This week, we're continuing to feature more winning entries from our recent contest, "Parenting Mistakes I've Made—and How I'm Going to Fix Them!" Each of these parents offers inspiration, encouragement and good, practical tips for all of us. Congratulations again!
—Elisabeth, EP Editor
"How We Stopped Engaging in Power Struggles"
by Joe and Cathie Locetta
Our Mistake: Our teenage son would sometimes mutter words under his breath at the end of a discussion as he was walking away. Previously, I would take the bait and re-engage in a foolish argument that generally left me feeling frustrated, discouraged and hopeless. My foolish behavior would sometimes include following after him in order to respond.
Corrective Technique: I have learned from the Total Transformation materials and the Parental Support Line that it is better to ignore these utterances and drop them like a lead balloon unless they are abusive. This approach has helped me to remain focused and calm during and after discussions with our son. I sense that this approach has helped our son to take us more seriously. This approach has also increased the peace and harmony in our household.
We appreciate the body of knowledge and experience that you have shared with us and many other parents!
Joe and Cathie: In our time with you on the Parental Support Line, we've seen the great progress you've made with your family! Ignoring those under-the-breath utterances is only one of many big changes you've made. Staying focused on the issue at hand, rather than taking that bait really does increase the peace in yourself, and in your whole family. —Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor
"Letting My Kids Know the Consequences Ahead of Time"
by Amy Becknell
First of all, I made a paradigm shift in my thinking. Instead of fretting over when my kids were going to act out (and who might be watching and evaluating) I began to simply assume that they would, in fact, act out.What was important was how I was going to respond to the bad behavior.When I shifted mentally enough times, with practice, I learned to tune out the negative messages and the curious onlookers and simply deal with the problem.
Secondly, I learned to anticipate a situation, for instance going to the grocery store, where acting out behaviors like running through the store, pulling on each other's clothing and squashing the bread loaves have at least a 50% chance of occurring. In the car on the way to the store I now calmly explain, Kids, you know how to behave in the store. That's what I expect of you. If you behave well, you can watch a movie when we get home. If you behave badly (and I'd list a few crimes) then there will be no movie watching tonight. Instead, try to be as helpful as possible. You can help me bag the vegetables and take turns finding the things on our list. If or when they disregard the guidelines, I stop them firmly and simply say once, You are about to blow it. Shape up and remember the rules. And then if the behavior isn't corrected I tell them, You blew it. No movie tonight. That takes the pressure and temptation off of me to get emotionally involved or try and negotiate with them in public.
On average the response from my kids is positive.Best of all, I get to praise them in the check out aisle and that makes them want to help me put all the food on the counter for the cashier. That makes everyone feel good.
Amy: Letting your kids know what is expected of them ahead of time, being clear with your expectations and consequences, and giving them ideas of what they can do to help themselves follow the rules are all great ideas. You also practice what many people miss, especially as they first start out with these changes redirecting your kids when they start to blow it, rather than getting emotionally involved. Giving your kids an opportunity to improve lets them know you have faith in them, and it puts the power to earn their privileges right back in their hands. —Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor
"No More Whining"
by Greg Froelich
As a father of four boys, life can sometimes get a bit overwhelming. At the end of a long day, I sometimes don't feel like arguing with my kids. We have a rule at our house that if you don't eat your dinner, you don't get dessert. Well, for awhile, I let my kids badger me at dinner saying they didn't like the food or weren't hungry. Then, when dessert came around, instead of getting into an argument and having to stick to the rule, I'd sometimes let it slide and give them dessert anyway. That way I wouldn't have to listen to the whining.
However, I began to notice that more and more the kids were leaving food on their plates and the whining actually got worse. After following the advice of your Empowering Parents newsletters, I decided to reset the guidelines and let everyone know that the rule would be enforced from now on with no exceptions. Sure, it took a few days for them to realize I was serious, but once they realized the rule was solid, they soon either finished their food or they didn't ask for dessert. Now our dinners are much more enjoyable and we can spend time enjoying our food and conversation instead of doing battle! The whining has finally stopped!
Greg: If whining works 1 time out of 5, kids will try whining every time! Staying consistent with your rules and expectations sends a clear message that whining will not get them what they want. Glad to hear mealtime is more peaceful in your household! —Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.