In order to parent effectively, we must detach ourselves from our children’s feelings and endeavor to teach them the skills necessary to excel in life.
The other night, my husband and I found ourselves viewing James Lehman's DVD, Consequences. He is the author of the internationally-acclaimed Total Transformation Program which is nothing less than a game-changer in the challenging field of "parenting." Our eldest, a smart, talented and frequently-mouthy ten-year-old girl, seems to be in the midst of (yet, another) rebellious stage.
Now she's lashing out, years after the rapid, successive arrival of four younger siblings, which by age two had dethroned this only-child princess. And as a result, the bickering, fighting and hostility grows. But frankly, I don’t care about the psychobabble, the “whys” of it all; I do care about the “what is.” The problem is we’ve been getting sucked into her complex and twisted blame-shifting mind games and neglecting to address the prominent issues.
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Upon watching the footage and taking copious notes, as parents, we realized that we’ve been ineffective in our disciplinary approach. Not bad parents, just good parents practicing ineffective parenting.
Good communication skills and parental maturity are critical to do it right. The concept mentioned by Lehman that most resonated with me is the indispensable power of remaining calm and unemotional whilst in the throes of disciplining a child. Because doling out sound discipline requires stoicism, focus, an ability to emotionally detach from the child’s situation---and a plan.
Easier said than done? Of course!
So all we need to do is implement these proven, targeted methods through repetition. And certainly, our kids will provide us with ample opportunities to practice. God bless them.
“Don’t get distracted by your child’s efforts to pick a fight,” Lehman explicitly advises. “You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.” A kid’s defiant attitude and snide remarks are natural and taking them personally accomplishes nothing but diverting both parent and child from the matter at hand.
The goal is to focus on and single-out the overriding problem---the unruly behavior or irresponsible act---and not get sidetracked. And after delivering a directive, don’t expect a “thanks, Mom, I love you.” No (normal) child would respond graciously to a parent’s command. In Lehman’s words, “…that would be unnatural and weird.”
It's key to not get engaged in a power struggle with your child. So yes, it’s OK to tolerate a little reactive eye-rolling and tongue clucking as we reprimand them.
Consequences, according to Lehman, need to be used as currency. To make every experience a learning one, forget all you know about punishment and grounding for weeks on end; that stuff is irrelevant and disjointed, serving little to modify future behavior. Additionally, it only serves to desensitize a kid.
Instead, create task-oriented consequences that help to rectify the problem when the kid finds himself in similar situations. For example, if your teen comes home an hour past curfew without previously asking permission or inquiring while out, an appropriate and relevant consequence is for her to “pay back” the hour by returning home an hour earlier next time she’s out. In the same problem-solving-taking-responsibility-vain, if your kid opens a sassy mouth when caught in a lie, recognize the natural human desire to be pissed off with the person who “discovered” you. To “fix the problem,” encourage your kid to write you a letter of apology for unleashing her wrath on you. In this way, she makes amends for her use of vulgarity, and be sure to also link her misbehavior to a communication-related consequence such no cell phone use for two hours.
Another one of Lehman’s practical tips is to link something your kid likes to use or play with a task that demands responsibility and follow-through. For example, to motivate a lazy tween to do his chores, enforce the idea that his computer-time is a privilege only to be gained upon the completion of unloading the dishwasher or mowing the lawn.
Remember, don’t ask: why didn’t you do your homework or clean your room? Just deliver the consequence like a cop delivers a speeding ticket. Here is your fine. Have a nice day. Then, walk away. Business as usual.
In a nutshell: as modern-day parents, we must keep our heads cool, have an effective plan in mind before any action is to be taken, and we cannot take it personal. The end goal should always be to guide our child into adulthood, inculcating the necessary tools to evolve into self-reliant, accountable and responsible adults. These are skills she will need to survive and thrive in the real world.
And always remember to follow up by noticing, not overly-praising, small improvements in your child’s behaviors and actions.
They want to know we’re really paying attention. To the good stuff, too.