Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to have a parenting “do-over”

By Jill Savage

I remember when Mark and I took a parenting class and learned about expecting first time obedience from our kids. Our habit, up to that point, had been to count to three, or to threaten, or to get angry.

Now we had a different vision for our family and for discipline in our home. But how do you change mid-stream? How do you handle a change in expectations, discipline, or how you will handle things?

Mark and I have had to do this over the years when we’ve realized that we’ve either allowed something we shouldn’t, or haven’t parented well or consistently. We call a family meeting and talk to the kids about what we’ve realized or what we’re learning. We apologize for not being consistent or not handling certain situations well. And we set a new standard on how we as a family are going to act, behave, or handle situations in the future. We have found that this is a respectful way to change the direction the family is headed in and our kids have responded relatively well to it.

If you find yourself needing a parenting “do-over,” consider these strategies:

1) Tell your child/children of the upcoming change. One mom had allowed her daughter to sleep in her bed with her. When she realized this wasn’t healthy for her daughter or her marriage, she sat her daughter down and explained that “beginning tomorrow night, you will sleep in your own bed.” This gave her daughter a heads up and a time of adjustment.

2) Apologize to your kids, if needed. An apology isn’t a sign of weakness…in the parenting realm it’s a sign of strength. Your kids will understand that you make mistakes and that you know what to do to clean up your mistakes. When we sat down and explained to our kids about first time obedience, we apologized for not holding them to a higher standard that would serve them well in life (what boss wants to tell his employee to do something three times?)

3) Train to the new expectation. If your kids are old enough, do some role-playing to train them to the new standard. When we were teaching first time obedience, we did some pretending. I told them we were going to practice first time obedience with a happy response. I said, “In a minute, I’m going to ask you to bring me a specific toy. When I ask I want you to say ‘Yes mom!’ and bring it to me.” Then we made it into a game. We played that game for several days.

4) Give a grace period. When we introduced first-time obedience, we trained for several days and then we began our grace period. It was one week of having the new expectation in place, but if they responded inappropriately, they were reminded of the standard and told that after the grace week, they would receive a consequence for that kind of a response.

5) Be willing to be the parent. The standard is set, the training done, and the practice time is over. Now it’s time to stand firm on your new direction. Most parents find if they are consistent with communication, expectations, and accountability, they are able to move in the direction they desire to go.

If you’re dealing with teens, you probably won’t need the training, but the communication, grace period, and consistent accountability will do the trick.
Reprinted with permission. Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org) is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org), an organization that encourages, educates, and equips every mom in every season of motherhood. She is the author of seven books including Professionalizing Motherhood, Real Moms…Real Jesus, My Heart’s at Home, and her newest release, Living with Less So Your Family Has More. Jill and her husband, Mark, have five children and make their home in Central Illinois.
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