One of the hardest things for most new parents to realise is that children aren’t born with the ability to understand rules. Just like everything else in life, learning to understand rules (and obey them) is a behaviour that must be learned. Realising this simple fact a parent should quickly understand that, although they may set rules and boundaries for their child, it doesn’t mean that their child is going to follow them.
Indeed, there are many children that figure out early on how to manipulate rules and manipulate their parents, something that almost always is caused by the parents not being firm enough when setting rules. Adding to the problem is that most parents will bear the brunt of their child’s disobedience. The reason for this is that a child knows that they are safe at home and that their parents will love them, no matter what they do. (Talk about a ‘Catch 22’.)
If you made some poor parenting judgments and are now in a situation where your child is running your life you are going to have to do something to regain control of the situation. The tips that follow should help you.
1. Before beginning, it’s vital that both mum and dad have a clear and concise understanding of what the actions should be when their child misbehaves. Now is not the time for inconsistency so get together with your spouse and make sure you’re both on the same page.
2. Write down any and all rules that you wish your children to follow and post them somewhere that they can be easily seen, like the kitchen. When you post them the first time, sit down with your child or children and go over every single one, making sure that they understand and asking them the same.
3. Creating some type of reinforcement tool to use with your child is an excellent idea. This could be a dry erase whiteboard that you can put stickers on and a set, specific reward that the child will get at the end of the day, or week, if they have behaved.
4. If you use a reward system, keep in mind that if a child knows there is no possibility to get their reward they will have no reason to behave correctly. What you should do instead is create a warning term or signal for your child, letting them know that, while we haven’t lost their reward, they are in danger of doing so.
5. Any consequence that you are going to use to prevent your child from misbehaving should be a consequence that you can deliver immediately. If it’s something that’s too far in the future there response to your threats of taking it away will be greatly reduced.
6. Failing to follow through is the biggest mistake that most parents make. Indeed, even doing this one time can put you right back in the same situation, with the child who doesn’t respond to your threats and cajoling. Any consequences that you have set up for your child should be immediately enforced if they break the rules.
7. If your child is being good, doing well in whatever he or she should be doing and not causing any problems, let them know that you are thankful for it and proud of them.
8. If possible, have an alternative ready for your child when they ask for something that they simply can’t have. For example, if it’s near dinner and they like to have some biscuits, you may consider giving them one biscuit to hold them over.
9. If all else fails and your child is still misbehaving (and it’s safe to do so) simply walk away and ignore them completely.
If you’ve let your child walk all over you (and many of us have done it) it may take some time and effort to get them back to the point that they’re being respectful and obedient. Keep in mind that their behavior will usually get worse before it gets better and be prepared to put up a bit of a fight to get your child to behave. In the end it will be well worth it.