Sherry looks in her rearview mirror. Sidney touches Carl, so Carl hits her back. Baby Tyler is screaming, and Sidney yells, "Mom, Carl hit me!" Sherry's mind feels like it's going to explode!
"Ahhhhh! Why can't they just behave for five minutes in the car?" She asks herself. "OK, enough! Everyone just stop it! Sidney, keep your hands to yourself and give Tyler his bottle. Hold still and stop fighting," Sherry blurts.
Let's face the facts — parenting has intense moments of overwhelming stress.
When we make requests of our children, we want them to listen and respond, but, after 15 years of parenting, taking parenting courses, and teaching other parents, I have discovered one eye-opening fact: I cannot control my children.
There is a deep desire in many of us to be controlling, but here's the bottom line: the only person you can control is yourself. Quite literally, you cannot make your children be quiet. Sure, you can yell, threaten and bribe, but children ultimately decide whether to close their mouths and be quiet. This aggravates and infuriates many parents who just want their children to obey.
Children are unique individuals with their own bodies that they are learning to control. During children's formative years, parents have the blessed opportunity to teach, mentor and guide children to have self-control. This takes time, patience and skill.
Instead of yelling, threatening or bribing — which sends the message, "I am trying to control you" — try the cooperation approach, which promotes a positive atmosphere where you can guide, teach and mentor your children as they learn self-control.
Show and model respect
Parents want children to be respectful, so they need to model this behavior back to their children. If your children are disrespectful, look at the tone, attitude and words you use. Speak to your children in a kind, friendly, matter-of-fact tone just like you would with a friend or colleague.
Anticipate what might be coming and set the situation up for success by telling children, ahead of time, what will happen and what your expectations are. When children know what is coming and what is expected of them, they are more likely to be responsible for themselves.
Promote a team theme
Tell children, "We are all in this together, and we can do it." A human need is to feel that we belong, and children are no different. Let them know their contribution matters and that they are needed. When children feel a part of something, they feel happy which promotes self-control.
Many parents spend much of their day barking out phrases that start with "Don't, stop, and quit." "Stop running! Quit hitting your sister! Don't spill your milk!" Instead of telling children what not to do — which is exhausting and frustrating — tell them what they can do. When parents describe behaviors they want to see, they help children visualize those behaviors. Whatever the mind sees, it is most likely to do.
Teach children skills
You have the blessed opportunity to teach your children every day while they are still in your home. As you go about the day completing tasks, involve one of your children and teach him or her as you go. Teach behavior, social skills and life skills. When children have skills, they feel good about themselves which promotes self-control.
As you learn and implement effective parenting skills, you will not feel "out of control" but "in control of yourself." Bless your children's lives by promoting a positive atmosphere where you teach, guide and mentor so they learn to be "in control of themselves."