There are many reasons we don’t stand up to our kids. Stress, exhaustion, and distraction are at the top of the list. We all have good intentions and we want our kids to be well behaved, well-mannered, and healthy, but at the end of the day it is easy to realize we have failed. For me, being a systems guy, I like to go back to the point where the battle was actually fought.
Do you find it easy (or hard) to be firm?
When I am wrapping up a long day,
sometimes I just want to slouch into a good chair and coast until bed time. Unfortunately, this is the part of the day the kids have been waiting for. They have missed their Daddy and they can’t wait to spend some time with me. They giggle, they wriggle, and they wrestle – this often leads to a testing of boundaries and usually tears.
Have you noticed how there is a direct correlation between bedtime and the amount of tears. Close to bed time and feelings are easily hurt. At bedtime, they fall, bump, and bang – and the tears flow freely. After bedtime it can be one continuous meltdown of tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. It’s when the crying and whining start that I have trouble not giving in. I don’t want to increase the household noise threshold by saying no to their silly requests, but if I don’t say no, it will be hours – if not days – before they are finally in bed. In the meantime, somebody is likely to die – and it might be me.
Once I began to see this pattern, I sought to correct it before it became a problem. So, here are the steps we take to enable us to stand our ground, instill good habits, and minimize the whining, weeping, and wailing:
- Have a Plan. It’s been said over and over (but I’ll say it again) – “a failure to plan, is a plan to fail.” What do you want to accomplish in the daily lives of your children? Do you have a schedule (even a rough schedule)? Do you have a bedtime goal? What about family time – have you put this important aspect of life into your plan? And importantly, does everyone agree to this plan? Once you have a plan, you can begin to accomplish it, stick to it, and know your place in that plan.
- Always be Fair, Firm, and Friendly. While it’s important for your kids to know that life is rarely fair, they need to know that you are doing your best to be fair to them. You also need to be firm – and do that all in a friendly, albeit kind manner. In order to be fair, think through your decisions before making them. Don’t be reactive. Pass all your decisions through the plan (see Step 1). Make a decision based on the big picture plan. Be firm in your decision. Kids will see weakness and indecision like a pack of wolves. They will eat you alive if they see any wavering. Always be friendly, peaceful, and calm in your administration of your decisions.
- Take Care of Yourself. This is really number one on the list, but if I’d put it up there, you would have stopped reading already. If you get enough rest, you will have more strength to stand up to the manipulative behaviors of your kids. They are master manipulators – for they’ve been studying you since they were born. They know what pulls your heart, what bothers you, and how to make you mad. So it is important for you to be well rested and healthy. The better your habits, the better your health, and the stronger you are (emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually), the better you will be able to lead your children and not give in to their demands.
A good Plan is a challenge. Our lives are busy and so many people, projects, and employers want a piece of our time. We find it is almost impossible to stay consistent on nap and meal times. Other families schedule birthday parties, visits, and other fun activities with absolutely no consideration for our agenda. <grin> And then there are meetings, family gatherings, and employer mandated functions that cut into our schedule from all directions.
In order to stick to our planned schedule, we have to be flexible and creative. Sometimes the kids will do their rest time in the car on the way to an event, or a little earlier/later than normal. Sometimes we grab a quick taco on the run, or eat sandwiches in the car. Either way, we’ve found the consequences of being late for a meal, or not getting good rest, only makes this whole parenting gig harder. If we take care of our kids, keep their blood sugar at a consistent level, keep them relatively well rested, and make sure they get good food and exercise, they seem to be more consistently happy, content, and less dangerous to us and themselves.
I have a harder time being Fair, Firm, and Friendly when I am hungry, angry, and tired. So, I do my best to take care of myself first. As a paramedic and firefighter, I learned a long time ago that I can’t save anyone if I don’t show up – and if I’m not prepared when I show up, I’m no good to anyone – especially my teammates. You owe it to yourself, your life partner, and your kids to Take Care of Yourself first. When you are rested, healthy, whole, and content, you will find yourself to be a better parent, a better husband/wife/significant other, and a better person.
I would love to know if you struggle in this arena. Do you have a plan? What is it? What are the obstacles you face implementing this plan? Are you fair? Do you find it easy (or hard) to be firm? How difficult is it to be kind and friendly to those in your household? What holds you back? Where could you improve? What are your challenges?