Q: “ I hate that I am always the one that has to come down on my kids. I have 3 and 4-year-old toddlers. I know I am the disciplinarian, but it is difficult being that person all the time and then transitioning to something positive. I am a young mom too and I know I still have a lot to learn but I am always looking for new and better ways. Any suggestions to how to play both roles would be great.”
A: (This is my 16-year-old daughter, Matisse’s response. She is very popular with her younger cousins and does babysit too. They actually call her, “The Queen of the Little People.”)
When redirecting children, it is important to be firm and convince them to do the needed task. To get out of things many children will cry and beg to do what they want. I’m sure I used to do that too. But, to get a child to comply, you may have to make the task seem more fun than it actually is. Sometimes it is not that simple though, but you can’t give into their begging. Giving in can teach them that if they cry for a certain amount of time then they will eventually get their way. Sometimes you may need to put your foot down and discipline them with a consequence. Some children learn quickly and you will not have to do it again. Being firm but still entertaining for the kids is very important so that you seem like someone they should listen to. Becoming an adult figure may be difficult, but it is worth it when you can have fun while keeping the children in check.
(My response) I think there are tons of parents that have to play many roles in their kid’s lives. You are correct that it can be difficult to be all things to our kids and how do we switch in between bad cop/good cop? Unfortunately, there is not a magic wand to make that an easier transition — as much as we all wish that were true. I think the way to make this transition smoother is the relationship you have with your children. The more positive the relationship is between you and your children the easier giving out consequences are going to be for you. The more natural consequences a child receives the easier that transition will be. For example, if you tell your child when you act this way (insert any annoying behavior) we will leave wherever we are and go home. The natural consequence is that you no longer get to be at a place you want to be at and you have to go home. It is not your fault that you had to leave, it is because of the child’s behavior. The more that you do these types of things, the more the child will focus their blame and attention on their behaviors and not you. Think about a time that your child has made you a crazy person asking for something, it could be anything you can think of and often times we give in because we are going to lose our minds. We have all been there. When you really sit back and examine that behavior, when you are not exhausted or sleep deprived, what do you see? You see that the child acted a certain way or manner and it worked. The behaviors that they exhibited got them what they wanted. Now what if those same behaviors always resulted in something they were not trying to obtain — like going home and being put time in timeout? When this happens, they should be upset at their behavior and not you. Of course, that takes consistency and time but also builds a more positive relationship between you and your child by giving you more time to do fun stuff and enjoy each other. Hope this helps!