Do you have a toddler learning to exercise their growing independence? Are you tired of having a stand off with your child when asking them to do the simplest of tasks? Maybe it’s a little more serious like trying to teach them the importance of using their manners. Are you tired of fighting what feels like a losing battle?
It is exhausting as a parent when your child is constantly testing and pushing boundaries. I know your frustration. I have two very strong willed and determined children of my own. I know how draining it can be to ask “Please don’t jump on the couch.. you will fall and hurt yourself” for the hundredth time… especially when the 20th, 45th,76th and 99th time your child DID fall off and sobbed their little heart out.
So, how do I cope without completely losing my mind and complete control of my home and children? It’s actually not all that complicated… I use two small words, and these make ALL the difference in how smoothly our day goes.
It’s not complicated. It’s not hard for your child to understand. Plus, you’re helping your child learn about how the real world works (cause & effect) and preparing them with the right thought process they need to be successful and stay out of trouble as big kids and adolescents.
Here’s an example from our home I use when my children are fighting me about finishing their supper.
“Z, If you don’t finish your food then you won’t be allowed dessert”
Or maybe you have a problem with pleases and thank you’s
“If you don’t say please A, then I won’t give it to you”
Pretty easy right? Wrong. This is a simple formula, but it is not easy. In order for “if…then” to be successful with your child you have to stick to your guns. That means, no whining, crying, fit throwing, begging, pleading or manipulation will sway you. You need to stay strong and stand your ground. This is the only way your little one will know that you mean business. If you use “if…then..” you need to follow through with THEN. Every. Single. Time.
The other very important thing to remember when using this tactic is not to throw bonuses into the mix that otherwise wouldn’t normally fly. For example my husband used to make the mistake like this..
“If you eat your food Z, then I’ll give you a candy.”
What’s wrong with that you ask? Well.. you’re REWARDING behaviour that SHOULD be expected. This will give your child the wrong idea. In their brilliant little working minds it sounds something like this,
“If I do as I’m told/asked then I’ll get reward/treat/bonus”.
This probably means your child isn’t necessarily doing what you ask because they know you’re consistently consistent and have earned their trust and respect. They’re doing this for the carrot you dangled in front of their nose and nothing more.
How will you know you’ve over done it? It won’t work. You’ll ask your kiddie to brush their teeth so that you can read stories together and they’ll brush their teeth and ask for the reward you offered earlier and expect it. And when you decline, the next time they’re asked to do something they’ll answer “and will I get a candy, or can I watch tv, or whatever sweet treat you tried to bribe them with”.
So make sure to choose your words wisely. Decide with your partner in advance what your rules are. Make sure you are on the same page so there is no undermining and complete consistency. Chose “then’s” that are valuable to your little one, and in line with your boundaries. If you don’t, then this will not work. See what I did there?
Why is this such a valuable parenting tool? First, you’ll see results. You’ll regain some of that control that you’ve lost during these never ending power-struggles. I’m not talking CONTROLLING. I’m talking, your position as a wiser, more experienced, concerned, guardian/parent. You’re ship will not run smoothly if it’s steered by a little gremlin.
Secondly, you’re teaching them about real life. For every action there is a reaction. It’s cause and affect like I mentioned earlier. If your child disobeys the classroom rules, then they’ll be sent to the principle. If they don’t look both ways before crossing the street, then they could be injured. If they steal, then they’ll face serious consequences from the law. That’s just life. You want to make sure that you teach them these expectations now so that later down the road they’re able to understand and appreciate that their actions or their lack of action will have real consequences.
If you follow my advice, then I promise you’ll have much fewer sulky pouty stand off’s, and more time for beautiful memory making. Don’t just take my word (as a mother and teacher) for it. Try it! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.