How many times have I watched a parent struggle as their children misbehave? Too many times to count. In malls, in church, visiting friends, I’ve seen children hit, spit, swear, walk away while the parent is talking to them and being just plain rude and disrespectful.
Not in my house missy!!! My adorable Italian grandfather had a saying, “You straighten a tree when it is a sampling.” Which, if you think of it, makes perfect sense, as it is malleable.
As a mother I use two very important practices:
1. Don’t raise your voice. (Well, most of the time)
2. And most importantly FOLLOW THROUGH. (If you say it, mean it and take action.)
If you tell your child, “Don’t make me get up and come there.” The message that you are sending your child is that you ARE NOT getting up.
Here are a couple of my life’s stories you might relate to or learn from.
Time and time again, when teaching my sons, nieces and nephews how to behave at home and when we would go out, I ALWAYS would ask, “Who’s the boss?” (They replied, “You are.”) “And how many times do I have to talk?” (“Once.” Was said unanimously)
During the summer holidays I loaded up my mini van with my sons, nieces and nephews and took them bowling. (Ages 8 on down). My sisters and sister-in-law thought I was crazy. Are you sure, they asked? Of course I was sure.
With my minivan loaded and my monsters buckled in I turned around in my driver’s seat, faced them and asked:
“Who’s the boss?”
Six sweet, angelic voices replied, “You are.”
“And how many times do I have to talk?” I asked.
With that promise, I was off. It didn’t take long for them to start bickering. Driving down the highway they got louder. So I looked in my rearview mirror and said, “Hey guys, behave.”
They didn’t. So what did I do? Did I yell? No. Did I repeat myself? No.
Without saying a word, I signaled, pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, parked the minivan and waited. I watched them in my rearview mirror and they knew I was doing that. It took the older kids a couple of seconds to figure out what was going on. “Guys! Shut up and stop fighting, or Zia Teresa is taking us back home.”
When they had settled in again, I smiled, thanked them and we were off again to a fun filled day. They knew I meant business, that I would FOLLOW THROUGH and turn the car around and drop them off back home.
As a young child, my second son had a habit of throwing his little toy trucks/cars at people when he got upset. I have to tell you those little suckers hurt! And hitting your older brother with one only ended up in a wrestling match.
So I placed a clear plastic container on top of the fridge and every time he threw a toy it would end up in this container. He could see them but he couldn’t reach or touch them. And if he tried to push a chair near the fridge (With his bottle hanging from his mouth and the rustle of diapers as he walked) I would firmly take the chair away from him, sit down so I was eye to eye and say, “No.”
Kids aren’t stupid and if they want something they’ll change their behavioral pattern to get what they want. In this instance, my son stopped throwing his favorite toys.
SIBLING FIGHTS? USE MARSHMALLOWS!
How many times have you hear this? “It’s my turn! Give me the controller!” as one sibling tugged for the controller and yells in his brother’s/sister’s face?
When this happened I bombarded my sons with marshmallows. Yes, you read correctly, marshmallows.
In seconds flat I would have them throwing the controller down, scrambling for the marshmallows and seeing who got the most. (Like your Easter Egg Hunt) Laughing, they were no longer yelling at each other but I had their full, undivided attention.
I would then make sure that both had the same amount of marshmallows and again I would squat next to them, eye to eye and point to one of the boys:
“My brother.” With a confused look that said mom, you know who he is.
Then to my other son. “And who is he to you?”
“My brother.” He said, as they munched on their marshmallows.
“Your brother is more important than a video game. Now each of you will take turns and when your time is up you hand it over to your brother. If you don’t videos are out for the rest of the night.”
My boys knew that if they didn’t follow the ground rules I had just established I would march up to the TV and shut their video right in the middle of their game and there were no second chances.
THE DREADED MEAL TIMES… MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER?
How many times have a heard a mother saying that she has to cook one dish for her son, another for her daughter and even another for her husband. Can I ask you something? Are you nuts? Do you have so much time on your hands that you’ve turned your house into a catering company?
I come from humble beginnings and our family ate what came out of my grandfather’s massive garden. So if it was soup for dinner, EVERYONE ate soup. Minestrone? You learned how to eat vegetables or nothing at all. There were no snacks, or munching after dinner. Going into a junk drawer or cupboard where your chocolates, nuts, chips and cookies are? Didn’t even exist.
My boys knew that what I put in their plates they ate. If they were full and couldn’t finish their meal, then no problem, because I didn’t expect them to finish everything all the time. But when they left most, if not all, their meal in their plates then… get ready for my FOLLOW THROUGH action.
When my son stated he was full, I would tell him no problem but he couldn’t leave the table until everyone was finished. Then everyone helped unset the table and get sandwiches ready for the next day. (Yes I did the cooking so you better believe my family is helping with the kitchen.)
When my son wasn’t watching I’d put his plate in the microwave. As I washed the dishes he’d always come back and say:
“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
“You are?” Smiling, I’d respond. “No problem and I’ll get you something.”
With his baby-blue eyes shining with happiness because he hadn’t had to eat his meal, my little guy would sit at the table hoping he’d get to eat a whole bunch of snacks. Not happening!
His meal would come out of the microwave where I had hid it and I would place it in front of him. Oh. My. God. His expressions were priceless. I wished I’d had a cell phone back then to record the mix of expressions that filtered across his face. No dinner … no snacks.
So set down your ground rules, state the consequences and ALWAYS FOLLOW THROUGH.
Will it be tough? Yes it will, because your kids are going to push your buttons in order to get what they want. But with repeated, consistent effort you will get the results you want.