How to tame the chaos with kids at din­ner­time

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD

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.

Have a par­ent­ing or re­la­tion­ship ques­tion? Send it in a brief email to ques­tion@your­so­cial­worker.com. Due to the vol­ume of mail, not all ques­tions will re­ceive a re­ply.

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