For most parents, it can often feel as though their children are kings of the domestic domain. But this is a feeling that needs to change, says expert family counsellor and therapist Karen Phillip.
Phillip, a mother of three, believes that in order for parents to reclaim control they need to be able to redirect their child’s behaviour by establishing clear boundaries.
“Parents often have problems with their children and ask for my advice in regards to why their child behaves so well at school but horribly at home,” explains Phillip.
“I always tell them that it’s important to influence and guide a child’s behaviour. It is the manner in which we guide them to settle, how we inform them of their boundaries and how the children adapt quickly to positive guidance.”
Encouraging positive habits in the first place, rather than trying to reverse actions once negative behaviour has already begun, is the key: “When the children are small, the problems are smaller; however, left unattended when the kids grow up, the problems are bigger,” Phillip, who has over 20 years experience in the field, stresses.
Here are her top five tips to making family life a little more enjoyable for both parents and children:
1. Say yes in a way to still get what you want but to reinforce positive behaviour
Never underestimate the power of this little word to your parenting advantage.
“When a child hears ‘yes’, they have to stop to hear what you are saying yes to.” explains Phillip. However, she cautions, we should be careful of when we use this word: “We should not say yes to things we do not agree with or do not want to give our children.” Instead ‘yes’ should be used to help appease children’s demands without giving in to them: “When they ask, for a treat from the shop you can reply with “Yes, I can hear how much you would like that treat now, however, not right now, and, yes, I will think about it for you.”
2. Give your child two choices to give them the feeling that they have control of their life
The idea that you are giving children a choice in certain scenarios can make them feel empowered, even when in fact you are guiding their decision. For example: “You can choose not to eat your lunch and go into your room without lunch or playing outside OR you can eat your lunch now and then go outside to play. It doesn’t actually bother me which one you choose sweetie. What do you choose?” The trick to getting them to take to your decision lies in placing your desired option last – so that it remains in their mind.
3. How to stop and control tantrums
Always hold your ground and never give in to their demands no matter what, says Phillip. Caving in will only set precedence for future bad behaviour. If you begin to sense that a tantrum is approaching you should immediately warn the child that if they continue along this path there will be consequences – and STICK to what those are.
Phillip also advises that sending children to their room with not toys or distractions is a suitable punishment and important to sending your child a clear message that you are serious about the consequences of bad behaviour.
4. Children model behaviour so parents need to be aware of their own conduct
How a parent deals with anger and manages strong feelings and emotions is an important lesson for younger onlookers. The general rule says Phillip, is: “never yell at a child for yelling, never smack a child for hitting and never bite a child for biting”. Children are strongly influenced by their environment and will model their behaviour on what they see. This also applies to the relationship between parents and the interaction that the children witness.
5. Ensure you explain clearly and simply to your children the rules, boundaries and consequences
Children need to have a clear understanding of the instructions you set for them. Once you set a rule than ask the child what they understand the rule to mean to them. Older children can also be asked whether or not they feel their rule is fair. Always be specific with your instructions; Phillip gives this example: rather than saying “tidy up your room” try “Would you please pick up all your toys and put them in the correct containers, then place them on the shelf.”