1. Acknowledge what you want repeated. Here is your first challenge for the New Year. For the next two weeks, only comment on behaviors you want your child to continue. Be specific and describe in detail the action. For example, if your son or daughter loaded their dishes into the dishwasher after lunch, take notice and ‘acknowledge’ that action.
2. Be predictable. Take the guess work out of being your child. Be clear on your expectations and be consistent in your words and actions.
3. Use enforceable statements. The only behavior you can truly control is your own. Start using words that describe what you are going to do. For example, “I’ll be happy to let you go with your friends as soon as your chores are finished.” Instead of “Do your chores or you will be grounded!”
4. Teach self management skills. Children who can self-regulate are mindful, intentional, and act thoughtfully. As a result, they are well liked by their peers and adults. Help your child learn how to control his or her impulses and give them the capacity to do something appropriate when these feelings arise.
5. Validate their feelings. Even very young children understand that sometimes they can’t have what they want. But, when their feelings are validated, they are better equipped to move forward. For example, “I know you really want Cheerios this morning, don’t you wish I could wave my magic wand and they would magically appear? Would you like to try Rice Krispies?” A child who has had his feeling validated is much more likely to go with Plan B.
6. Have a vision. What do you want walking out your door at 18 years of age? Once the big decisions are made the little ones are easy – does this get me to the young adult I want or not?
7. Plan together. Children need to be involved in planning events that directly affect them. In order to ensure cooperation and ownership, they must be given the opportunity to discuss things openly with you and have an opinion. Try planning your next vacation with your children. But, don’t make the mistake many parents do by expecting their child to be somehow magically endowed with goal setting, time management skills, etc. Be sure you take the time to teach and include them in the process.
8. Offer freedom within limits. Set clear negotiables and non-negiotiables with your children. Encourage them to make choices and offer as many opportunities for this as possible. Once you offer the choice, you must be prepared to accept their decision, so don’t offer input into areas you are not comfortable relinquishing – pick something else!
9. Encourage gratitude. When we are grateful, we have appreciation; when we have appreciation, we have joy; and when we have joy, we are happy. Don’t your children deserve to be happy? We live in a culture that is cursed with “Entitlementitis” – I breathe, therefore I deserve! Have your children start a gratitude journal. If they are too young to write, you can write for them. Each day before bed have them list five things they are grateful for – the results will amaze you!
10. Teach money management. Start now! Give your children the basics in money management; this is what an allowance is for. At your next family meeting, list all the expenses and responsibilities involved in living your lifestyle – from paying the mortgage to taking out the trash. Highlight for your kids what you are willing to take care of – gas bill, buy groceries, etc. All of the tasks that are not highlighted can be shared by the family. This way your children understand what is involved in running a household and they will take less for granted. It also opens up the opportunity for cooperative living.