Stop Battling and Start Enjoying Your Child
Kids can be very skilled at pushing our buttons and pulling us into battle. With all the demands of raising a family and working, parents are often caught off guard during tired and stressed moments, and that's when they are pulled into power struggles! With a little preparation and insight, parents can derail even the most tempting battle!
Most important is that you keep yourself in control. Many things happen when parents lose their cools. First, judgment and decision making is impaired when parents become too angry. You may find yourself behaving in ways that make the situation worse such as yelling at your kids, giving them unreasonable consequences, or escalating the arguments. When you become more angry and out-of-control, your kids do too. So, remember that it's a great idea to take a time-out yourself. Let your kids know that you need some time before discussing the situation or setting consequences. Go into another room and do some deep breathing, stretching, or go outside for a short walk if your kids are old enough to be left for a few minutes. Take a look on our article about Stress for some additional hints.
When you are calm, your kids won't "win". If they know what button to push and are successful, they have won the game. Throw them a curve ball and stay calm...win the game yourself. In other words, maintain control by remaining calm. When your kids are out-of-control, they may be asking for some control. They are pushing you to set limits as they are still learning how to set limits for themselves. When you get too angry, you will teach them that dealing with problems requires becoming angry and out-of-control.
Next, if your children are frequently out-of-control due to tempers flaring, use time-outs to help them regain control.
Time-outs will also teach your kids how to take care of themselves when they are too angry to problem solve. Time-outs will give them time to cool down before rejoining the family. Check out our article on Effective Time-Outs.
Don't forget to pick your battles. Kids give parents many opportunities to battle every day. You may want to keep a journal of what types of behaviors push your buttons and what you battle over. If you find that you are battling daily about what your kids are wearing to school, for example, you may need to reevaluate the importance of that battle. But, if your child is hitting his sibling, that's a behavior that needs to stop.
Make sure that you have set clear consequences for behavior in your home.
Your kids also need to be clear on their consequences so they can make appropriate choices for their behavior. You can involve your kids in this process. Sit down with them, and list the behaviors that are absolutely not o.k. in your home. For instance, hitting a sibling, jumping on a couch, swearing, yelling, etc. Then, list a consequence for that behavior. If your kids are old enough, they can help decide on the consequence. List these consequences on paper, and put them up in a visible spot. Then when you are dealing with the behavior, give your children one warning, and if they don't stop the behavior, give them the consequence. Be clear and consistent.
You can also try using behavior charts to reward positive behavior. Take one or two behaviors at a time and work on them until they are under control. The rewards will depend on the ages of your kids. If your kids are older, they can have a weekly reward. Don't expect perfection. If they mark their charts 4 days out of 7, they can get a reward. You can increase the number of days as they make better choices with their behavior. We have a list of rewards for appropriate ages on this page. If your kids are younger, they may need a daily reward to reinforce positive behavior. If you haven't used behavior charts before, look at our page on Using Behavior Charts.
Finally, don't forget to catch your kids being good! People respond to positive feedback. Think about yourself. When someone complements your work, doesn't it give you motivation to continue doing a good job? Your kids need to hear positive words too. It will motivate them! Check out our 75 Ways To Say Good Job. You may have to look hard for the positives if you are in a negative cycle, but they are there!