Post by Theresa K. Cooke MA, LMSW, LLP
Enforcing consequences for your child’s behavior is a challenging yet necessary task.
Here are 10 ways you can assert and establish parental control:
1. Be consistent
Children need to trust that what you say is what you will do. This builds a sense of security and predictability so they are able to parent themselves in your absence. Realistic and consistent consequences provide them with the opportunity to build life skills that mimic the real world. Children will try almost anything to get their way whether it is guilt, manipulation or defiance. They are testing you to keep your authority. They may appear to want their way, but what they want even more is for you to stay consistent.
2. The crime fits the punishment
In other words, the violation of the rule should be consistent with the rule. For example, if the child does not return the car by curfew, then they lose the privilege of driving to social and elective activities and can only drive to obligations such as a job for a period of time specified up front. It would be inappropriate to take their phone away or have them do extra chores for this violation.
3. Be respectful
If you want your children to respect you, then respect them. Listen to their concerns, needs and their points of view. However, there is a limit – when they are disrespecting you by arguing with you or manipulating, you need to step in. Model healthy discussion and listening skills. Your rules and consequences can be discussed with your child, but your child needs to understand it is you who has the right to change, adjust or decline suggestions.
4. Remain Calm
Avoid anger. Anger is a cover for frustration and a feeling of being out of control. It also only leads to negative responses from your child. Anger also diverts you from the priority of the issues. It is not healthy role modeling. If you have to take a break, explain to the child that you will have to think about what just happened, and that you will get back to them later. Take the opportunity to avoid anger and to be productive at a later time. Anger should not be tolerated by your child either, and its presence should be a trigger to stop the discussion until emotions are under control. Otherwise, it will lead to saying something you don’t mean or that you can’t follow through on.
5. Avoid the use of guilt
Using reason and logic may not give you the immediate response that you need at the time, but it will provide and model tools your child can use in real life. Guilt may immediately produce a change in behavior, especially if it is mixed with threats. In the long run, this behavior change is only temporary, however, and the child will soon realize they can use this against you to get what they want, resulting in manipulative behavior and loss of parental control.
6. Parents are not friends
Children do not need you as a friend – they need you as a parent. As much as it is tempting to be your child’s “friend” as he/she enters adolescence, children do not respect a parent that acts like a teenager. They need you to provide them with the security, safety, discipline, and guidance of a parent. That does mean you can’t have fun times with your child, it just means you need to always know your place as a parent.
7. Use humor
Most often discipline and parenting is not a laughing matter. However, there is humor in almost all things if you look for it. As a parent, you have more of an ability to look at the bigger picture and know that this is not the “end of the world”. Using humor can lighten up the situation and bring it back into focus. It also lightens the feelings of anger that can inhibit communication.
8. Allow your child to fail
It is from failure that we learn our greatest lessons… as long as your child is under your care, you have the authority to protect them. Give them opportunities that are safe to explore. If they succeed, they build self-confidence. If they fail, they build character and learn to try again. If you micromanage them, you prevent these opportunities and they miss out on real-life consequences to teach them the life skills of success.
9. Discipline with love
It is important that your child understands the source of your disapproval is their choice in violating the rules, rather than your disappointment in them. They need to know you love them and that your primary goal is to prepare them for life. Having clear, consistent, logical and real-life relating rules and consequences is a way for you to show you care and love your child enough to provide them with the skills to succeed as an adult.
10. Age and Logic
The age of your child is important to take into consideration so you can understand their development stage and ability to achieve tasks. However, there are certain life skills, beliefs, and expectations you want your child to learn, no matter the age. Allowing the child to act out because they are 2 or 15 years old does not consistently teach them the life skills of managing their emotions and impulses, or understanding your expectations of them. No matter the age, children should be expected to behave within the guidelines you provide them and inappropriate behavior is attached to a consequence. Logical guidelines and consequences should be applied to fit their age and development.