Co-Parenting: Follow Through with Consequences
In my last post, I discussed the advice from the parenting coach regarding implementing five family rules. In addition to this, she gave my boyfriend and I some helpful advice for controlling negative behaviors. Here are some tips.
- Refuse to engage in negotiations! You also must follow through with given consequences. Otherwise, there will be a constant power struggle and push back from the kids. It’s only when the children realize that the parents are serious about consequences that they will start following the rules.
- Always stay calm. Raising your voice, fussing at the child, or going back and forth with argument just escalates the behavior and conflict.
- It can be helpful to give the children choices. Tell the children your request, and if they push back, then give them a second and less desirable option.
For example, with our experience of one child who refuses to get turn off Minecraft when told, the therapist suggested that my boyfriend set a timer and let her know that when the timer goes off, her Minecraft time is over. If she does not turn off the computer when the timer goes off, then tell her that if it’s too hard for her to stop playing the game then this tells him she’s not ready to have the privilege of playing Minecraft at all. She can have one more minute, and then it’s up to her to decide if he will have to turn it off for her with the consequence being that she has less Minecraft time. If she wants to turn it off on her own and keep having Minecraft time in the future, she has that option as well. If she fusses and there is push back, it’s important to stay calm but also turn off the game yourself and follow through with the consequence of allowing less Minecraft time. Don’t fuss at the child but instead say something like, “I’m sorry this upsets you. Apparently you aren’t ready to play this game since you can’t turn it off when you are supposed to”. We will talk about it tomorrow and decide how much Minecraft time you might be able to handle.” Then allow a shorter period of time the next day and significantly decrease or completely take away Minecraft if the push back continues.
If a child pushes back on cleaning up their things, you can say, “If you have too many things to pick up, I’m happy to help you have fewer things. I know lots of kids who would appreciate them. You have the choice to clean up your things, or I will help you by donating what is left on the floor to other children.” Then you have to actually follow through.
Tantrums are a regular behavior issue that many parents deal with and my boyfriend experiences with his youngest child. The therapist suggested that during a tantrum, we say, “You are having a really hard time right now and I want to help you, so let me know when you want my help.” Give her a hug or comfort her while telling her this but ignore her if the tantrum continues. While ignoring her, every once in a while say, “I see you are still having a really hard time and I still want to help, so let me know when you are ready.” If she asks for a hug or comfort, then give it to her and say, “I am glad you are ready for me to help, and I’m happy to give you hugs.”
My boyfriend and I follow the therapist’s advice, and we each discipline our own children, but I did have the opportunity to try the last technique with his five year old. She wanted me to read her a book at bedtime which I told her I was happy to do. She then picked out four books and insisted I read them all. I told her that I needed her to pick just one book, and she had a total melt down that included screaming, stomping, and tears. I told her I see she’s having a hard time and want to help, and when she wants me to read her chosen book to let me know. She continued to scream, and I calmly said that I cannot understand her when she is screaming and crying, but I’m happy to talk to her about what is making her upset when she calms down enough that I can understand. I then started to walk out of the child’s room toward the master bedroom saying I will be ready for her to pick a book whenever she is ready. Immediately she started calming herself down, picked one book, and we read it together and got her tucked in for bed.
The key to controlling unwanted behavior seems to be staying calm as fussing and raising your own voice just escalates the child’s pushing back, and being firm about following through with consequences. Consistently following this advice should lead to significant improvement in unwanted behaviors.