By: Glyndora Condon MS MFT NCC LPC
It is sad
to watch a grown adult, weighing at least 95 pounds and up to 400 pounds or more, who is of average intelligence, who most likely works outside the home-although some are strictly home parents; who knows the importance of rules and realizes that anywhere they go-then they will need to abide with the rules within the forum in which they find themselves; and know that they have to instill into their children a respect of rules and for the rule givers; yet these same adults allow a 20-30+ pound child, without a fully developed brain, or the wisdom to guide their own decisions; to defy, manipulate, and to rule their own lives as these same adults throw their hands up as if defeated. Did the parents teach respect for the rule givers? Did the parents teach respect for the rules?
What does the parents expect will happen to their defiant children as they step into the real world? Will those rule givers and authority figures cater to these children? Absolutely not. Will these children be awakened with a shocking and possibly traumatic experience that there are very serious consequences in relationships and in the real world when they defy the rules or others that are in compliance? Could they end up rebelling or suffering legal consequences? Could they find that they need to step up their game to gain control by being aggressive/abusive? Will they find the world so hard to navigate that they choose suicide? To each question, there is a resounding possibility due to these children’s lack of self-management, trust, respect, and character.
Beginning early in teaching a child the wisdom in managing themselves and time helps the child to learn how to discern and increase their executive center of their brain. Providing the child choices as to how they obey the rules helps them to have a sense of control while also helping them to be creative as to how they can be compliant while also maintaining their individuation. For example, let’s consider a few possible RULES that children may confront:
1. Parents know that clothes help protect the child from the elements such as germs, exposure, nastiness, and others that could further harm the child; and also provide covering over their private parts which help teach children to respect and to love their bodies. Parents know that bare feet can be infected with parasites, bacteria from sputum, or harmed by sharp items that could be on the ground. Therefore, a rule could be, for our children’s need to wear suitable clothing for the environment, weather, and occasion. Parents realize that as children go to school or into public forums then they will be expected to wear clothing and shoes. They need to train their children to know that this is not an option due to their knowledge and their responsibility to teach their children how to respect this rule. How then does the parent implement and enforce this rule? A) It is not an option. B) The child can choose between 2-3 possible items that fit the appropriate categories for clothing and shoes; allowing for their choice of color. And C) The child understands that they will wear clothing and shoes and has a choice as to which they would like to wear during the occasion, and that they can then switch back to something more comfortable when home; but if they are defiant, then they will be wearing the item that the parent chooses all day until bedtime.
The approach is in a matter of fact and calm voice without repeating the option more than 1 time. “You can choose to wear this or that, which one do you want to wear?” “Clothing is not an option, so you can wear what you choose or what I choose” “If I have to choose something for you and if you make it difficult to get you dressed, then you will wear the clothing I choose all day but if you simply just go ahead and get dressed in what you have chosen then when we get home then you can choose to change back into you PJ’s; so what do you want to choose?” “Clothing is not an option, so the faster that you can change then the faster we can go but the slower that you change, then that time will result in your loss of time playing when we get home” All of these choices are possible options to say to the child as the parent’s face and tone of voice is speaking frankly and with the resolve to follow through with whatever the child chooses. In most cases, one or two of the above would be all that is needed for the child to follow through. Rules must be clear and the consequences of wrongful choices must be clear.
It is imperative for the parent to follow through with consistency.
2. Parents know that it is more time effective to clean as they go. Getting one item out and replacing it as they finish their task-aids in the workplace to be less stressful and easier to close up at the end of the day. This is time management. Parents realize that this is a life skill that children need so that they can be more successful and less stressed. They also realize that it can be a huge issue if others came into their workspace and took out items then left them laying. Teaching children to also have a clean play area is especially helpful when one has multiple children close to the same age, so as to also make the item available for the sibling to play with, and aid the social skill of sharing and/or taking turns. Parents know that siblings will sometimes fight over the same toy and even will attempt to grab the toy from their sibling. This can result in the harm of the little hands that are gripping the toy, but also can break the toy. We therefore know it to be prudent to teach our children to put their toys up as they play. The rule could then be: One toy (type) at time and when the child is done playing then to return to toy prior to getting out another toy. To enforce this rule then there will need to be a consequence should the child or children do not follow through with the rule. A) Toys left out when the child is playing with a different toy, will result with that toy and the toy that the child has removed for the rest of the day; but their sibling can play with these as long as the sibling replaces the toy when finished. B) Toys that are fought over will be taken by the parent and then placed out of reach of the children who were fighting, and they will apologize to each other for being unkind. Children who refuse to apologize could result in going into the “think about it chair” (time out) from playing and then will be given a choice to apologize and then play-or to do a chore that is age appropriate.
Parents are not here to make children happy or to be their friend. They have a major task of teaching life skills to their children. This takes effort from the on start but will result in healthier children and parents as they confront life together.
Any issue confronting parents can be managed with this process as parents consider their goals within establishing rules and how to best teach them with consistency. Often it is the consistency of modeling the behavior and reinforcing that behavior over an extended time; which results in change of attitude and behavior. Much too often, parents will try a technique briefly and when the child resists changing then the parent throws the technique out and claims that nothing works. We suggest that either there is a lack of consistency or that the period of time was too brief and encourage that the parent correct those two factors for more efficacy. When this is done, and if the child continues disruptive or defiant behavior, then we encourage parents to seek a professional to assist them and their children.
Heal and Hope Counseling Services, LLC is here to provide that adjunct as we provide parenting and family counseling.