Q: Sometimes I feel like I do everything wrong and I am ruining my children. I get so caught up in my own emotions, end up yelling at my kids and everyone just feels bad after that happens. What is your best advice when it comes to parenting 101? I need something simple and easy to remember if that is possible.
A: When your child is misbehaving, several factors can affect the outcome.
I have been teaching parenting classes for over 10 years now. I was trained at the Love and Logic Institute in Denver, Colorado by the creators of the parenting program, Becoming a Love and Logic Parent®. It was one of the best trainings I have ever attended, if not the best. I thought to myself—finally a program that deals with everyday problems with logical solutions.
Love and Logic can help address “bad behavior.” I want to be clear what I am trying to communicate. I am talking about when our children don’t listen to us, talk back to us, fight with siblings, throw tantrums, don’t clean their room or take care of their belongings and the list could go on and on. Bad behavior does not mean that we have “bad” children, it means we have normal children that act up and it can make us go bonkers sometimes.
You know, as a parent, sometimes we have to pick our battles wisely on the scale of what it most important. One of the techniques that I teach is simply offering choices. I had a parent that was so frustrated getting her 5-year-old ready for school in the morning. She was a working mom too and therefore being late wasn’t an option. It is a very easy technique to use with small children. You offer them little, small choices as often as possible. For example, in this case, I suggested to the mom to offer choices in the morning. Do you want to put on your pants first or your shirt? Do you want to brush your teeth or go potty first? Do you want to eat cereal or a banana?
All of these choices did not have anything to do with anybody else in the household. These were choices that she was ok with as a parent. And the key to choices is if the child does not choose within 10 seconds or so then you choose. This ensures that the next time a choice is offered the child will make it for the mere fact they don’t want you to decide for them. Mornings were so much smoother for this mom. She wasn’t yelling at her child to get dressed, brush their teeth or get his coat on.
By offering choices there is a certain understated sharing of control that makes the child feel like they are part of the decisions being made no matter how small they may be. You can anticipate situations that you know your child may likely be resistant and give choices before a problem comes up. The best part about choices is they are especially great for younger children and when they make a choice you can praise them for making a great decision.
When a child is behaving badly there are several factors that are going to have an impact on the outcome. I like to call this a 60/40 split. Sixty percent of the outcome is going to be based on how the parent reacts. The other 40 percent is based on the actual offense/child’s reaction to the offending behavior.
If a parent were to become angry, red in the face and yell, the outcome, in most cases, would sadly end the same way it began. The child in this case would likely lose focus of what they are actually in trouble for and begin to focus on the color of your face and wondering if their voice could be as loud as yours. When parents begin to argue with their children they have not only lost the battle, they have lost the war.
The other option? Remain calm, because you are the adult. You do not let your child see you sweat for one second. Your voice is calm. What are you showing your child in this case? I am your parent and I will handle this situation. I will do so with ease and patience. My demeanor will model what I am asking of you. My voice will be soft and calm because that is what I am asking from you. This is not an easy task by any means. It is much easier to go straight to that childlike behavior and say, “Because I said so!” You do not want that. We know that does not do anything to help. Model what you want to see and be that example.