A Formula for Family Harmony
This is the truth about most kids: Just like you, they want to be understood. On top of that, kids have a heightened sense of fairness. (I’m sure you know this! “That’s not fair” tends to reverberate around many homes). Yet, parents often call and tell me that their kids won’t follow the rules and that their kids don’t respect them.
The rules are presented as CONTROLS
You don’t seem to have any rules, and
You make rules and then don’t follow through
Let me tell you about Sally, George, and 16 year old Ashley. Sally called me because her daughter, Ashley, was rude and bullied both parents. She admitted that she and George were also rude to Ashley. Ashley told me that she felt her parents were mean and punishing and that they didn’t really care about her.
I introduced them to a 6-step process that worked for them and will work for most families, and I want to share it with you:
1. With your spouse or parenting partner make a list of all the rules you could possibly want to have, even the foolish ones, like bowing to you whenever you enter a room 🙂 The point at this stage is to do a brain dump and release pent-up frustrations in a humorous way. It’s just between you and your parenting partner, so LET LOOSE!
2. Take time to limit your rules to the most important ones. Remember that if you have teens, focus on health and safety, not on how they’re ruining their futures by not studying. As a rule of thumb, ages 6 – 8 can have 5 rules; ages 9 – end of elementary school can have 7; teens can have 10. YOU need to be able to come up with parallel rules for yourself. THIS IS KEY. Obviously they won’t be exactly the same but they should be similar.
3. Present them as ways to make family life smoother for everyone since things will be clearer and there won’t be a need to fight because everything’s laid out. If you have older kids, let them give feedback and, if you disagree, tell them, “I’m not sure if I’ll agree, but I promise to give your ideas serious thought” And then follow through on that promise – another key point. (Sometimes you may need other rules or a schedule for things like computer or TV time. That’s okay).
4. Come up with consequences. With older kids, negotiate a bit AND let them come up with consequences for you! Also negotiable.
5. Post everything, even in several places, as a constant reminder.
6. YOU MUST FOLLOW-THROUGH otherwise, you will be seen as weak and uncaring (yes!) and kids will push OR ignore you until you step up and be the parent.
Here’s how this worked with Sally, George, and Ashley:
The parents, Sally and George, came up with rules for Ashley. When they presented them, she said “Okay”. Just like that! She didn’t even care to negotiate!
Ashley pointed out that if she had consequences that inconvenienced her, her parents should have some that inconvenienced them.
Here are the main rules:
Ashley has to get at least a D in all her classes or she can’t go out with friends until her grades are raised.
She has to be in bed, no technology, lights out, by 11:00 pm.
She has to tell her parents who she’s spending time with and she has to give them the friend’s parents’ phone number.
Everybody has to be nice to each other, which we delineated. Things like: no name calling, no yelling, no back talk.
Here are the consequences (some people don’t like the word “consequence”. You can call them whatever you want but the idea is that this is the follow-through when expected behaviors aren’t demonstrated or are ignored):
Ashley: has to do something to help her mother (whatever the mother asks)
Sally: can’t text or call Ashley when Ashley’s out with friends
George: has to vacuum
AND… everyone gets 5 minutes “grace period” to cool down and make a sincere apology. If they apologize, then there’s no consequence.
This may seem ridiculously simple but it is working for this family that has been full of anger and resentment towards each other. In fact, the person who’s having the most trouble is George (he refuses to vacuum), and the person that’s doing the best with these new rules is ASHLEY!
Try it and see what happens!
Just scroll down and share your thoughts in the comments section. I love, love, love hearing from you.
Copyright 2016 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved
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