Communication with your children can be very difficult on parents at time. Especially as your kids get older, it’s harder to get them to listen. That’s why I recommend, putting things in writing.

Parents are tired and distracted after a long day at work. After an already long day, now we have to deal with problems at home. We’ve dealt with issues at work all day and it’s hard to organize our thoughts well.

The other problem is that our kids resist verbal communication when they want. As a parent of an older kid, I’ve found talking less and acting more seems to be much more effective when it comes to correcting your child.

Discipline is a very important part of parenting, but it can also be the most difficult. With older children (ages 8 to 18) parents have a real advantage. Your child CAN read and understand you. As parents, we need to define clear and visible limits and follow through with any corrective actions, usually without any discussion. I recommend using the 3-list system. The simpler you keep the plan, the easier it is to follow:

  1. List of privileges that will be taken away, with a time frame that will make an impact (at least a week). With homework, sports, games and practice, there shouldn’t be much time to use electronics during the week, so be sure to include the weekend. Mark it off on a calendar so everyone can remember it and you can communicate to the other adults at home. After all, the grownups have to remember it too. We live in an electronically motivated society, so it’s usually electronics that go first. All of the electronics go at once. If they can’t use one, they will go use another. There may be other things like seeing friends or taking away from the allowance on the list.
  2. List chores with a time frame. Without a time frame all children will wait us out. We tell them and they say, “in a minute” until we give up, do it ourselves or yell. So if the chore is not done on time or not done correctly, the child loses all electronics for a whole week. That provides motivation (a lot of motivation). Frankly, our kids don’t care whether there bed is made or the bathroom is clean, so it’s up to us to make sure things get done. For more generic chores like cleaning the bathroom, I would define the chore in writing, and paste it on the back of the cabinet door. Teaching our kids how to physically perform the chores the right way keeps our house clean, teaches responsibility and kids learn time management skills.
  3. List of behaviors:
  • Not minding. When you want your child to do something that is not routine, write it down. Using a dry erase board or a black board can give a consistent place to look for extra chores. Choose a time frame on finishing the chores and have your children read it back to you so it’s clearly communicated. If you tell your child to do something, try to limit it to one or two things (This is for us too. Adults don’t remember more than two things. We’re too busy). Have them repeat it back; otherwise they pretend they didn’t hear you.
  • Not listening. I would always try to get your child’s attention before you talk. Mainly that means turning off electronics, but don’t repeat yourself, if we get in a habit of repeating ourselves, they will never hear us.
  • Fighting. When you have more than one child, they fight. I recommend letting it go until it reaches a level you consider to be too much (too loud, too rough, too nasty) or when they come to get you involved (tattling). They need to learn to keep it low and keep it away from you.
  • Talking back. I would still watch their reaction to the word, “No.” By age 7, children know when you are saying, “No,” as well as why are you are going to say the word. They are setting you up for an argument. What they say when they talk back and the tone is meant to make us mad quickly. When we get mad, we yell and argue with them. Kids do love to argue and it makes us very uncomfortable. So when we argue we want to reach a compromise, so we can “get out of the argument” and then they get to negotiate for something. Something is better than nothing, and the fight was fun for them. They got a rise out of you. Catch the talking back initially and take away privileges, so they don’t have time to make you angry.
  • Lying. This is always bad and never acceptable.
  • Curfew issues like not getting to bed on time or not getting home on time.
  • Bad language.
  • Bad attitude.

 Whatever rules you want to have in your home is up to you, but the beauty of writing them down is that your child now bears the responsibility. Once they are written down and hung on the wall (not the fridge, there’s already so much stuff up there already) it’s the child’s choice to get in trouble, not yours.

What we do varies with how tired we are, how mad we are, how sorry we feel for our children on a particular day. Consistency and immediacy are the keys to successful discipline.

The other major pit fall is giving warnings. Kids are used to screaming and fighting. They do it with each other all the time. If you don’t give warnings, you don’t have to scream and you may say something you regret. You also run the danger of losing the control you gained by writing the rules down. Suddenly, you scream something silly like, “Do you not want to watch TV this week?”

Sometimes frankly, keeping our rules is harder on us when they can’t use electronics for a week than it is on them. But the written rule will eventually establish a routine and discipline for everyone in the house.

Kids are smart and they figure out very quickly that all they have to do to keep the electronics is to do a few chores, correctly and on time, and to avoid a few behaviors.

Audrey Rogers, M.D.,  is located at 3200 Riverfront Drive, Ste. 103, Fort Worth, TX 76107. To make an appointment with her or one of her partners, call 817-336-3800. Like her on Facebook.

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