13 November 2011

Set Expectations

Running a chaos free household is not hard.  It might seem overwhelming, but it is an achievable goal, even if you think it's too late to change your kids.  It is NEVER too late.

The first thing you have to do is change yourself.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine, who happens to be a family counselor.  We were discussing this issue and she pointed out that, for the most part, unless we make a concerted effort to change, our parenting styles come from how we were parented.  Our parents are our models.

So, if you remember chaos in your childhood, you probably have it in your life now, too.

Here's how you can change things...

1.  Make up your mind to make the changes.

2.  Decide what the changes you desire are.
     -  Be specific.
              -If you want to yell less., that's a goal.
              -If you want your kids to listen the first time you tell them something, that's a goal. 

3.  Don't be overwhelmed by the thought of the work it will take. By taking small steps and being certain of your goal, you can make changes.

Let's say you want your kids to listen to what you say and do what you tell them to do, here's how you get there...

1.  Call a family meeting.
      State your concerns and your goals and tell your kids how you all are going to make the home a happier place.

     Be honest.

     Tell your kids that you haven't been doing your job of setting rules and following through with them but that those days are over and you are all moving forward.
     Tell them that this isn't a punishment, but that it just hasn't been working well the way it is and you want everyone to be more happy and calm at home and having set ways the house will run is the way to get there.

     State the "new" rules.  For instance, no yelling (yourself included), following parents' directions, doing chores, respecting siblings and parents, etc.

     List the consequences for not following the new rules.  Consequences should be clearly stated so there is no room for argument.

     I do not recommend stating rewards.  The kids should follow the rules because that is how families work.  The reward is the smooth and happy family life.   

2.  Start right away.  Easing into the rules will not help.  You have to show the kids you say what you mean and mean what you say.  This is critical to the success of the plan.  If the kids see you wavering, even a little, they will walk all over you and it will be even harder to make changes.

     If your son is antagonizing your daughter, tell him to stop: hitting, kicking, poking, whatever, right now.

     Hopefully he will stop, but if he does not, say, "I've told you to stop, do it now or I will take away your (fill in the blank) for the rest of the day."
     Then do it.
     Don't raise your voice, don't show your agitation, just do it casually.  It is the rule, the rule was broken, consequence is not up for argument.  If the child continues to commit the infraction or protests, tell him that he needs to stop or the further consequence will be (fill in the blank.)

     Then follow through and stick to it.  Do not give the item back until the end of the day no matter how great the child's behavior is as the day goes on.  A consequence is set in stone.  That is the only way you will make changes.

As I've said time and again, you have to say what you mean and mean what you say.  If you back down even once, you shoot yourself in the foot and your kids will slip further into the pattern of undesirable behavior. 

Small children who don't follow rules become teenagers who rebel, break rules and slip into dangerous patterns of behavior.

Now is the time to fix these patterns.  Even if you have a teenager you can change the patterns.  It just takes effort and stick-to-it-iveness on your part.

I cannot be more clear about this issue.

I see families struggling wherever I go.  At the grocery store, I see families with young children barely getting through their shopping because kids are yelling and whining and causing a raucous the entire time.  The parents look exhausted and beaten down and without hope.  The trip could be made so much more pleasent if the parent set expectations from the start and stated the consequences for not meeting the expectations.

What I see, though, is kids whining and throwing a fit to get something, parents trying to fend off the requests but giving in in the end.

Remember, kids will always ask one more time than you can refuse if you are in the habit of giving in.  They know you are weak and will prey on the weakness in order to meet their goal.

You have to reset the process.

You need to persist in order to meet YOUR goal.  YOU are in charge, as long as you remember that and keep your goal in sight, you will be successful.  Your kids will argue but in the end, everyone will be happier because your household will run more smoothly.

I see families with teenagers whose parents have given up trying to get them to conform to the family rules.  These kids have been successful at being in charge in their families for so long, it's the norm.

Of all things, remember, as parents, you run the family.  You are in charge.  Set the rules, set guidelines and stick to them.  Say what you mean and mean what you say EVERY TIME and things will get better, probably a lot more quickly than you think.  Don't be "bossy."  You are the boss, but you'll achieve your goal more easily if you are calm and nonchelant about it. 

1.  Set your goals.
2.  State them to your kids.
3.  Implement the changes.

It is as simple as 1-2-3.  Really.

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