Saturday, June 16

Say It Again, Sam

Sometimes parents just say the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and wonder why kids just don't listen, never learn, or wait until the yelling starts.  It's a whole pattern and it's not all their fault.  Break the cycle, after the jump.
      Here's the thing, children learn.  Because children learn, they way you behave is the way they behave-- for better or for worse.  This means that if you constantly lose your tempter and scream at your kids . . . your kids will not learn to cope with their own frustration and will fire their rage right back at you.  This means that if you are constantly running around like a chicken with your head cut off, your children will learn hyperactivity and poor focus.  To be clear, not everything is learned and of course there are exceptions to the rule.  Here's my point; parents are usually the key to resolving the issues they bring kids to therapy for.  When parents are willing to engage in treatment, it isn't an issue and we can work together to find solutions.  Unfortunately, I can't wave a magic wand and "fix" kids.  When a child is dropped off and the family disengages, feeling like they have done their part by thrusting the kid into my care, little usually changes.     I smash this gripe into your face for the following reason: you are sick of repeating yourself with your kids.  Most of the time, this is a very easy fix.  Don't repeat yourself.  I know, so simple, right!?  Let me run this by you.
YOU:  Sally, please stop hitting your sister [see also: please clean your room/pick up your shoes/turn off the tv/don't use that language/do your homework/get ready for school/eat your vegetables/etc.]
Sally continues to hit her sister.
YOU:  Sally, I said stop hitting your sister.
Sally gives you a blank stare, goes back to hitting her sister.
YOU: Sally, stop hitting your sister.
YOU: Sally, stop hitting your sister, now.
Sally stops for half a second, continues hitting her sister.
YOU: SALLY!  Stop hitting your sister, NOW!
Sally appears to be getting annoyed that you keep interrupting her daily smackdown against her sister.
     It is at this time Sally actually stops hitting her sister and complies with your request, thank god.  But this situation illustrates that you spend far too much energy trying to get Sally to stop doing something she shouldn't have started doing in the first place and more importantly, Sally has learned that she doesn't have to listen to you until you have asked her for the sixth time.  The sixth time is when you mean business.  That is a typical cycle. Don't just keep dooming you and Sally.
     Give your kids an instruction (clearly and specifically, "stop hitting your sister" not "stop being bad").  If they don't comply or start to comply immediately, give them a warning with their consequence (again, clearly, "you need to do your homework now or you won't get to watch tv tonight" or "stop hitting your sister now or you will have to vacuum the house").  When the kid does what you asked, great.  Tell them thanks!  If the kid doesn't comply, follow through on your consequence and watching the tantrum start.  Let the kid fail and serve their time.  Don't let them talk you out of it.  Even if they start their homework the moment you put the vacuum in their hand, they still have to vacuum the house, because they didn't listen the first time.  It's that simple.  The temper tantrum isn't always simple, but suck it up.
     Parenting is an investment.  Your kid can throw a world class temper tantrum and you have to suck it up.  Because a handful of tantrums when you can make the kid sit in a chair while you go to your zen place, is infinitely better than saying everything six times.  Think about how much of your day is spent saying things six times; get up6, get dressed6, brush your teeth6, get your backpack6, eat your breakfast6, eat all your breakfast6, stop yelling6, get your shoes on6, put your shoes away6, come sit for dinner6, turn off the tv6, finish your homework6, don’t draw on the wall6, get in the bath6, brush your teeth6, get in your pj’s6, put your clothes in the laundry6, turn off the light6, go to sleep6.  It's a much better investment to sit through a tantrum now and then.  Notice how I said sit in a chair?  That's important, because if your kid has a sweet, fun filled room with games, toys, tv, video games, etc . . . not much of a punishment when you say GO TO FUN PALACE FOR YOUR CRIMES!
     Families live in cycles, if the one you are in isn't working . . . pick a new cycle to save you time, energy, and keep a good mood in the house.  Don't say it again, Sam.  Say it once, give a warning, get happy (or give a consequence).  Consequences may be a topic for another day.  Remember to act in the way you expect your kids to.  Don't yell at your kids, if you don't want to be yelled at.  Even though you learned it in Kindergarten, the Golden Rule still applies, people.