Byline: Dr Shelja Sen
Set your kids on the path to good and responsible behaviour with these simple strategies.
Children thrive in homes where there are clear, non-threatening boundaries, which help build discipline, a sense of responsibility and self control. It could range from doing homework, establishing bedtimes, restricting screen time to taking a stand on abusive language, use of alcohol or drugs or dealing with aggression. In fact, research shows that parents need to set down ground rules and consistently enforce them. A research by psychologists Linda Caldwell and Nancy Darling indicates that giving in to your child's every whim and fancy can lead to a generation of "whiners and beggars". According to their famous Mod Squad study, permissive parents do not make successful parents!Wondering where to draw the line? Here's help.
1. Clear rules work when they are not too many of them. I would suggest that at a time there should not be more than 3 rules that children are learning to follow. Too many rules will only confuse them and make them feel resentful.
2. There could be flexibility in your boundaries as far as the behaviour is concerned. I call this the 'traffic light approach'. Red light is for behaviours which need a zero tolerance approach which could range from violence, abusive language or bullying. Yellow light could be for behaviours the child is still learning to master like sitting down for homework, packing her school bag at night, and so on. Green light is for behaviours that are alright with you or the ones that are not top priority for you now.
3. It is most important that you are convinced yourself before you insist on that boundary. If you think it is alright for your child to hit the domestic help when he is angry then your "don't hit her, it is a wrong thing to do" will be water off duck's back. You need to be convinced yourself and your "No" needs to convey your conviction. Kids have very sensitive radars to check if you really mean business or you will allow leeway.
4. Empathise with their discomfort, anger and annoyance at these boundaries. I find it's best not to get into long arguments or discussions around these rules. I have found that children do listen and respond positively if you tell them, "I know you are upset but this is something I have to do as your mother as it is my responsibility." It sends the message across that you love them enough to lay tough rules.
5. Consistency is extremely important. So if you have established a rule of "no hitting" then you cannot excuse your child hitting out at times as "he is just tired and sleepy right now." So if you have made a red- light rule make sure it is reinforced every time it is broken to avoid confusion and chaos.
6. The key to enforcing boundaries is to be united in one's parenting approach. If the mother has made it very clear to the children that they cannot watch TV on weekdays, but the father brushes it off as being "too harsh," then chances are that the children will make use of that divided stand (they are experts on this) and wriggle their way through the cracks to do what they want.
7. Try the open-discussion strategy, especially with the slightly older kids. "We are all getting late every morning for our school bus and work. So maybe we need to sit down and have a clear idea on what time all of us need to get up every morning. Any ideas?" Rules established like this are obviously most successful as everybody carries a sense of ownership and nobody feels blamed.
8. Finally, I personally do find that when I have to enforce a rule, I make sure I have notched up my "love deposits" in my children's emotional bank account so that when the rule is spelt out, they take it easily in their stride. If I were to do it when my interaction with them is a little strained then chances are high that they would fight it tooth and nail.
Reproduced From Prevention. 2014. LMIL. All rights reserved.