Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to go to the store with a young preschool child and not worry about their behavior? No concern that they will have a bratty fit, become demanding or scream their head off in public? One of the most frustrating things about parenting young children can be the underlying thought that those little sweethearts are actually leading you around, rather than you leading them. You want so much to teach, train, and direct them, but at times it seems impossible! So, what to do? This post starts with the basics, and a simple method to stop the fits! Read on to find out how to BE THE MOM: HOW TO TAKE CHARGE. You can also listen to the podcast "BE THE MOM: How to Take Charge" !
The first thing to do is ask yourself a few questions to get a picture of who is really in charge. Be honest!
Do you make decisions based upon what you believe your child’s response will be? Or, do you make decisions based upon what you know is best for the child?
When you want your child to do something, do you ask them if they want to do it? Or do you tell them what you expect of them? (For example: "Susie, do you want to eat your peas?" OR "Susie, eat your peas.") If you tell your children to do something, what is their response? What are your children’s expectations of you - when you give them a command? What kind of defiant behaviors does your child display? How do you handle defiance? If the answers are not what they should be to the above questions, it is likely that a few things need to change in order for you to really and truly BE THE MOM. Asserting your authority should happen because you love them and want what is best for them. They are children. THEY do not know what is best. You do. In order for you to parent effectively, they must know three things:
1. You love them.
2. You know what is best for them.
3. You WILL assert your authority to make sure what is best for them is done. When a child knows these three things, it creates security. When they feel secure, they feel loved and they much more easily comply with what you want them to do. Being the MOM means being mature in your relationship with your child… and is the first step to taking charge. Sometimes, when we become frustrated, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are in charge and they are not. It’s easy to become an immature parent at the moment of frustration. Get down to their level and scream along with them. But, that obviously isn't the right thing to do. Let’s discuss what it is to be a mature parent and how that relates to our interaction with our children.
The definition of maturity is this: Understanding how your present decisions will affect your distant future, and acting on that knowledge in a responsible way. When we think about maturity in this way, we start to recognize maturity has to do with the understanding of time and how it effects our lives. For instance, think about a newborn child. What concept of time do they know? None, right? They only know now...this moment. That is all they know and they are as immature as can be. Now think about an infant. They have begun to understand that an action they perform now will in a few seconds to a minute result in a certain outcome. (When they cry, they hear a sound, people react to the sound.) A toddler can think a minute or even several minutes into the future. A preschooler can start to understand tomorrow, and an elementary child begins to recognize a week, month and even a year. As they mature, they understand time and how it relates to their lives. Now that we understand the definition of “maturity”, how does that apply to our interactions with our children at the moment of frustration? As we all know, maturity doesn't always come along with age! LOL. Clearly we all know some grown men and women who do not behave as mature adults. But how does that relate to our relationship with our child? How can we be mature parents? Surely we understand that our present decisions can effect our distant future... but do we act on that knowledge in a responsible way? I love to use the idea of a cookie as the grand prize for a child. Let's say your child wants a cookie and you have told them "no" for the moment. What is your child's reaction to this disappointment? Are they defiant, angry, rebellious and demanding? Or are they content that you love them, know what's best for them... and WILL assert your authority to be sure what's best for them is done? Back to those three points... if they know these three things, they will comply without defiance. If they do not know any one of these three things... they will act out when they do not get their way. I'm going to skip to the third point first because that is usually the one that is missing in the equation. Will you assert your authority to be sure what is best for them is done? No matter their behavior? No matter how hard it might be? If you do, you can expect a future of contentment and if you don't you can expect a future of frustration. Now is the time to take charge. Instead of thinking, “how can I satisfy my urge to stop the immature outburst of my child at this moment?”