Perfect Parenting Plan
Perfect Parenting, Kid Cooperation
and Hidden Messages
is a complicated job. There are times when every parent and caregiver
can use some help. There are many books available to parents to
help you get through the day-to-day issues you face with your
In the vast
assortment of books and articles about parenting, you should be
able to find ideas for just about any problem or issue you are
currently dealing with. Every child is different, and every parent
is different. Because of this, there are no cookie-cutter solutions
that will work for everyone. I suggest that you review all the
solutions you discover and take a few quiet minutes to think about
them. Modify the suggestions to best suit your family, and don’t
be afraid to try out more than one until you discover your best
Keep in mind
that following a few important rules will make every situation
with your child easier to handle, regardless of which solution
you choose to implement. I call these The Perfect Parenting Keys.
#1: Take charge.
If your child
doesn’t clearly understand that YOU are the boss, even minor issues
can cause you major headaches. Your first response to this statement
may be, “Oh, but my children know who’s the boss in our house.”
You may think they do, but there are many ways we give mixed messages
and confuse our kids over this issue. The keys presented here
will help you identify the areas where you can make some changes.
step to taking charge is simply to give yourself permission to
be in charge, and begin expecting your children to obey you.
solid foundation you will build a loving, trusting relationship
with your children. And, perhaps even more important, you will
be able to lead your children into adulthood with values, wisdom
and life skills that only a strong, supportive parent can impart.
#2: Tell, don’t ask.
mistake parents make is asking instead of telling. The way you
phrase your words determines whether your children see your request
as optional or required. Banish all wishy-washy phrases from your
When you want
your child to do something (or stop doing something) make a clear,
specific statement that leaves no room for confusion.
Take a look
at the difference between these two types of requests:
It would be nice if somebody cleaned up this family room.
Steven, please put all the toys back in the playroom. Kyle,please
gather the dishes and put them in the dishwasher.
Kids, it’s getting late, don’t you think it’s time to get ready
It’s eight o’clock. Time to shut off the TV and put on your pajamas.
I sure wish you’d get down from there.
That’s not a place to climb. Please get down.
Gather up your stuff now, okay?
Please get your backpack, jacket and shoes, and get in the car.
#3: When you say it, mean it. The first time.
are in the habit of repeating a request over and over and over
(and over!) before taking any action to see that a child complies
with the request. Do you know anyone like this? (Perhaps intimately?)
radar that tells them exactly when adults really mean what they
say, and when they don’t. Some parents really mean it only after
repeatedly ignored requests. This is usually highlighted by a
red face, a tense body, a child’s middle name clenched between
gnashing teeth, and a fist pounding the table to the tune of,
“…and I mean it young man!”
a promise to mean what you say – the first time you say it. What
this means is that after you’ve made a clear statement of what
is required (see Key #2) you take action.
For example, if you call your child in from the yard and he doesn’t
immediately respond you will have to put forth the extra effort
to go out to the yard, take him by the hand and announce, “When
I call you I expect you to come.”
of this style is that you only have to “prove” yourself once or
twice for your child to understand that, indeed, when you say
it you mean it. The first time. (For those with older children
who have already learned that they can ignore you the first few
times with no repercussions, it may take more “proving” before
they believe that you have really changed.
can learn to believe that when you say it you mean it. Hang in
there. Be consistent. It’s definitely worth the effort.
#4: Be brief and specific.
There is a
disease that is rampant among parents. It’s called lecture-babble-itis.
The most obvious symptom is an emotional run-on sentence that
goes on forever, punctuated by highlights of previous award wining
monologues. As an example, you send your children upstairs with
a polite request to get ready for bed. Half an hour later you
discover that they’re having a pillow fight.
infected with lecture-babble-itis says, “I sent you kids up here
thirty minutes ago to get ready for bed and nobody’ s even STARTING
to get ready and it’s after eight o’clock and it’s a school night
and WHY do we have to go through this EVERY single night couldn’t
you just ONCE get ready for bed without my getting angry about
it and why is this room such a MESS again can’t you ever …..”
