Have You Given Up Too Soon?

Originally posted at Zen Family Habits.

Normally I’m all for simplifying, ditching commitments we no longer have time for or passing on joining activities we don’t love. The exception is when it comes to the important things.

I think a lot of time, so many of us, give up far too soon. Marriages dissolve, we change jobs, we quit  sports, forget about eating well, and the list goes on.

A question I hear repeatedly comes from parents, the context is usually different  but the idea is the same, is it too late to turn this around?

Many people think issues we have with our teenagers actually started back when they were very young children. Now this may be true, but I’m of the mindset that it’s never too late to change things around and re-establish a connection with your kids. As soon as you have kids you are a parent. PERIOD. There is no point at which you out grow it or quit trying.

If you’re at the point where you’re asking is it too late? How did we let it get this bad? There is hope and I fully believe you can turn it around.

1. Start small. If there are a million and one things you feel need to be changed, trying to tackle them all is unrealistic and will leave you feeling even more defeated. Pick one or two and start there. Once you get those couple of issues resolved and are feeling good about the results, choose another couple of behaviors or issues and work through those. Don’t go too far too fast you’ll burn out and won’t see the results you’re hoping for.

2. Be consistent. Consistency is king when it comes to raising kids. Kids are creatures of habit and need an understanding of what comes next. Being consistent when it comes to appropriate behavior, bed times, discipline etc … is so important. If they lose their phone for 24 hours each and every time they talk back or act in a disrespectful manner they know what to expect and they can choose to refrain or not.

3. Don’t use empty threats. Don’t state consequences that you can’t follow through on. If you get angry and hastily blurt out that they can’t use the computer for the rest of the year, that may not be realistic. In reality school reports and research needs to be done. Perhaps a better option would be to say no computer usage for a week or two nights. The point is it’s easier to follow through on the later as opposed to the former. Try brainstorming some consequences at a time when you’re calm. This way if you find yourself reacting to a situation in the future you will have a better chance of blurting out a consequence that’s a little more realistic.

4. Use their currency. Threatening to take away your child’s TV privileges won’t be an effective consequence if they don’t really watch TV in the first place. If, however, their phone is a permanent fixture perhaps that is a better bargaining tool. If your children feel they have a lot to lose and know you keep your end of the bargain they are much more likely to behave in an appropriate manner.

5. Don’t nag. Ask once and be clear of your expectations ensuring they are appropriate for their age and abilities. Once you’ve asked, be clear of what the consequence will be for not keeping up their end of the bargain. Get them to acknowledge it or repeat it back to you and then … leave it. If they haven’t met their responsibility by the mutually agreed upon deadline then you MUST follow through with the consequences.

6. Love your kids. Above all love your kids. Give hugs, high fives, put your arms around their shoulders, pat them on the back, cover them with kisses, use kind words, praise their uniqueness, support them, work with them and make time for them. Loving your kids doesn’t have to cost a thing. What they want the most is to be with you, to be listened to, to be understood, and to feel like they matter. A little bit of affection can go a long, long way.

It’s never too late to change the way you approach your child and improve your relationship. I understand that there are many parenting styles and mindsets and while it’s never my intention to tell you what you should do, these are simply my thoughts on making positive, lasting changes in the relationships with your kids. Start addressing only a couple of things at time, make small deliberate changes from a place of love and kindness. Be respectful, have realistic expectations and remember that consistency is key.