I’ve got news for you. Kids are unionized, and they’ve got a game plan to drive you bonkers. But you don’t have to let them call the shots. This five-day strategy is guaranteed to work, every time. Even better, anyone can do it.
Day 1: Monday
Why do children do what they do— and continue to do it? Because they’ve gotten away with it. Who’s really in charge of your family— you or your child?
Let’s say you pick Matthew up from preschool and all he does is argue with you. He delivers the kicker as you enter the driveway: “I hate you!”
Instead of giving Matthew a prompt piece of your mind, you simply say “No” when he asks for the milk and cookies he always gets after school. You turn your back and walk away. When he pursues you like an NFL quarterback, scrambling to get to the goal and a little panicked, you say, “No, because I don’t like the way you talked to me in the car.”
“I’m sorry, Mommy!” Matthew cries, grabbing your leg. He is part of the ankle-biter battalion after all.
You accept your son’s apology, hug him and assure him of your love. But, here’s the catch, you don’t give in to his teary baby blues or his follow-up plea, “Can I have my milk and cookies now?”
“Honey, I told you no,” you reply. “We’re not going to have milk and cookies today.” And you stick with it.
Will Matthew think before the next time he disses you? You bet. Children are masters at manipulation. Don’t think they aren’t manipulating you.
The bottom line: Say it once, turn your back and walk away.
Day 2: Tuesday
Kids are kids. They’ll say and do the dumbest, most embarrassing things. But there’s a difference between immaturity and attitude, such as back-talking, eye-rolling and taking the “oh, yeah?” stance.
The key to changing your child’s attitude, behavior and character is changing your attitude, behavior and character. If you ask your daughter to take out the garbage and she says “I’m busy” or “I don’t want to,” don’t get angry. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t ask again. Just expect your child to do what you say.
If she doesn’t? Get a sibling, neighbor, even yourself, to do the job. Pay that person out of your daughter’s next allowance. The point is, someone else is doing the work your daughter should be doing.
When your daughter prompts to go to the mall later that night, your response? “We’re not going.”
“But Mo-om, you said you’d take me.”
“I don’t feel like taking you shopping,” you say. Then you turn and walk away.
No guilt. No anger. No explanation. You’re calm and in control. Everything stops in your daughter’s life until the task of taking out the garbage is completed.
The bottom line: Let reality be the teacher. Learn to respond rather than react. Attitude, behavior and character are caught, not taught. Recognize what your kids are catching from you.
Day 3: Wednesday
Look down the road. Who do you want your child to be? Business consultant Stephen Covey says if you want something, start with that end in mind. If you want your child to be kind, then teach kindness. If you want your child to be responsible, teach responsibility. If you want your child to spend time with you in adolescence and young adulthood, spend time with your child now.
What your child wants most is a relationship with you. Are you a permissive parent, snow-plowing your child’s roads in life? Are you authoritarian, barking orders to show you’re in charge? Or are you authoritative, providing age-appropriate decision-making opportunities and holding your child accountable?
The bottom line: Ask yourself, what kind of parent am I? How does that parenting style influence my child? How can I strengthen the relationship?
Your children need to know you are on their team. If you deem the parent-child relationship your top priority, making everything else come second, you’ll never go wrong.
Day 4: Thursday
Let’s debunk a major myth right now. It’s not your job, as a parent, to make your child “happy.” Feeling good is a temporary thing. Whereas a child can feel good about getting a toy he wants, true self-worth is established when he works hard for a toy, truly earning that toy and calling it his own. True self-worth is when your child thinks: I did that myself. Wow. This is how it works.
Every child longs for acceptance— your unconditional love and approval. Every child needs to belong somewhere. Will he belong in your home or in his peer group?
Every child also needs to feel competent to complete a task. Doing things your child should be doing is not respectful of him. Rather, it is respectful to realize “the best” differs based on the activity, your child’s age and his specific talents.
The bottom line: How are you building the pillars of self-esteem with acceptance, a sense of belonging and competence in your child? Every child lives up to the expectations a parent has for him. Why not expect the best?
Day 5: Friday
Today you pull your game plan together. Your mantra: “I can’t wait for that kid to misbehave, because I’m ready!” Remember to make no warnings, no threats, no explanations. Have only action and follow-through. There’s no backing down, no caving in. You’re not a spineless jellyfish; you are a parent. Your child needs to know you mean business. Just realize that when you apply these principles, his behavior may initially get worse.
It’s a little like hooking a fish. That fish will try to throw the hook out of its mouth by thrashing back and forth. In order to land that fish, you’ve got to keep tension on the line. Otherwise that fish has the opportunity to get off the line, and it’ll be tough to catch that fish again. The good news? If your child comes thrashing out of the water, you’ll know you’re on the right track.
The bottom line: To succeed, be 100 percent consistent in your behavior. Follow through on what you say you will do— and respond, don’t react.
Follow these principles, and I guarantee you a new kid by Friday.