(Is it any wonder why kids roll their eyes?)
There is a
cure for this dreaded disease. It involves making an effort to
talk less, but say more. In other words, be very specific in your
description, but use as few words as necessary. Even when the
kids have ignored the first polite request, the above disastrous
speech can be transformed into something like this, “Kids, it’s
eight thirty. Pajamas. Now.” As you can see, this statement is
clear and short. It is easy to understand. The advantages of using
this technique are twofold. Your kids will cooperate more frequently
with a brief, specific statement than they will with a lengthy
tirade. And, it’s fun and easy for you to do this!
#5: Don’t give in to nagging, whining and pressure.
start out on the right track, but are derailed by an incredibly
persistent child. It seems that when children couple their youthful
energy with an extraordinary ability to pinpoint their parent’s
weak spots, the result is disaster.
doing your job as a parent there are many times when your decisions
won’t be popular with your kids. When your child is nagging, whining
and pleading with you, it’s a sure sign that you’ve made the right
decision. It’s also a sign that you need to disengage from your
youngster and teach him that you won’t be swayed by his persistence.
important goal as a parent is NOT to make your children happy
on a short-term basis. It’s to raise capable, responsible human
beings. There are many times when your children will be unhappy
with your decisions. Usually, this means you’ve made the right
decision! We have an incredible amount of information and knowledge
at our fingertips, more than any other generation of parents in
our history. Take advantage of this information. Read. Think.
And be confident in your actions.
#6: Give choices, ask questions.
goal of all children is to become independent. Instead of fighting
against this very natural process, a wise parent will use it to
As an example,
let’s look at the very common problem of a child’s messy bedroom.
A parent can rightly expect that a child’s room be neat and clean.
A typical mistake is for the parent to demand that the child clean
it – on the parent’s time schedule, and to the parent’s exact
specifications. The typical child responds with a full-blown temper
tantrum, which ignites the parent’s adult-sized temper tantrum,
which results in a lot of anger, and a still-messy room.
A better choice
is to engage the child’s decision-making skills and utilize his
desire to be in control of his own room and his own life. A parent
might offer several well-thought-out choices, such as, “Would
you like to clean your room after school today, or would you prefer
to do it after baseball practice tomorrow?” Another choice might
be, “What would you like to do first, change your bedding or vacuum
your carpet?” Yet another choice would be, “Would you like to
clean your room yourself, or shall I help you?” It’s clear that
a child will respond better to any of these choices than he would
to the statement, “Clean your room and do it now.”
to approach this problem is to ask helpful questions and direct
the child into coming up with solutions on his own. Therefore
you might ask, “I notice that your homework is scattered all over
your room. Do you think it might be easier to keep track of if
you create a ‘homework place’? How can I help you solve this problem?”
example of this approach is to take the time to discuss the issue
with your child and ask for his ideas. “I know the mess in your
room doesn’t bother you, but I find it difficult to change your
bed or put away your clothes. Can you help me come up with some
solutions?” As you can see, any of these techniques provide the
parent with a variety of ways to encourage the child to become
involved in solving the problem.
#7: Use rules and routines.
mealtime, bedtime, getting out the door in the morning. These
are the things life is made of. If you have very specific rules
and routines you will find that things flow. If you don’t – chaos.
It’s well worth the time to establish family priorities, rules
and schedules for the usual daily routines.
part of this key takes more than a few minutes of thought. You’ll
need to sit down and take time to ponder your daily activities.
You’ll need to make some decisions about priorities and what’s
most important in your family. Once you’ve done this, create charts
to cover the steps involved in each major task, such as the morning
routine, the after school routine, or the bedtime routine. Purchase
and post a large family calendar to show all the family activities
and commitments. (This helps the adults in the family stay organized
just as much as it helps the kids!)
