This past Easter weekend my family had the pleasure of spending time w/my parents, my brothers, their wives and our 7 nieces and nephews ranging in age from 6-14. In total, we had 9 rug rats tearing through my brother’s house like banshees. Needless to say, no matter how well we all get along, chaotic times were still part of the Easter festivities.
As a first grade teacher of 37 students, I learned a wonderful management strategy that became the cornerstone of my discipline plan; telling children exactly what I want and expect from them. Simple, I know. But in the midst of tears, panic or loud noises, it is often difficult to parent with logic. And, if you are dealing with children who may be used to different parenting philosophies, I say, “The simpler, the better.”
Example- instead of yelling, “No!”, “Don’t!” or other idle threats such as, “Touch your cousin again and I’m going to ground you for eternity!”, go for the positive. “Please drink your chocolate milk with two hands and at the table.”, “Please walk around the pool deck to avoid smacking your head on the brick.”, or “What I’d like you to do is bring your bathing suit and towel into the laundry room.” Better yet, demonstrate the desired behavior and even practice with young children. Instruction, modeling and practice are the key to success.
By giving children specific examples of what we want them to do and then asking them to repeat back the directions to check for comprehension will help avoid many of the pitfalls associated with parenting amidst chaos. And yes, having a 14 year old repeat directions may seem a bit elementary, but it works. It causes the child to stop, listen and respond, all things that can be difficult for a teen or pre-teen. The bonus is that younger children often look up to older siblings and cousins. When you can get them to work together by giving them something positive and constructive to do, everyone wins.
Will it work every time? No. Will every chaotic parenting situation simply melt away or fail to exist. No. I can say, however, that telling children of all ages what you want from them instead of only pointing out what you don’t want them to do or what they may be doing wrong, garners more buy-in from the kids and more positive behavior overall. This, in turn, will lead to more time for you to enjoy a drink and some adult conversation. All without becoming red faced and sweaty. Happy directing!