This chapter is entitled, “Enforcing Your Standards and Staying Connected.” Author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka begins this chapter with a story about her fifteen year old daughter who wanted to rent a hotel room with friends to have a party instead of going to the homecoming dance. They said no, and their daughter complained but didn’t scream and yell or give her parents the silent treatment. The author writes,” What I realized is that over the years, my daughter had learned our family’s standards – not perfectly, mind you; she is human- but pretty darned well. Those standards had helped her keep her cool and continue to work with us. But it’s often difficult to imagine how you can teach your child those skills when his screams drown out your words or his blows are bruising your arm. How do you soothe and calm him when he’s kicking and flailing at you? What do you do when he swears at you? In the heat of the moment you have to help your child to stop reacting and instead to learn to choose a more respectful and suitable way to express his strong feelings. ”
The steps to this process are all practiced separately over time; only then can the child learn for him or herself to put the steps together to have a more mature response. The steps are:
- Have standards and expectations. That is the foundation, and gives you the ability to say, “This behavior isn’t right; let’s make a different choice.”
- Enforce the standards of reaction. By that, do we accept hitting as a response to a standard? Do we accept being sworn at? We can then stay, “Stop. In our family, we don’t hit. We don’t swear at each other – you can tell me how angry you are!” Your words have to match your actions, and usually this step is more effective in children who are not yet adolescents.
- Keep your standards consistent. You cannot punish when you are in a bad mood, or let things go because you are in a great mood. No one can predict how you will react if you aren’t consistent, and that can lead a child or teen toward being hypervigilant and prone to being frustrated and feeling helpless because the child doesn’t know where the line is.
- Deal with guilt. It is so hard to see our children upset, crying, sad, frustrated, angry. However, if we avoid all boundaries, our children may not be very nice to be around. If we can’t help them handle their strong feelings, we are showing them that those feelings are not acceptable, and that we are helpless when they feel strongly.
- Match your actions with your words. Shouting isn’t action. Yelling isn’t action. We need to stop and move to stop our child.
- Review your standards with the child BEFORE you get in the situation again.
- Teach your child what they CAN do! Teach them how to act when they are frustrated or upset.
- Practice with your child. You can pretend and role play the situation with smaller children and go over the situation verbally with older children.
- Consequences are okay. Consequences are planned out, laid out, discussed before the situation occurs.
- If you make a mistake, it’s okay! There are no perfect parents. It is okay to admit you didn’t handle something right. It is okay. too, to have backup. From page 69, “Research has shown that if one adult says what the standard is, kids may or may not get it. But if two people say what the standard is, even weeks later, kids still know the standard and follow it. So if you want to increase your effectiveness, get a backup.” If you and your partner end up fighting instead of backing each other up, just give each other grace. Learning to work together is a process that takes time and it involves creating a plan.
- You can always change the standards. If you have been doing things that hurt each other instead of helping, you can always come together and decide what to do differently.
Hope you enjoyed Chapter Four! On to Chapter Five!