A second part
of this key is to evaluate your expectations for your children.
Create a list of rules. These rules should cover expected behavior
by clearly identifying two things: what is NOT allowed AND what
behavior IS expected. In other words, listing, “No fighting” as
a family rule is only the first part of the equation. “Be kind
and respectful to each other” clarifies the important concluding
knows what to expect you’ll find yourself nagging and complaining
much less, and the kids cooperating much more.
#8: Build a foundation of love, trust and respect.
you’ve been invited to a friend’s home for dinner. Your friend
welcomes you at the door and you step inside. Suddenly, your host
shouts, “What is the matter with you! Your shoes are all muddy
and you’re getting my carpet dirty!” Embarrassed you mumble, “Sorry”
and remove your shoes. As you do, you notice the hole in your
sock, and so does your friend, who announces, “Geez. Don’t you
think you could have dressed properly for dinner? You look like
a slob.” As you take your place at the table, your host knocks
your elbow off the table with a whispered “tsk, tsk.” The dinner
conversation is primarily your friend’s story about a guest that
joined them for dinner last night who had lovely manners and no
holes in her socks. The story is sprinkled with your friend’s
occasional corrections to your table manners. When you finish
your meal you stand up only to hear your friend say, “It sure
would be nice if somebody helped clear the table.”
I’m sure you
get my drift by now. Many parents treat their children in ways
that they would never treat a friend. In their efforts to raise
respectable children, they become so focused on the end goal that
they don’t realize that the primary message coming though to their
children is not a pleasant one.
Take a close
look at your daily interactions with your children. Make sure
that the primary message to them is, “I love you, I trust you,
and I respect you.” Children who are confident that they are loved,
trusted and respected by the important adults in their lives will
respond overall in a much more pleasant way.
How do you
get this message through to your children? First, by giving them
what they want most from you – your time. It’s much more effective
to give small chunks of time every day than to try to pack in
a “quality” experience once a month. Second, give them your ear.
Children thrive when they have someone who really listens to them.
It’s not as important to give advice and solve problems as it
is to just plain listen. Third, praise and encourage your children
daily. Look for reasons, both big and small, to give your children
positive feedback. Fourth, tell them you love them. Tell them
you trust them. Tell them you respect them. Use your words, and
your actions to convey this most important message of all, “I
love you, I trust you, and I respect you.”
#9: Think first, act second.
when you act before you think reflect the worst moments in parenting.
Those are the times when you lose your patience; those horrible
moments when you screech, bellow, threaten or hit. These moments
occur most often to parents who are unprepared for the parenting
None of us
are born knowing how to be parents. We can love our kids with
our whole heart and soul, but we aren’t born with a gene that
gives us an instinctual knowledge of the right consequence to
impart when our children misbehave, nor do we automatically know
how to solve daily child rearing problems.
We won’t learn
a Perfect Parenting process by chance. It takes research, thought
and planning to decide upon the best solution to any problem.
I don’t think any chef, no matter how skilled, could enter my
kitchen and without any direction, recipe or ingredients end up
creating a four-course meal with a five-star desert. It would
increase the odds of our having a delicious meal if that person
had access to my best cookbook, and passage to the local grocery
store. In much the same way, you will be a much more successful
parent if you have access to ideas and solutions whenever you
come across a parenting problem.
come across a situation that baffles you or creates strife in
your family life, take a few minutes to look up ideas in your
parenting books, and talk to educated and experienced parents.
Contemplate how the ideas fit into your parenting style, how they
match up to the personality of your child, and how they might
work for you. Then create a plan of action. And, then, keeping
the Perfect Parenting Keys in mind, follow through.
from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips
by Elizabeth Pantley, with permission from NTC/Contemporary Publishing,
Thank you for participating in and reading our interview
with Elizabeth Pantley. We
also recommend reading Elizabeth's
articles on StorkNet. - StorkNet Staff
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