[This is a revision of the second article in a two-part series. Click here to see the first four mistakes.]
Here are more discipline mistakes made by even the best-intending, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #5: We get trapped in power struggles.
Everyone says to avoid power struggles. But no one seems to tell us what to do once we’ve gotten ourselves into an inevitable one. And when our kids feel backed into a corner, they instinctually fight back or totally shut down. So here are three ways to help you get out of those lose-lose power struggles you sometimes find yourself in.
A. Give your child an out or a choice that allows her to comply with your expectations, while still saving face: “Would you like to get a drink first, and then we’ll pick up the toys?” The phrase “It’s your choice” can be a powerful tool to wield, since it gives your child some amount of power, which can often diffuse stand-offs. So maybe you ask, “Would you like to get ready for bed now and read four bedtime stories tonight, or play 10 minutes longer and read two stories? It’s your choice.” (If she chooses fewer stories, it’s a good idea to remind her several times before story-time about her choice.)
B. Negotiate: “We’re not really getting anywhere here, are we? Let’s see if we can figure out a way for both of us to get what we need.” Obviously, there are some non-negotiable issues, but negotiation isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a Continue Reading »
People talk a lot about the dangers of the over-scheduled child. Kids doing too many activities become tired and grumpy. They don’t have time to spend with their family. They get burned out and begin to dislike whatever activity the parent was hoping they would embrace. They don’t have time to just play and be kids.
Before I had my own children, all of this made sense to me. That’s why I decided that my kids would participate in only one activity at a time. If they wanted to take a dance class, that’s all they’d do until the class was over. If they wanted to play a sport, they wouldn’t be involved in anything else until the end of the season. I wasn’t going to have my kids dealing with all the problems facing over-scheduled children.
That was before I had kids of my own.
Then my first son came along, and I was giddy with all the opportunities available to him, and all of his many different interests, all of which increased with each passing year. Especially once he entered elementary school, I quickly came to see that my one-activity-at-a-time commitment was going to be tested. My husband and I wanted him to learn piano. He wanted to be involved in Cub Scouts with his friends from school. Plus, it was immediately apparent that his passion was athletics. He wanted to play every sport in season.
Piano. Scouts. Sports. Add in playdates, homework, family outings, and “unstructured play time,” and how were we supposed to fit all of that in? And he was just our first child! We now have three, all with their own opportunities and passions.
These days, as my oldest approaches adolescence, I still believe that over-scheduling kids really is a legitimate concern. Children can become anxious and pressured and miss out on the benefits of boredom, down time, and the freedom of childhood. But I no longer believe Continue Reading »
There’s no question about it: consistency is crucial when it comes to raising and disciplining our children. Many parents I see in my office realize that they need to work on being more consistent – with bedtimes, limiting junk food, or just in general – when they interact with their kids. But there are others who have placed such a high priority on consistency that it’s moved into a rigidity that’s not good for their kids, themselves, or their relationship.
Let’s begin by getting clear on the difference between the two terms. Consistency means working from a reliable and coherent philosophy so that our kids know what we expect of them, and what they should expect from us. Rigidity, on the other hand, means maintaining an unswerving devotion to rules we’ve set up, sometimes without having even thought them through. As parents, we want to be consistent, but not rigid.
Kids definitely need consistency from their parents. They need to know what the rules are, and how we will respond if they break (or even bend) those rules. Your reliability teaches them about cause and effect, and about what to expect in their world. More than that, it helps them feel safe; they know they can count on you to be constant and steady, even when their internal or external worlds are chaotic. In this way, we provide them with safe containment when they’re exploding because they want an extra scoop of ice cream.
So how do we maintain consistency without crossing over to rigidity? Well, let’s start by acknowledging that there are some non-negotiables. For instance, under no circumstances can you Continue Reading »