Do you ever feel like you are in a battle with your kids? From toddler to teenager there are many times when you may feel like your house is an all out war zone. If we can consistently apply today’s principle, we can change this trend!
The principle sounds simple: “Put the tension where it belongs,” but it is extremely powerful. Here is a recent example from our house.
A coat is left in the living room that belongs hung up in the entryway. Our kids get $2 per week for allowance and if they leave a coat out, they are charged 25 cents. We see the coat, we mark on the dry erase board on the fridge (if you don’t have one, get one) the child’s name and “-25 cents” and we put a post-it note on the coat laying on the floor that also says “-25 cents” and we don’t say a word. When the note is discovered, she tries to ask for an exception. I simply say, “The rule is: when a coat is left out, it is minus 25 cents.” I don’t lecture or scold or make any other comment. There is no arguing, no fighting, no bickering. The consequences speak for themselves. I am on her side, I don’t want her to loose any allowance, the tension is not between me and her, it is between her and the temptation to drop the coat where it doesn’t belong. I want her to win. I am using a logical consequence as a teaching tool.
Let’s say the rule for your teen is to leave a note if he goes somewhere after school. He forgets. Let’s say the consequence for forgetting is not going out for the next two days. He comes home and you say very simply, with no emotion, no anger, no tension, “You didn’t leave a note as to where you were going, so, no going out for the next two days.” The battle is on, but it is NOT between you and him. You can honestly say, “I want you to be able to go to your friends house every day, but you didn’t leave a note, so you can’t go for the next two days.” Once you have explained this, there is no need to engage in an argument … and don’t let him draw you into an argument. “It’s not fair! You don’t understand! You can’t do that! I can’t miss the party! You hate me!” or worse. Don’t be drawn into the battle. You can say with calmness and sincerity, “I really think after these two days, you won’t forget to leave a note. That’s what I’m hoping for.” After that, you can be completely silent and walk away. He may follow you around the house hounding you. Don’t lecture, don’t yell, don’t get upset. Your self control will be frustrating to him at first, but it is an example to him in the long run. Don’t be afraid to simply be silent and not respond. Leave the tension where it belongs: between him and the tendency to forget something important.
Next week: See the Discipline as Teaching.