18 January 2011

Parenting is Hard

Parenting is hard. If it seems easy to you, no offense, but there’s a good chance you aren’t doing it right.

We are not supposed to be our kids’ friends. We are their parents. Sometimes, more often than not, that means telling them things they don’t want to hear. Good parents lay down the law at home. Kids need rules and structure.

No one can prepare us for the difficulty of the job, or for the rewards of it.
One of the best ways to restore order and happiness in your home is to have a list of house rules. Write the list on a white board or poster board. Having the rules spelled out in black and white will make it easier to stick to them, both for you, the parent and for your child.

My boys are enthusiastic about our new family success game. My sister sent us Dr. Susan Lipkins’ Be a Star! Be A Star and we have implemented the system. The chart allows the parent to give points for good behavior or take away points for negative behavior. You can move the star up to give points or down to deduct points. At the top is a “happy” star and the child gets a reward when he reaches the top. At the bottom is a “sad” star and the child gets a punishment if he reaches the sad star.

I think the “Be A Star” concept is a good place to start for a family in need of some structure. The Be a Star method, coupled with concrete rules, will help you restore order to your home.

In regard to the rules, engage the children in writing them down. When kids have input in the drafting of the rules, they have ownership in them and will be more apt to follow them.

Written rules can really help parents who are wishy washy, and by that, I mean weak. You know who you are… You tell your child to stop (fill in the blank- making a mess, messing around, whatever) but they don’t stop. You say it again and again and then finally give up. It’s too much work to get him to stop, so you leave the room or throw up your arms in defeat. Not only does this not change the immediate behavior, it reinforces the idea that you are not the boss in the house and that the child can do what he wants. With a rules chart, you can point to the list, tell the child to stop, and if he does not stop, state the consequence- end of story. After a few of these episodes, it is highly likely that your child will start to follow the rules, without being told.

In my opinion, the most important concrete rule that belongs near the top of the list is “no violence.” In our home, we have a no tolerance policy for violence. If any of the boys hits, kicks, bites (toddlers bite, let’s face it), pushes- you get the picture; there are immediate consequences. The boys know this and they rarely use aggression with each other. They don’t like the penalties, but they do know they are inevitable and when I intervene and dole out the punishment, they accept it without argument. Consequences vary, from time-outs to loss of privileges, depending on the severity of the violence and the age of the child.
If you use the Be a Star chart, you would move the star straight to the bottom.

What ideas do you have for rules? Rewards? Punishments?
Leave a comment here and let me know.