Today’s blog comes from the book Mom – Fu: It’s Okay to Protect Yourself from Your Kids by Brian Higgins.
From time to time you may try to get your children to do or not do something through indirect means. Rather than being an honest trustworthy loving reliable wall you turn into a manipulative evil scientist. It usually starts with the thought “If I have them ()… they are going to resist… so how can I get them to do it without having to deal with the resistance?” which amounts to “How
can I trick or threaten or in some other unethical way get my child to do what I want them to do?”
Is that the sort of parent-the sort of person- you want to be? Is that what you want to teach your kids? You may have even been hoping to learn some “tricks” in this book. I once read “Don’t learn the tricks… learn the trade” Sounds like good advice to me.
You are only going to cause yourself pain to the extent that you try to control your kids. You set the rules, the boundaries, the structure and then they choose. This may sound contradictory, “Be the Wall but Don’t Control.” Your children can do as you prefer and
gain something of value to them, or not; in which case it will cost them something- whatever you decide in advance that cost will be. They may decide it’s not worth the “prize” and choose the “cost.” It’s important that you respect their choice and then go about changing the rules honestly before the next round.
The more important the issue, the higher the stakes. Please remember that everything beyond basic survival needs and your love are fair game in this reward / cost dynamic. It wasn’t that long ago that “going to bed without supper” was routine. Is it nice? No. Is it warm and fuzzy? No. Does it work? Sometimes… just like everything else. “I Love you and I care enough to cause you discomfort now to help you avoid greater pain later, even when it is unpleasant for me to do so.” That is a key message to get across to your children in your words and actions… “I love you even when I hate what you are doing.” Don’t make a rule you can’t or won’t physically enforce. Don’t bluff. Both erode trust and when your kids don’t trust you nothing else much matters.
Any time you fail to follow through, be it by laziness or impracticality or a poorly designed reward / cost plan you have lied to your child… you said you would do something and then didn’t. If you want to be credible to, and trusted by, your children you must always follow through… and never say anything you are not prepared to follow through on.