Last year, one of my close friends commented on how hard it is to be “in the trenches as a parent.” She went onto describe the hard work involved of teaching your children to do chores, to set the table, to learn manners, to be polite….
Some parents do ignore teaching some of these things, and according to my friend they are therefore not in the trenches. LOL. So true.
Alas, I AM IN THE TRENCHES, with my friends and my sisters and many of my clients. In fact, this week I just so happened to have more parents than usual who were in my office trying to figure out how to get their children to comply with their teachings! This is not easy; however, I feel I am equipped to giving parenting advice since my own children are thriving – and because I have walked the walk with many families to a healthier, better adjusted child.
Today, there are so many distractions to keep us from doing the hard work of parenting, and sometimes it’s easier in the short run to just ignore the bad behavior and keep things moving. I am sure there have been times I have been guilty of letting certain things go that perhaps I shouldn’t have …
I find that many parents struggle to figure out how much control to exert over their child. From a family systems perspective – there is an unhealthy rigid amount of control that parents can exert, and exerting unhealthy control creates risks for mental health problems (including problems in school, legal problems, substance abuse, and more) for our children. There is also a problem if we do not exert enough control over our children because they need structure and boundaries. Without enough structure, our children are also at risk for mental health symptoms.
Good Lord, what is a parent to do??? How do you know the right balance, and how do you figure out that balance while you are fixing lunches, doing laundry, running car pool, and paying bills? All while knowing that if you don’t get your parenting right, there could be long term consequences for your child. After all, no parent wants to feel they have messed up their child!
If you are in the trenches and feeling confused about how much to control your child’s life or about how to get your child to comply with your parenting expectations and rules, here are a few ideas.
1. Take a parenting assessment.
There is a parenting assessment I sometimes have parents complete online that helps me know if they are generally too strict or too permissive. A healthy balance somewhere in the middle is what we are going for when it comes to creating a well-adjusted child and a functional family. I am often coaching people on ways they can then move towards the middle of that parenting continuum.
2. Create and practice an easy method for enforcing limits.
In my own household, we have “being on restriction (from privileges).” I usually recommend some version of this to parents who are struggling with setting limits with their child. I have parents write down the privileges their child enjoys. In my house privileges are playing in the neighborhood with friends, television and electronic devices, and unhealthy treats and snacks. My go to parenting line is this: “I can see you are sad or don’t feel like it, however if you choose to not pick up your socks like I asked you to, you will be on restriction. I hope I want have to put you own restriction because I really don’t like having to do that.”
This usually gets compliance. Restriction from all privileges works better than taking away just one thing because American children can just go enjoy one of their other many privileges if we only take away one.
When giving a reminder and setting a limit does not get compliance, then I recommend giving restriction for a short time for a younger child (anywhere from 30 minutes – 2 hours for a younger child, depending upon their age) or longer for an older child (a whole day or half day if it is a weekend). During restriction there are extra chores and to be off restriction the child must give an apology and verbally accept responsibility for what they did wrong.
3. Read about unhealthy control of your child to learn what not to do and read about healthy parenting strategies to learn what to do
Some people were raised in an environment with unhealthy emotional control or parenting tactics, so this is where they learned what not to do; often, without realizing it! Many, many of my former clients have had to do the hard work of reading about what parenting behaviors are considered too controlling or shaming for their child. The book, “If You Had Controlling Parents” by Dan Neuharth is a good title to read in order to learn about parenting behaviors that might be considered emotionally controlling or unhealthy.
A great book to learn what to do is “Love and Logic “parenting. There is Love and Logic for preschool children and different age categories. Many of my clients have benefited from practicing the parenting approaches in this book series; which are basically how we can respectfully set limits with our children in the most loving way possible.
I hope some of these ideas will help you with your time in the trenches, because being a parent is not for the faint of heart! If you need some help do not hesitate to Contact one of our repair associates for an appointment.