Become The Master of Your Circus (And Tame Those Wild Animals)
Sick of the sound of your own nagging voice? Feel like a broken record on repeat? Do your kids only listen once you’ve reached screaming point?
What’s a stressed out mother supposed to do?
I used to drive myself crazy trying to get my kids to behave like human beings instead of wild animals.
Now I’m the master of my circus. I’ve found a long term solution that really does work.
Clear, written expectations. (A nicer way of putting rules….)
If you only kind-of know what you want to happen and your kids only kind-of know what they ought to be doing, it’s a recipe for chaos.
Get clear about your expectations, set limits and convey this to your kids in a calm, positive way. (Instead of getting frustrated and upset with them for not reading your mind!)
Limits actually give them a sense of security. And kids raised in a safe, secure and predictable environment are known to have higher self-esteem, resist peer pressure and make better judgements.
If you want your children to behave well at home and school, with friends and with relatives, and to stay out of trouble, you need set boundaries.
Whenever I notice that my kids need constant reminding about something, I know I need to create a written rule around it. Once it’s established and enforced consistently, it becomes a habit. I haven’t had to remind my boys to hang a wet towel in years. I made a rule around it when they were constantly leaving them on the floor and over time it became a good habit to hang them up.
This is what it’s about. Creating good habits. If you view it this way, you’ll be more compassionate when they slip up. (Think of how you feel when you fall back into old habits). Compassion does not equal complacent, it just means you’ll gently remind them and follow through until they get it right.
Although it can be tough being the enforcer, it shows you care about your kids. When groups of young adults were interviewed about their childhoods, many expressed that they wish their parents had made more limits and been stricter. They perceived that their peers, who’d grown up with clear rules, had parents who cared more. They also felt they would have done better if there had been more routines and discipline. (Wow, huh?)
Parents who are consistent have an easier time than parents who aren’t specific or are too flexible. Saying ‘no’ isn’t easy for some parents. It can seem easier to cave in and avoid the immediate reaction. But realise that if you don’t deal with poor behavior now, you’re setting yourself up for bigger trouble later. It’s going to be easier to get them to listen to you when they are hormonal teenagers if you’ve established good habits when they’re younger.
It’s never too late to start! Here’s how to make rules for kids.
1. Identify the Hot Spots.
Over the next two days, just observe. Where do the biggest or most frequent problems occur? Write these down and think about which rules would help. Common areas include: mealtimes, bedtime, homework, technology, tidying up, siblings, hygiene, dressing.
2. Create written expectations.
For younger children draw stick figures, print a photo off the internet or take a photo of your child actually doing the right thing. For older children, write them in a positive way. Instead of ‘No fighting in the bath’ you reverse it to say ‘Play nicely in the bath’. Start with just a few rules. You can add more once you begin to experience success.
3. Call a family meeting.
Serve some snacks, make it a fun occasion. Rules don’t have to be dished out in a stern, punitive manner. Explain that you want to make some positive changes for the whole family to make the house feel happier. Give examples. What does ‘Nice Table Manners’ mean exactly? Break it all down into clear, small steps and confirm that they understand. If you find resistance, practice empathy and patience.
4. Give positive feedback.
If you’re used to only giving your energy to what’s going wrong – turn this around. Start noticing everything they get right. Actively look for the good. Tell them you’ve noticed the effort they’re making, thank them for remembering the rule, smile more, hug a lot. Get excited about any steps they make in the right direction.
5. Follow through and be consistent.
If they get away with it one day because you’re too preoccupied or tired to enforce it, then the rule is worthless. You’ll be starting all over again, dragging out the whole process of ‘rule into habit’. When your child misbehaves, respond in a calm, flat tone. Remind them of the rule and follow through.
Did I figure all of this out on my own? No way! I owe a huge thanks to The Parent Practice for their amazing Parenting Skills classes. They now offer online classes (yay!) so you can do it from the comfort of your own home, no matter where in the world you live. Click here for how Parenting Classes changed my life for the better. The’ve been invaluable in helping me to become the master of my circus.
What do you think of rules for kids? Are rules your friend? Do your kids know what’s expected of them and do you follow through? Share with us in the comments below.
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