Anger at the Boiling Point? How to Take Back Control This Summer!
"I was looking forward to summer, but it's been a nightmare," said an exhausted mom I talked to recently. "The kids make messes around the house, play video games and fight all day. My 16-year-old is defying me at every turn and ignores me when I give her consequences. I'm at my boiling point every day-and getting tired of hearing myself scream at them. Can I get a do-over on summer?!"
Letting your children know what is expected of them and holding them accountable actually puts them at ease (even though they will probably never admit it!) because they'll know what to expect from you.
While we'd all like a do-over once in a while, you can do the next best thing take back control of your summer and take charge with your kids. You can actually take the first step right now by making up your mind that you want to do so. In the Total Transformation program, James Lehman talks about importance of "Realization"-recognizing and admitting that what you're doing isn't working right now and that you need to try something different.
The next step is deciding what specific problems you want to focus on. On the Parental Support Line, we always recommend coming up with a plan for change and then working on just one or two key issues at a time before moving on to the next problem area. With a little work and planning-and a commitment to regaining your sanity-you can get your summer back.
Here are 5 tips on how to get your authority back in your household as a parent and get your kids to listen and comply with requests-even if you didn't start the summer off on the right foot.
It's going to be helpful to look at what privileges your child really values-and that you have complete control over-and focus on those, as Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker Cordner advise in their program for ODD kids. If you can't control the video game access 100%, then don't use it as a consequence-it won't work. Kids who take off whenever they want to and ignore everything you say are going to try to find every way possible around your limits and consequences, so focusing on what you can control is important, whether it be the car, their cell phone, giving them money for things, or canceling the cable or internet (yes, you may have to make some sacrifices if you can't find anything else you have control over).
Also, in the Total Focus program for kids with ADHD, Dr. Robert Myers suggests making an "I'm bored" collage that includes visual cues of all the things your child can do at home on their own if they are bored. You can direct them to look at this in those moments when they come to you whining about having nothing to do. Being out and about all day every day just isn't likely, and so this will help for those times at home in between outings. And, while it's your job to provide some options, remember that it's not your job to entertain your child every second of every day.
If you're a working parent, first let me say that summer can be very tough, especially if you have adolescents at home during the day. It's difficult to get your children involved with home or family projects or to structure their time in any way when you're not there. It's not uncommon for parents to get countless phone calls or texts during the work day from their feuding children who just can't seem to get along for five seconds. You begin to dread coming home after work only to hear each of your kids rant and complain about what the other one did or said. In cases like this, it's vital to hold both children accountable. As the old saying goes, "it takes two to tango." Talk with your children about your expectations and what they can do to stay busy, as well as how to cope if their sibling starts to push their buttons. What can they do to avoid or get out of an argument? Where can they go if they need a break?
Once you've clarified your expectations and provided your children with some skills to solve their problems, it's important that you hold them both accountable as well. Time and task-oriented consequences work very well here. If your kids aren't able to avoid conflicts with each other, perhaps they lose a privilege until they can go a day without fighting. If you try this and it doesn't seem to help, then it might be the case that staying home without a parent is something at least one of your children isn't ready for. If you decide this is the case, then you might want to seek out some supports in your community, whether it's a day camp program at a rec center or local church, or another parent or relative.
Letting your children know what is expected of them and holding them accountable actually puts them at ease (even though they will probably never admit it!) because they'll know what to expect from you. Showing them that you'll follow through will also help them learn to respect your boundaries over time. When you include structured recreation in your routine, whether it's community events, family projects, or volunteering, you will not only add more fun to your summer, but offer your child opportunities to learn and grow as well.
Also, make sure you have support for yourself in the form of your mate, a trusted family member or a friend who you can laugh with or blow off steam. We all need time to ourselves, and finding someone to take your kids and give you a day off every so often is also invaluable! Just remember to stay calm, stick to your plan, and try to take some time for yourself each day to do something that helps you relax.
by Sara A. Bean, M.Ed.