.You’ve clearly outlined a detailed behavior plan for your child to follow. It may be something like, “Before you leave for school, I need you to put all of your dirty clothes in the hamper!” (If you’re like us, you get looks that say things like, “Why do you want me to suffer so badly mom and dad?)
And then, because you’re a good parent (hopefully), you outline the course of action (or consequence) that violating this behavior plan would carry. You say something like, “If I find dirty clothes on your floor, or stuffed in your closet, or anywhere else besides the hamper, there will be no time spent with friends after school today, got it?” They nod and skip off to school.
And….cue the dirty laundry left on the floor…cue your frustration…cue no friends after school….cue the meltdown! After all, requiring minor participation in the organization of your home, such as this, IS the equivalent of scaling the summit of Mt. Everest, right? How could you ask such a monumental task of your children? Don’t you care about their well-being? Woe are they…woe are they!!!
It happened in our home just days ago. A small meltdown quickly became a full volcanic eruption because my son had made a bad choice, and we followed through on the consequence we said he would have if such a choice were made!
While his bad choice is too detailed for this post, I will tell you that the consequence he received was time-out in his room…for a long time. Not forever, but a long time! Unfortunately, it became closer to forever when he decided to repeatedly leave his room, scream “I hate you, dad,” throw things down the staircase, and much more awesome stuff!
Now, what continually amazes us (or frustrates us), is that our children actually think this behavior can change their predicament. It’s as if they actually believe that the louder or longer they scream in our face, the more likely it will be that we give in. In our recollection there has never (and I mean never!) been a moment, in over a decade of parenting, that we have given our children what they wanted when they screamed at us or threw their bodies on the floor in protest. (Besides, my wife and I are both 1st born in our families, so there’s no peace treaties, there’s only war, and we are the only victors….ever!)
However, they keep thinking this works! Hundreds, if not, thousands of times. It’s very frustrating. Anybody tracking with me?
If you’re reading this and you’re asking yourself, “I deal with this too! I can relate! How do you stop this behavior?” The answer is- you don’t. It’s not a problem you can solve. It’s more like a tension that you have to manage. Here are the resolves we’ve taken (written in first person to liven the point):
- I’m okay with a stand-off.
“Trust me, grasshopper, I’ve got way more time than you, and way way more power than you think. I can stand here all day long if need be! I’m stronger than Edward Cullen on Red Bull!” (Not necessarily the wording we choose!)
- It doesn’t matter how loud or long you scream, I’m not giving you what you want!
“You can waste your strength screaming, throwing yourself on the floor, calling me names…heck, even try throwing things at me (dodging projectiles gives me a good workout anyway!), but you’re not going to get what you want!”
- Your circumstance will change when your behavior changes.
“If you want to end your time-out and rejoin our family activity like a normal human-being, then you must change your behavior. Your predicament will not change until you do so. Again, I can wait all day long if need be!”
- Not “because I said so,” but “because I said so in advance and with intention!”
“My words are the only law you need to concern yourself with. But please know that this law will not be void of intention or fair warning. You don’t understand this, but I’ve been given the incredible and sometimes frustrating responsibility of guiding until you’re a grown, productive adult!”