As we travel our journey of parenting we find ourselves going in and out of phases, up and down hills, and sometimes, in and out of crazy town! Parenting is definitely not all rainbows and unicorns. When the unicorns and rainbows seem nowhere to be found we are usually dealing with some of the more challenging issues parenting presents. During these times of struggle, we may be trying to stop something negative from occurring or re-occurring. These could be issues such as, back talking, sassy attitudes, or anything in that realm that falls under these territories. Mainly, these issues, amongst others, are all the things that parents are striving to keep from happening. We want these behaviours to stop now and we want to keep them from happening again tomorrow and the next day.
The reason we, as parents struggle so much with these issues are due to our REACTION to the behavior. The true problem isn’t the fact that the behavior occurs, because kids need to use trial and error to test the waters in order to see what their limitations are. They are trying to figure out what boundaries they can push and which boundaries are set. This is totally normal. Therefore, the problem isn’t their behaviour, but rather the parenting tactics in which we try to cope with these behaviours. The strategies used by most parents to try and stop these behaviours typically make them occur more and not less. These tactics encourage the exact behaviour we are trying to diminish. Usually when these negative cycles occur, more times than not, parents in frustration, stoop down to their kids level and engage in the battle. They tend to pick up the rope in the game of tug-of-war, which only matters worse. Once this happens it’s a back and forth battling leaving both the parents and child wondering who will win and when?
Sadly, I am here to tell that no one wins in these situations. Kids get more frustrated and begin to battle longer and harder. The next time the behavior occurs it just gets more vicious and more out of control. Parents don’t win in the long run because even if they get the behaviour to stop for the moment, it won’t be gone for good. It’s simply a temporary fix. Battling with our kids creates a short-term fix and usually when the behavior returns its worse then the time before.
Parents often ask: ‘If I’m not supposed to try to win and battle these issues out, then what am I supposed to do?’ Parents are often surprised by what I suggest they do in situations such as these. The easiest thing to do when your child picks up the rope (begins to battle you) is for you to leave the rope down. Don’t engage and don’t battle. Why sink to their level and participate? Ask yourself this question and think back to when you have decided to battle it out with your kids in the past. Did you find that you got a long-term permanent fix? Did the problem stop for good? OR did it re-occur again at a later date and continue to grow with a vengeance?
So, as a parent when my child starts to battle with me what should I do? Let him/her get away with it? NO! This is not what I’m suggesting. What I am suggesting is that when we, as parents, begin to battle with our kids we actually have already lost the battle. Unfortunately, that was not our goal and not only do we lose the battle, but we also make matters worse for the days to come. Next time your child starts to engage in a game of tug-a-war, I dare you to leave the rope down on the ground. When you want to avoid a battle of tug-a-war I suggest you leave the rope right where it is and put the scenario back on your kids.
What do I mean by this? Good question. Here are a few concrete examples to help you see this parenting tool in action.
- BATTLE: Your child refuses to put their clothes in the hamper and leaves them all over the floor
SOLUTION: Simply state calmly and matter of fact- “From now on, I will wash all clothes that are in the hamper. Anything left on the floor will be your responsibility to either clean, wear dirty or put in the hamper for the next day I do the laundry.”
- BATTLE: Your child refuses to flush the toilet.
SOLUTION: Again calmly and matter of fact state – “From now on I will clean the toilet when the toilet has been flushed. IF the toilet is NOT flushed you will be responsible to clean it before you do your free time activities after school.”
Do you see how matter of fact, clear, and fair these solutions are? They are not engaging in a battle or creating an unfair situation or consequence for your child. They are 100% fair because they directly relate to the ‘crime.’ It’s important to always be firm, fair and consistent in all things parenting. If you say you are going to do something, than you must do it. If you fall back on your word and wash dirty clothes they’ve left on the floor or clean the un-flushed toilet, than you are breaking your promise. You must follow through to teach boundaries and stop the tug-of-war battling for good. By doing this you will increase cooperation from you kids and decrease the battling!
For more on positive discipline and the importance of being firm, fair and consistent read this article: The Key To A Well Behaved Child Is Discipline.
SMALL changes in how we respond to our kids will make HUGE changes in how they respond!