So in last week’s blog post I gave you ways to control yourself so you can control the interactions with your children. I’m sure some of you where like, “What?” But it works. Kids are always trying to get adults off center and tipping towards a meltdown. When you don’t let that happen, the game is loads less fun for your kids. They give up, after a while, and start listening.
Once you’ve got control of yourself, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Control The Environment
I own all the stuff. I do. Since children legally cannot enter into contracts without the implied consent of their adult guardian, the adult guardian actually owns all the stuff. You should see kids’ faces when I explain this. They cannot legally buy anything without your implied consent and therefor ownership. Now let an evil laugh loose, bwa-ha-ha! I therefore control all the resources in this environment. Toys, phones, stuffies, video games, gaming systems, i-pods, tablets, etc. Once you have this attitude, your children will know that messing with the rules leads to the next point.
I will take all the stuff in SMALL increments. Never, never, nunca, not at all, do you ever take all the stuff at the same time! Your kids will tempt you to do this, “Just take it all!” Yah, I’m not that dumb. When you have all the stuff your child no longer has anything to lose. That’s how action movies start. The hero has nothing left to lose and the fight is on. Take stuff from your children in logical ways and small increments. Take 15 minutes of their favorite TV show. Hold them back from the first house while their siblings get to trick or treat that one. Take one action figure at a time. When they start throwing the rest at you, put them back in the room and talk through your emotions. “I think you are wanting to throw your stuff at me so I’ll get really mad and take everything away from you. Then you’ll be all melodramatic and hope that I lose my cool even more. I am mad that you threw toys at me but I will keep my self-control. You don’t get to have that.” Stick with this and be consistent.
I will take the stuff quickly. My son has had to buy back his toys with his allowance because I told him to clean up and he played for that hour instead. Fine. I cleaned up. It all went into a bag and he could buy back any object in the bag for $1. He had $13 saved up. He remembers that very clearly. Say what you want, give one warning only, then take something quietly. No screaming (control yourself first), and no further warnings. It’s good to remember that you don’t have to take the phone or the x-box to mess with access to them. I can recommend Circle, a one stop for controlling internet access from your phone. No more YouTube videos at 1am if the little rotter’s tablet won’t be allowed access! (Yes, we have dealt with that at my house.)Circle usually about $99 and well worth it.
My wallet will be open for business not charity. Stop giving your children money outside of Christmas and their birthdays. This gives you leverage to ask for chores, homework, instrument practice, whatever. It’s the carrot for good behavior. Carrots don’t mean anything if your kid has them everyday without having to do anything. Give the carrots back their meaning. Hand out less.
I will take control of my house and I will get adult help if I need to. Want your kids, and possibly your spouse, to know that you ARE the new sheriff in town? Have a friend come over and help you clean. If you have the $, hire someone who will help you clean and organize. Either way, kick everyone out of the house and get ruthless. You are the parent, you have the right to throw random crap away. You especially have that right if the random crap is in a pile under the bed that hasn’t been touched in years. If the original dust bunnies now have grandchildren, you have the right to thoughtfully toss that. Now introduce the family to the new standard of clean and let them know you expect it to stay that way. Use consequences both negative and positive to reinforce how you mean it. If you are in a situation where you can’t do this, then do a small version of it. Taking control of the physical space gives you a visual message and then communicates the same thing to the rest of the family. Give yourself that message. Even if it starts in a closet no one else sees and then spreads from there. Physical control of the environment helps you feel better.
The kids are screaming at you. The house is a mess and nobody listens when you ask for help. Siblings are supposed to love each other but all your kids do is fight. You are overwhelmed, outnumbered and outgunned.
Help is on the way! In the next three posts I will teach you 15 surefire ways to regain control of yourself, the situation, and the discipline of your kids. If you can do these things consistently for 2 weeks, you will finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Give this a month and you’ll start feeling like a parent and not a prisoner!
To set these up you have to understand the following concepts. You can’t control your kids. Didn’t get that or think I didn’t write it right? You CANNOT control your children. When you try all hell will break loose in your house. There’s plenty of ways to encourage them to control themselves.
Punishment doesn’t work. Consequences work, punishment works against you. Consequences teach your children the connection between their own actions and what happens next. Punishment teaches them to hide from you because they’re avoiding your anger.
You control yourself first. Then you take control of the environment. Last of all you reflect back to your kids. There are consequences you will be handing out throughout all of these steps. Anytime you loose control of yourself, you can’t do discipline. Making children upset to match how they’ve upset you is punishment. It teaches children that revenge is good and the strong get to take it. Now imagine they’re 15 and bigger than you. I’ve counseled that family too many times. Control yourself, control the environment, then be a mirror that allows your child to see her own behavior.
Take your own time outs. Instead of standing around screaming with the kids, take a five minute time out and concentrate on bringing your own heart rate down before you go back to dealing with them. Children match the agitation level of the dominant adult in any situation. Give them a calm to imitate. This can take a while for parents to get. Kids know when you’re pretending calm and when you’ve really got it. Keep working towards a calm your children can match.
Put yourself on the top five of your priority list. You aren’t going to have a calm that your children can imitate if you don’t have taking care of yourself as a priority. It can seem backwards to women especially when I tell them to take a yoga class and leave their children in the daycare. “But my kids will bite each other and I already don’t have enough time!” I know. But time and self-care can’t be the last thing you give yourself each day. You will NOT be able to consistently discipline your children if you are too worn out to think straight.
Be a neutral expert. Before your kids start their daily exercises in trashing your house and smacking each other, concentrate on your long term role. You need to be the neutral expert that they come to when there’s sex questions or peer pressure on drugs. Take your emotions out of the interaction! You must sound like a calm judge not the screaming Queen of Hearts. Practice sounding like Mary F*ing Poppins no matter what!
Talk about your emotions out loud until your children at least roll their eyes. I love this one and my son HATES it. “I can feel my neck getting stiff when you ignore what I’ve said and act like you can’t hear me. I know you can hear me and that makes what you’re doing very rude. You are pretending I don’t exist so you don’t have to deal with me and now my skin is getting hot because I’m mad. I will need to calm myself down before I come up with the consequence for your behavior.” I can go on for as long as necessary. Talk yourself through your emotions, their physical manifestations, how you’re calming yourself down and what you intend to do. My son would rather me take a toy than talk about my emotions. It’s that effective.
Stop giving your children emotional Touch Downs. When I ask kids in my office how long it takes to get their mom or dad frothing mad, they can give me a timeline and exactly what parents say along it before the adult tantrum commences. All children want control and power. If the best way to feel powerful is make you lose your control, that’ll happen on the regular. You may be scaring your kids silly when you lose it, but you are also dancing on the end of their strings and they know which tune it takes to get you there. Take that time out and stop giving up your power.
Once you control yourself, you are ready to take control of the environment and hand out consequences that work. I hear from clients how frustrating it is to practice self-control first. Sorry, it’s the only thing that works every time. No technique works if you don’t have control of your own emotions and meet your own needs. Most every technique can work once you have yourself trained.
Stay tuned for the next two posts. We’ll go over the ways to control the environment and help your child start predicting how their behavior will bring positive or negative consequences.
Before you go, ask me a question! I love to hear from all of you.