Do you sometimes feel like your children are running things and you are powerless to change it? Ever wonder how other parents get results and your children just don’t take you seriously? Or maybe you cringe and feel guilty when you assign a consequence and then find yourself backing down. Yes? You might be practicing pushover parenting.
Of the three styles of parenting, authoritarian (don’t you forget whose in charge here kids!), authoritative (you heard me, I meant what I said, now end of discussion), permissive (oh alright, you don’t have to go to time out if you promise not to do this again), most professionals agree that the authoritative parenting style produces the most happy and well adjusted children. If you think you might fall into the permissive category, you are probably right. Here are 4 common discipline mistakes that pushover/permissive parents make.
1. You back down or reduce consequences.
After all, it feels so mean or so strict. And your kids get so mad when they have a consequence and say hurtful things to you, like “You’re so mean!” or “I hate you!” or “You’re the worst mother ever.” Or, they simply tantrum when they receive a consequence.
Why This Happens: You don’t like the way it feels to enforce the consequence. It isn’t fun for sure, but bailing tells your child you are not serious about your own standards.
The Fix: Step away, into another room and think. Take a breath or ten, think what the appropriate match of a consequence would be to the problem. You can even tell your child that you will need to think about the consequence and will let them know a little later (after you feel more calm and confident.)
It also helps to have a few general consequences to fall back on so you don’t have to be overly creative every time. Go to your room works really well. So does loss of a privilege for a short time, such as the iPad or phone. You can even change the consequence later and tell your child you thought it over and the change works better for you, (not him/her.)
2. You ask instead of insisting when you want cooperation.
You child presents a surprise parenting opportunity by refusing, sassing, or disappearing when you ask her to stop what she’s doing and do the dishes. “Could you stop what you’re doing for just a few minutes and get the dishes done before it’s time for bed?” When she refuses or ignores you, you are caught off guard, let her get away with refusing, and end up doing it yourself.
Why This Happens: You feel a little like a fool, but arguing makes you fear your child won’t like you, and that feels far worse than feeling like a fool.
The Fix: Stop asking, or saying “OK?” at the end of the sentence. Politely tell your child what to do, but not in a way that indicates they have a choice. Asking OK tells them them a choice.
Quit using please and thank you when you give a directive. These very important words are for other times. Please and thank you imply your child is doing you a favor therefore they won’t take your directive seriously. Simply say, “It’s time to do the dishes.” If the child balks, just repeat the statement …. and don’t justify yourself or over explain.
3. You let your children bend rules.
You will hear excuses, delay tactics, and bargaining frequently as a parent. It’s normal for kids to try but they are just asking you to be a real parent and hold them accountable. “Just a minute.” “After I finish this video game.” Or they just walk away without doing the expected, like taking dishes to the sink.
Why This Happens: You don’t want a fight and prefer keeping the peace rather than teaching your children that your word is your word. And, if they ask nicely you are really inclined to give in to pushover parenting.
The Fix: Stick to simple statements of the expected behavior and use the broken record – simply repeating the statement. Watch out for “bait”, or attempts to whittle your rule down just a bit. No debating. Just repeating the expected behavior. “It’s time to turn the TV off and get ready for bed.” “Can’t I have one more show, just this once? Please?” “You know the rule. One show.” Then you walk over and turn the TV off yourself. Simple and respectful. Not with arms crossed and a power trip glare on your face.
4. You compromise your standards to keep your child happy.
Maybe you are in the grocery store and your child wants a junkie little toy. You say no and here comes the tantrum. Instead of just walking on with your screaming child beside you, you start offering other items. “How about a banana?” “Here, what about this little book instead.?” Now who’s doing the bargaining? And you know this just rewards the tantrum.
Why This Happens: It’s uncomfortable to see your child miserable or disappointed and if you or your child are tired or hungry, standing up to the tantrum is all the more challenging. Learning to tough it out through a disappointment is one of life’s biggest and most important lessons children need to learn before they grow up and leave home.
The Fix: Acknowledge your child’s feelings. “I know you are disappointed you can’t have the toy.” Then stop. Now is not the time to justify your answer, or explain that everyone has to learn to deal with disappointment, or to tell one of your own childhood stories. Just keep it simple and move on. The tantrum will end, they all do. Then your child has experienced a successful weathering of an uncomfortable emotion and you can pat yourself on the back for not indulging in pushover parenting.
You can see how simple these mistakes are and how they overlap with each other. Change takes time and feels awkward at first, until you get used to the new normal. Once you see some improvements you will never go back and, believe it or not, your children will not hate you for this. Best of all, these strategies work equally well with kids of all ages!
Enjoy your new normal!