Kids who don’t listen, respond, or obey–this behavior is not at all unusual; every parent faces it and each deals with it in their own way. Many parents respond in frustration and anger. Many threaten, yell or bribe. Most will do whatever it takes in the moment to remedy the situation and restore peace in the home, even if only offers temporary relief.
Perhaps the biggest encouragement I can give when you face the challenges your children throw at you is this: remember that parenting is not an event; it is a process. Your children will not grow up to be successful, strong, and compassionate because of one conversation you have or one consequence they suffer.
They will grow up to be successful, strong and compassionate because of many many conversations, many many consequences, and much patience and grace on your part. When you look at parenting as a process and not an event where your child changes their behavior immediately and does a 180, you will understand how important it is for you to be persistent and patient with the progress.
Next time your child does not cooperate and challenges you, try asking yourself a few questions as you look at the long-term effects of your parenting efforts:
What does my child not see and how can I help them see it?
Instead of reacting in anger, stop and think through the situation. Give yourself a time-out if you have to. Your child is not acting this way because they are setting out to ruin your day. They are acting that way because there’s something they are not clearly seeing or understanding.
For example: your child refuses to stop playing video games and do their homework. Now, you can pick the low-hanging fruit here by focusing on their disobedience and punish them for it, OR you can ask yourself the questions What does my child not see and how can I help them see it?
In this case, the child may not be seeing the need to do their homework or the need to make good use of their time. Your job is not simply to get them to obey, but to help them understand why doing their homework is important.
Where does my child need to admit responsibility for his words or actions and how can I help them do that?
Kids play the blame game all the time and it’s a game they will continue to play when they grow up unless they are taught the importance of owning responsibility for their behavior.
Let’s say your kids are fighting in the other room, maybe just roughhousing, or maybe they are really getting into it. Either way, you hear the noise and just before you get there to see what’s going on, you hear a crash. A lamp is knocked over and broken and you walk in the room, too late to see what happened.
Of course, no one wants to admit it was their fault. Each is quick to blame the other because they don’t want to get into trouble. Your job is not to be an investigator to figure out what happened, but as an informer to help them understand the broader lesson–the importance of not blaming and admitting responsibility for something they have done. This requires patience, taking the time to have a conversation and your explanation of the importance of accepting responsibility.
What is the most important thing my child needs to learn in this situation and how can I help them learn it?
If neither of those two questions seem to fit the situation you are facing with your child, then take a broader approach and ask yourself, exactly what does my child need to learn in this situation? What would you like them to learn? What will help them grow in character? What will prepare them for adulthood?
And then, what is the best way for you to help them learn it? My guess is that it’s not by yelling, threatening, or bribing, but by thoughtful conversations with them and letting them experience natural consequences of their behavior.
The problem with parenting…
The problem with asking all of these questions as you parent is this: it takes time, energy, and patience–three things that many parents often lack.
The problem with parenting is that if it is to be done correctly–meaning it’s done with long-term effects in mind, not short-term bandaids–it is exhausting work. And that’s what keeps many parents from doing it the right way. They are too tired and just look for easy fixes.
If you find yourself in that situation, it’s time to recognize that your parenting strategy needs a mindset shift, from just being a problem solver to being a parent who is willing to invest in the process of raising children.
If you would like to talk with someone about how you can apply these 3 questions to your parenting, schedule a free introductory coaching conversation here.