Parenting: Who rules your roost?
When it comes to appropriate discipline for kids, it’s no wonder today’s parents are confused. While it’s a rare mum or dad who isn’t aware that corporal punishment such as smacking is a no-go zone, in times of domestic anarchy, parents can worry whether it’s still OK to send a child to their room, ban them from TV for a week or even show that they’re absolutely furious. “Parents are fearful of taking any action to manage their kids’ behaviour,” family counsellor Karen Phillip, author of Who Runs Your House: The Kids or You? (whorunsyourhouse.com), says. “Mums and dads are inundated with so much information about being a parent that they no longer know what boundaries and rules are OK to impose in their home. It’s not only alright but also vital that parents feel that they can run their own home.” IT’S OK TO SAY “YES” “Yes” is one of the most powerful words, Phillip says. “Saying yes can deflate a situation because it’s a pause word. When a child hears yes, they have to stop to hear what you’re saying yes to.” She provides an example of how “yes” can be used in a traditional “no” situation: “When a child asks for a treat from the shop, you can reply with, ‘Yes, I can hear how much you’d like that treat, however, not right now and, yes, I will think about it.'” Phillip is also a big fan of giving children, even little ones, choices because “99 per cent of the time, if you present it properly, they will choose what you want them to choose”. By “present it properly” she simply means ensuring that when you verbalise the two choices, you list the one you want them to choose second so it remains in their memory. “Giving two choices, [lets] children believe it was their decision and they’ll feel good because they were allowed the opportunity to choose for themselves,” Phillip says. TANTRUM TERRORS When it comes to kids throwing a wobbly, Phillip is firm – never give into their demands and always hold your ground. “If you cave and give them that treat… then you’ve set a precedent and they’ll continue to act like this to get what they want,” she says. While this view is nothing new, she does have what some might consider a controversial way of dealing with tantrums. “Put the child in their room with the door closed… and nothing to play with. If the child continually tries to leave the room, put a lock on the door – yes, this is allowed. This will show that you’re serious and the child will remember this is that punishment for bad behaviour.” This tough approach to emotional responses applies to parents, too – mum and dad shouldn’t behave badly because little kids look to them for tips on how to behave, particularly when it comes to anger management. In an ideal world, she says, parents wouldn’t resort to yelling. But that doesn’t mean mums and dads can’t express anger. “Children need to see their parents get angry because they need to see how their parents manage those feelings and emotions, and they’ll learn from this,” Phillip says. CLEAR BOUNDARIES AND CONSEQUENCES Children need rules and clearly defined boundaries, so they know what’s expected of them, Phillip explains. She encourages parents to talk through the rules as a family so they can ensure their offspring, no matter what age they are, understand what the rule means in their terms. She breaks this advice down, providing an example of how to give out fully understandable instructions – and it seems that not skimping on words is key: “Rather than asking them to tidy their room, which could be open to interpretation, ask them ‘Would you please pick up all your toys and put them in the correct containers, then place them on the shelf.'” KIDS IN CONTROL Last year, German author Jochen Metzger and his wife, Helga, conducted a four-week experiment to see what would happen if kids ran the home. Metzger wrote about their role-reversal in his book The Kids Are In Charge, revealing that handing over domestic power to their kids, Lara, 13, and Jonny, 10, resulted in four hungry and difficult weeks. “We unquestioningly took orders from our children,” he told a German news site. “We gave them absolute control of the family budget.” The experiment was one long humiliation for the parents, who had to ask for pocket money, get permission to stay up late, and learn to accept “No” from the family rulers, without question. The kids also struggled – mainly with balancing the family budget and fitting in studies with unrestricted computer gaming time.