Who's in charge in your house? Simple steps to stop being your kids' doormat

If you feel like your kids are running you ragged with their constant demands and misbehavior, there are ways to regain your rightful place as head of your household.

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  • At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, do you feel like your kids run amok? Are you tired of the constant whining and demanding? Do you feel held hostage by an army of tiny people you created?

  • In all seriousness, there are ways to regain control in your own house. Trendy parenting encourages moms and dads to show compassion in order to raise compassionate kids. That's sound advice. However, don't take it too far and become a doormat. Kids' brains are hardwired to need structure. In spite of their protests, your kids are looking to you for leadership, and they will test your boundaries to determine where your authority stops.

  • You can lay down the law at home in a loving way. In the long run, it will make everyone happier, as well. If you're looking to reclaim your post as head household honcho, here's where to start.

  • Outline expectations for behavior

  • You will avoid a lot of bad behavior if your kids simply know what you expect. Many times, kids aren't looking to act out; they truly don't know where the line of acceptable behavior stops. It's time to sit the crew down for an old-fashioned family meeting. Make a big poster outlining the family's expected behaviors. Some ideas include: being kind to siblings, completing previously agreed upon chores, participating in family activities and completing school work.

  • Once your kids are on board with the family rules, they can't use the "I didn't know" excuse ever again. After you've established expectations, you can dole out consequences without looking like the bad guy because your kids now know what to expect. Which leads us to...

  • Choose appropriate consequences

  • We all know that family who grounds their kids constantly — only to have the kids sneak out the window each night. Don't be that family. Every kid has a form of emotional "currency," whether that is screen time, time with friends, or a prized possession. Key in on your kids' emotional currency, and you're on your way to creating effective consequences.

  • For example, it does no good to ground a home body. When kids don't mind the punishment, no learning takes place. However, when you take away your teenage social butterfly's cell phone, it makes a big impression. This may mean creating different consequences for each kid. That's OK so long as everyone has equitable punishments.

  • Develop your family culture

  • In each family, there are certain traditions and customs that your kids must learn to respect. If you're big into family dinner, insist on attendance. If you believe that children need to learn to work, create a chore system from toddler age on up. When you create a family culture, your kids will feel a part of something bigger than themselves and act less selfishly. Take on the role of family matriarch or patriarch, and learn to lead your family.

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  • To take this even further, consider drafting a family mission statement. You could include values such as hard work, integrity, respect and loyalty. Also include family traditions such as holiday observances, weekly recreational time and daily religious rituals. This sense of family unity will foster teamwork within even the most divided families. Getting kids to buy into your family culture results in greater family unity.

  • Parents, it's time to take back our households. No more feeling like the inmates are running the asylum. You can, and you should, take charge in your families if, for no other reason, your kids need a model of how to run their future households. Practice persistence, and remember to consistently enforce rules and consequences. Pretty soon you'll rule the roost once again.

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Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan and mom to three crazy boys.

Website: http://moderatelycrunchy.blogspot.com

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