Stop the strug­gle with kids

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park- based par­ent­ing ex­pert, au­thor, speaker and li­censed psy­chol­o­gist, of­fers prac­ti­cal guid­ance for a host of par­ent­ing con­cerns. His web­site, www.Ter­ri­ficPar­ent­ing.com, of­fers free par­ent­ing guid­ance and an email news­let­ter.

It seems that more and more par­ents face con­stant bat­tles and daily strug­gles with their chil­dren. Th­ese bat­tles of­ten evolve into huge drama plays, with tears, scream­ing and emo­tional up­sets. Par­ents then try to find ways to avoid th­ese em­bar­rass­ing or frus­trat­ing moments, seek­ing im­me­di­ate re­lief rather than a healthy long- term so­lu­tion.

While the ten­dency is to ( falsely) hope that th­ese strug­gles will even­tu­ally just fade away, the re­al­ity is that th­ese prob­lems will pre­dictably get worse. Here’s why: We have been taught ( by so­ci­ety, books, TV, etc.) to think that words should be used to man­age chil­dren’s be­hav­ior. This is a se­ri­ous prob­lem, be­cause words are quite worth­less in teach­ing healthy habits.

What’s the an­swer? Here is my three- step so­lu­tion to end­ing the daily strug­gles, and the drama that goes with it.

Step 1: Stop All Word Strug­gles, Bat­tles and Ne­go­ti­a­tions. To­day.

Take a breath, and see how th­ese daily strug­gles are in­evitably a re­peat of the same words over and over. The same di­a­logue over and over. The same drama you try to avoid just keeps hap­pen­ing. Re­mem­ber the movie “Ground­hog Day”? Bill Mur­ray woke up and ex­pe­ri­enced the same day over and over.

So, step one. Stop it. Stop re­peat­ing the same los­ing bat­tles.

Step 2: Get Clear On The Ex­pec­ta­tions That Build Healthy Habits

Most of us do not see life from the per­spec­tive of daily habits. Yet, there is an in­evitable, un­stop­pable force that strength­ens over time, mak­ing us a slave to our habits. We can­not fight the con­se­quence of th­ese habits.

Yet, many of us do not set up daily ex­pec­ta­tions that sup­port healthy habits. We ‘ fly by the seat of our pants’ and hope for the best.

Start­ing to­day, let’s change that. What healthy habits do you want to pro­mote? What habits, if you build them, will you feel good about 10 years from now? What habits do you want to avoid giv­ing to your chil­dren?

Then, es­tab­lish the daily ex­pec­ta­tions that will build those habits. Write them down, and put them up for ev­ery­one to see.

Step 3: Use Lever­age To Get Co­op­er­a­tion With The Ex­pec­ta­tions

This is where the magic be­gins. Rather than us­ing words to try to get your kids on board with the daily ex­pec­ta­tions, use the lever­age you have avail­able to you. Re­mem­ber: words sim­ply do not work, so we must aban­don that ap­proach.

In­stead, we turn to us­ing lever­age. Many of you may won­der what I mean by the term ‘ lever­age.’ Lever­age:

“With­hold­ing The Good­ies Un­til The Ex­pec­ta­tions Are Met”

Con­sis­tent, daily lever­age is es­sen­tial to mak­ing your life at home easy ( es­pe­cially if you have a chal­leng­ing or op­po­si­tional child).

From a par­ent­ing per­spec­tive, you have much more lever­age than you may think you have. Ev­ery­thing your chil­dren wants is within your con­trol.

And you have the abil­ity to say ‘ yes’ or ‘ no’ to those wants ( i. e., the good­ies). How­ever, rather than try­ing to make this up as we go along, it is im­por­tant to set up the con­sis­tent, daily ex­pec­ta­tions along with the daily lever­age. We must be will­ing to main­tain a day- to- day struc­ture where we re­quire the ex­pec­ta­tions to be met BE­FORE the good­ies are granted.

Un­der this sys­tem, we do not of­fer re­minders, prod­ding, ne­go­ti­a­tions or ar­gu­ments.

We wait pa­tiently. We wait for the ex­pec­ta­tions to be met be­fore we give them what they want. If it takes hours, we can wait hours.

And we can do this be­cause the kids will al­ways even­tu­ally want to get to the good­ies. This is our lever­age, and we must trust it. It’s the key to end­ing those ex­haust­ing strug­gles.

Randy Cale

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