How to tame the chaos with kids at dinnertime
Q: Our kids are 6 and 4, a boy and a girl, and they just don’t listen to me. My partner and I both work and when we come home, we need to get dinner ready and then get the older one to karate.
We need them to co-operate and instead, everything is a fight.
We’ve tried all sorts of punishments and consequences but nothing seems to work. How do I get them to co-operate?
A: This is actually a common parental refrain these days — kids who don’t listen and punishments that don’t work.
There are two issues here — harried parents and a disconnect with our kids.
First, just to make ends meet, it is common for both parents to be working and perpetually exhausted. That parental fatigue creates an inner turmoil that can interfere with recognizing the child’s needs and inner emotional state.
The disconnect is due to the growing dependence, by parents and children, of technology and devices. When we are connected to the Internet, social media and the like, we lose our connection and hence our influence in real life.
Several steps can be taken to develop or restore some semblance of co-operation and reasonable behaviour.
The first is for the parent to recognize their own inner turmoil and seek ways to tame themselves before considering how to tame the child. We need to bring our calm selves to the situation.
Once we are more centred, we can see that our children are fatigued at the end of a school day. Fatigue in children comes out as restlessness, noncompliance and even aggression.
Rather than seeking their cooperation, we first must attend to their needs, which usually include nutrition and rest. Give them a snack, remove the devices and have them read, rest or play a simple board game.
Lastly, seek to engage your kids in a fun and playful way through co-operation around getting dinner ready. While doing so, make sure that everyone’s devices are turned off so that there’s no electronic interference from the relationship you seek.
Let this be your new after school ritual, and you may just find that the need to think in terms of punishment and consequences diminishes.
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