
So you lurched through the outburst and want to retain the peace… This is where you begin to return the control back to you. Here are a few useful strategies to help make it last.
Firstly, when issuing a request or command you don’t want to be yelling an instruction at them from down the hallway. Wouldn’t that give them every excuse under the sun to not have heard you if they don’t want to be listening. Nor do you want to be talking to them over the television as they are watching their favourite cartoon. First golden rule therefore is to stand no more than two feet away and LOOK THEM IN THE EYE. And just to be safe and sure you may need to say “Bobby LOOK AT ME”. They won’t miss it then, and there will be no misunderstanding.
Never ever ever make the mistake of ending your sentences in a question. ”Bobby can you pick up your socks please” Naturally the first thing Bobby is going to say is NO. So it is more a case of “Bobby I need you to pick up your socks, and then put them in the hamper”. BE SPECIFIC. And SHORT and SWEET. Sermons never won any prizes in my household!
When faced with defiant behaviour offer them choices. Do you want to do the DISHES or do you wish to do the VACUUMING…. This way, even though you have an end result in mind (they have to do a chore) when offering the choices, they feel they have some control over the situation. How can they be mad when they made the choice.
Another useful strategy is the FIRST/THEN. This is non negotiable territory and THEN is never allowed to come first. An example would be ”First you tidy your room then you can watch the movie”. If/THEN can be a bit problematical, because it can give them the option of opting out unless there is a good lure attached to it. WHEN/THEN would be an absolute no no, simply because when can last to when they may feel like it or not as the case may be.
Explanations are helpful. They need to be FAIR, short and not long winded. You don’t need to preach or sermonise with an explanation. Just as explanations need to be fair your expectations need to be CLEAR. “You need your jacket as It is expected to rain” is short, clear and not unreasonable. It is always smart to give the explanation before you give a command to do something “Bobby take your Jacket with you”. The reason for this is because the command may provide Bobby with grounds to start arguing about the virtue of needing one. Logic is always a good thing to throw into the mix of explanations. For instance your child hates to eat his vegetables “Eat your veges. Veges help you poop” If they are unimpressed about pooping you may need to further with “You don’t poop you get tummy aches”. This is short, clear, logical and reasonable. Not the magic answer you were expecting no doubt. That’s another blog.
Issue Commands only once. Nagging enters the picture if you don’t. It also starts weakening your stance if you repeat it. You install a system of consequences if your command is not followed. So the command would be “Bobby do the dishes” Not “Bobby you need to do the dishes” that creates a doubt. Consequences are CALMLY delivered. If dishes aren’t done then you won’t be able to go outside to play. Notice when giving consequences IF/THEN is a good ruse, If they start to argue you then come in firmly with a FIRST/THEN “First dishes then play”.
Also, when giving instructions a parent needs to keep their eye ON THE BIGGER PICTURE. In other words, PICK YOUR MOMENTS. You don’t have to be issuing commands for everything.
Consequences are one of the strongest strategies a parent can have up their sleeve as long as they are FAIR, consistent and followed through. If Bobby hasn’t done the dishes a consequence of not going outside to play for a month or week is rather over the top, and bound to not be followed through, whereas not being able to go out to play that afternoon would be. Consequences do need to be relative to the misdemeanour both in deed, gravity and age. You can’t expect a two year old not to be having toileting accidents so providing consequences is not reasonable.
Reward Compliance is not a tactic that one needs to go overboard on. A simple acknowledgement of “You did a good job with the dishes” is all that is needed. The acknowledge/praise needs to be specific and not muddled. The child needs to understand what he is being praised for, and absorb it.
I think two of the most important things that can’t be overlooked that will help parents keep the respect of their child and remain in control is retaining warmth and involvement with their child. If a child feels unloved they will start acting out to get the attention they are craving. If the warmth and involvement are maintained then children are likely to be more responsive of what is required of them. In this day and age of busyness, work, stress and tiredness especially of a solo parent, this can get missed out on.
Follow my other blogs to see what other useful parenting tips you can pick up. There is also my online parenting course which can be undertaken at your own pace.