… think this, “how do I want my child to behave now and in the future?” (Today, we are basically talking about 10mo/1 year olds to 5 year olds at this point. We will cover infant training in other posts. We can also cover young school age children in other posts.) If they want the COOKIE and they start screaming, crying, fussing, etc to get it… do you want them to behave that way? If so, give them the COOKIE… because you are training them to scream, cry, etc. Yes, it may stop the outburst for the moment. True. But you are thinking of the future, and you must act in a responsible way. If you do not want this bad behavior now or in the future, don’t give in. Let them know they will not get it at all now that they have behaved badly. No matter what happens… DO NOT give them the COOKIE if they have behaved badly. EVEN AFTER they have calmed down and have done as you asked, the COOKIE is not available to them. The bad behavior has wiped away the possibility of that reward. Tell them next time, they can ask nicely with a “may I please have” and they may or may not get it. That will be up to you, as the mom. This will train them to behave. They find rewards and happiness when they behave. They lose privileges and rewards when they misbehave. IF you give in and they get the COOKIE after a fussy fit… you have just trained them to have more fussy fits. Fussy children are never happy. If you want your child to be happy, never allow them to be fussy. Teach them that fussy behavior is not appropriate and goes unrewarded. Teach them how to express their desires and needs in appropriate ways, and they will. Before I move on... and give you a practical way to stop out of control bad behavior... let me give you one more thought. Do not stop them from behaving badly and then reward them for stopping. A reward comes from not behaving badly in the first place... not from coming back into control. The result of bad behavior must NEVER seem like it ends in a reward. How to stop a screaming, fussing, crying, out of control child? No one enjoys a child who is completely out of control. Having a temper tantrum, screaming in the store, stomping their foot and throwing down a toy... we've all seen it. In my book, it's a brat fit. The child is saying, "I don't like what is happening and you had better do as I want or else!" This is coming from a child who believes they are in charge. When a child lost control of themselves, they are unhappy -- and so is everyone else around them. That is actually how they get their way, and it just makes them more unhappy in the end. Since they are out of control, you must take control. Someone needs to, right? You are the adult and you are in charge. You are the mature parent who knows that this behavior leads to bad outcomes now and in the future. You must take control of them until they learn and decide to control themselves. This means you must control their out-of-control body. How can you do this? It is important to remember to put aside your emotions and think. Do not get frustrated. Do not panic. Do not give in. Instead, stop and think clearly about what you need to do, and do it. The best method to take control is to simply cover their mouth. They are screaming, so you stop the outburst of noise by covering their mouth. Not in anger and not in frustration. Calmly cover their mouth. Of course, never obstruct breathing in any way. If they have a stuffy nose, be sure to lift your hand slightly each time they need to take a breath in between screams. But, do not allow noise to come out of their mouth uninhibited. You are not hurting them. You are simply taking control. They clearly will not like this--- but that is okay. Bad behavior should result in something they do not like. Quietly and calmly say, “When you are finished screaming, I will let go.” Then wait….Patiently and calmly. You may have to have them on your lap and hold them firmly if they decide not to comply with this. They may squiggle and try to move away from your hand. Do not allow it. Hold on to them firmly or have them sit in a chair next to you while you cover their mouth. DO NOT rub their back or comfort them in any way. Remember, this is not a reward. They should not be comforted while behaving badly. Be calm, patient and wait. No need to yell. No need to become frustrated. You are simply training your child to behave. As SOON as even a moment of silence happens, lift away your hand. They will soon realize that when they stop crying and fussing, your hand moves away. When they are finished with their outburst, COMPLETELY….let go. Do not allow ANY more outbursts. If they continue to fuss, start again. BE CONSISTENT! Don't give up. After they are completely finished, explain gently and calmly that this behavior is not acceptable and it is not allowed. Smile, and ask if they are all finished. They will likely indicate they are finished quickly by then. This includes any little rebellious outbursts of short bursts of noise. Any show of continuing to scream, cry or fuss should result in the same method. And remember... no cookie now. If this method is done consistently, it WILL work. Your child will simply see you hold up your hand ready to cover their mouth and will stop fussing immediately. If your child has been out of control for some time, and does not trust that you mean business, it will take much longer the first time or two. I have held a child as long as 45 min to an hour when helping a mom get control. The next time, it only took 15 minutes. The next time 5, then it was only a moment or two until there was no more fussing at all. This really should be done at home the first few times. After that, the fussing will be so dramatically reduced that it will not be a problem to go out in public. They will know you will not allow bad behavior and they won't do it. But, they may test you. If they do, don't disappoint. Cover their mouth for just a minute or two in public. If they do not comply, take them to a private place and use this method, and wait until they are finished. Then quietly remind them the behavior is not allowed, hold their hand and walk back to the place you were before continuing as usual. They will get the picture that no matter where you go, you expect the same from them. Soon, you will have no trouble with out of control fussing! Being the mom is sometimes challenging. But, believe me. You can enjoy your young children and have a great parent/child relationship with them. You CAN take control and teach your child to be happy and obedient, and they will be! But you have to BE THE MOM. Period.