Think about this following example.
You are at a park and are ready to leave. You say, “Okay, we need to go.” Your child ignores you, several times. You say, “Well, I am leaving and I guess you will have to stay here by yourself.” Both of you know, you will not leave without her. Another example might be if you say, “Unless you come right now, I will never bring you here again.”
Why do we say these things? We are tired, frustrated and would like for this to not become a power struggle. So how can things go more smoothly? Here are some suggestions:
- Give you child a transition warning. “In five minutes, we are going to have to leave.”
- Help your child identify her feelings. “I know how much fun you are having, but we need to…”
- After the five minutes are up, you convey it is time to leave, and your child does not respond. Then say, “Remember, we had five minutes more to play, now we have to go. Do you want to walk with me, or do I need to help you?”
- Be consistent. Follow through.
- Reassure your child you will return to the park another time.
Children are striving to become independent. This process is a good thing, we do want them to become independent thinkers and responsible when they are adults. But for now, the process of children asserting themselves can quickly move into a power struggle. When that happens, children’s behavior deteriorates quickly.
Have you said, “Because I am your parent and I said so”? As a child I did not question this, and I knew when my mother said this, she meant ‘business’. In our society, children do not seem to easily accept this logic. But maybe, it was more of my mother’s tone of voice that conveyed ‘enough’. It is like the parent who says something over and over, but the child knows the mother’s tone of voice when enough is enough.
Sometimes it is important to ‘take a breath’, calm down, and think through your actions. You are the parent that does not change. And discipline is not a ‘win or lose’ situation. In fact, I like to use the term ‘guidance’. We do guide children’s behavior. All of us feel better when there is less conflict.