By Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com
My daily struggle as a parent is trying to figure out if what I'm asking my children is something they can understand for their respective ages. Is my request age-appropriate? Is a 12-year-old ready to handle the responsibility of using a cell phone (which was purchased for emergency purposes)? Can the 10-year-old comprehend putting away his clean laundry in a civilized fashion rather than rolling up various items and flinging them into his closet or piling them on his chair? Will the 6-year-old get it when I ask her to stop repeating or copying what her brothers say – especially the silly stuff?
On the one hand it's important to give anyone, especially kids the benefit of the doubt. In other words – make it a reasonable request and then throw it out there with consequences clearly stated and see what they do with it. It should teach them responsbility, accountability and problem-solving at a very basic level.
On the other hand, when they come back with something ridiculous, or illustrate their independence or defiance in a way that makes you cringe – then deal with it at that point. This is where the fun starts!!
My sister who is 4 years younger than me with 3 young boys, 2 years apart, once told me 3 simple words – DON'T ASK WHY. These are words to live by, believe me.
What she went on to explain made perfect sense and it's something both my husband and I try to follow – as hard as it can be.
When you ask you child WHY they did something or WHY they want something – what kind of answer are you truly expecting to get?
Whatever their answer is likely WON'T satisfy you – so DON'T ASK. For example – “Why did you take your sister's doll away from her?” The child responds. “Because she's funny when she gets mad and starts stomping her feet like a maniac.” Hmm. Enraged button just went up a few notches. Problem is not solved. Irritation level is soaring. Questions about parenting failures start flooding the mind.
When you don't ask why you save everyone a lot of grief, especially yourself. Replace why with clearly stated consequences, followed by clearly stated repercussions and FOLLOW THROUGH. These are the hardest lessons to execute on as a parent, in my opinion, because kids can charm their way out of anything, and in the course of charming everyone forgets the original faux pas and suddenly there are no consequences and no accountability.
It may take a while to master, but once achieved it works like a charm.
Let your child ask the WHY questions of you – especially about things, people, places, actions – not the other way around, especially when they are very young. It will likely save you a ton of headache medication!!
Check out ParentTalk Radio for our podcast with Dr. Michael Ungar who talks about kids and responsibility: http://www.whereparentstalk.com/podcast/young-author-mission-nutrition-k…