Parenting children is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, but sometimes it’s just exhausting and totally frustrating. How do you get your child to cooperate? Brush her teeth at night? And basically just listen to you? It’s not easy. But there are some simple steps that will help you through this parenting maze and will result in keeping you sane and teaching your child the rules without yelling, screaming, and tearing your hair out.
Here are three words to remember: calm, clear, consistent.
Stay calm. Easier said than done. This doesn’t mean get all zen-like. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to be calm. If your four-year-old is screaming that he won’t put his socks on and you have to get him to preschool, screaming back at him usually doesn’t help. If you’re both screaming at each other, the socks may get on, but how do you feel and what are you modeling for your child? Next time, take a deep breath. Step out of the room and take a minute to regain yourself. Remind yourself that you’re the parent. You’re in charge. Try not to get tangled in his tantrum.
Next, be clear. Be very clear. State clearly and firmly (without yelling) what you need your child to do. Look at your child at her level. That means getting down on your knees and looking at her in her eyes. Tell her to look at you, too. Now state clearly and firmly, “You need to brush your teeth now.” Don’t tell her why at this point. You’ve probably told her why a million times before. She knows she brushes her teeth at night. Just be clear and firm with the direction—you’ll be happy to help, if needed, but this must be done now. Sometimes we do a disservice to our kids by over processing everything. It’s nice to include them in the conversation and decision-making process, but parents need to remember that too much talking is just overloading them and distracting from the task at hand: brushing teeth. Simple, clear, and firm direction and tone work best.
Now consistency. This is the challenging one. Many parents have a hard time maintaining consistency because of schedules, work, or perhaps because their just plain tired. But providing a consistent environment for your child is one of the most important things you can do for your child. It helps them feel safe, loved, and cared for. Consistency comes from having a basic routine and familiar outcome. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a rigid schedule that you can’t vary from. It means that you—the parent—will be consistent with the expectations of your child and the outcomes. You must set realistic goals for your child and follow-through with consequences.
For instance, your five-year-old needs to get dressed, brush his teeth, and get into bed. But he’s jumping up and down on the bed and refuses to put his pajamas on? It’s late, you’re tired, and you have a bunch of things to do before you go to bed yourself. But if you’ve set the guidelines ahead of time, informing him that he will not have story time if he doesn’t put his PJs on and follow through on this, then he’ll know. So with a calm, clear reminder, “Put your pajamas on now or no stories tonight,” he’ll most likely do it.
The easiest way to achieve these goals is to start them early, when your child is very young. But if you’ve tried other methods and they’re not working, give these a try. You can implement them at any point. Just be clear about what you want from your child, be consistent with the consequence, and try to be calm and not get caught in your child’s tantrum. It can be quite challenging at times. Especially when you’re busy or distracted. But children actually crave direction and consistency. You’ll see that your child will thrive in a consistent and compassionate home. And an added benefit, the yelling should decrease!