Whether you have a two-year-old or a 10-year-old there are some days you may wonder who is in charge. It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s you.
You won’t win every battle nor should you expect to. You can’t put it upon yourself to effectively crack the whip, so to speak, impeccably correcting each and every transgression any child is capable of. But there are a few absolutes you need to incorporate into your life just to keep peace on the home front, guide your kids toward acceptable behavior, and some days, to simply maintain your sanity.
1. Know your child.
There may come a time when you find your child disassembling the new toy that you spent an hour on just successfully removing the packing materials. Instantly you head straight into the fray. But before your next word is formed you need to determine if your child’s motivation is, in fact, what it appears to be: destruction. There is often another motivator. Yours could be one of those children with a mechanical engineering mind. He or she is simply trying to understand how it works. Watch, observe the process, and if it’s methodical and exploratory then it’s not destructive. If this is not the case, well, then destruction is what it’s all about. Just remember, there are many motivators behind the behavior of every child. It’s your job to know your son or daughter well enough to determine whether their actions are a part of their nature or simple disobedience. (Click here for a great article on how to discover your child’s natural abilities.)
2. When it comes to asking, set your limit.
It’s fine to give instructions or correction more than once, but determine what your policy will be in advance. Will you only ask two or three times? Have you ever felt like you’ve said the same sentence so many times that your head is about to explode? The entire time you are found repeating yourself, your child has exhibited the inability to hear even one word. Set your limit. If you establish a precedent, two or three asks, then your child will know the limit and will also expect the consequences that follow.
3. Threaten only what you will follow through on.
If you say you’re going to take back their presents and they still continue to disobey, then you have to do it. If you say they are grounded from driving, you have to do that too—even if you need them to drop their brother off at his baseball game. Just choose both what you will actually stick to and what will cause them great discomfort. If any child realizes the threats are empty, they have no teeth. Save yourself a lot of grief by choosing what you are willing to actually follow through on.
4. Set the rules in advance.
You won’t know, when looking at that newborn’s sweet face, some of the rules you will have to instate. Rules like “jumping off the roof into the pool is not acceptable” may not have been in your automatic parental thought process. But there are basic principles every child needs to adopt—politeness, respect, unselfishness, and gratitude. These will show up in everything they do. So, set the rules in the little things that will bring about these character traits. This will establish how they conduct themselves in the big things.
5. Be the authority.
Every child needs to know there is someone in their life who not only makes the rules but enforces the rules, and by doing so, protects them in the process. Being in charge is not just about discipline or rule-making; it’s about providing security for your child. They need to know you care enough to do the hard stuff, setting the parameters needed to protect them not just physically, but emotionally, and spiritually as well. They need “the buck stops here” parent in their lives, and you need to be it.
The reality is this, your goal is that on the day they leave your home that they are prepared for life. You want them to have gained all the necessary standards, principals, and codes of conduct that they will need to live as productive adults.
For that day to come, it’ll require you to be in charge of their lives—at least most of the time and to varying degrees. As they grow, you will slowly and wisely give them charge over certain areas they can master, ones they should take responsibility for at the appropriate times. If you do this, one day when they head out your front door, they will take full charge with the tools in hand and heart that they will need to master this life well.
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