Kids are complex creatures with simple needs. They need structure and to know you’re in charge, but they also need control over their lives at every age/stage. Everything doesn’t have to be a battle! One way we found to conquer this tug-of-war was to give a five minute warning and use a timer many times each day. When our kids knew what to expect, they were better obeyers.
It went something like this:
You have five minutes to play and then it’s bath time.
We are leaving in five minutes, so finish what you’re doing and be ready.
I need you to finish that job, assignment, game, etc. in five minutes.
We have to stop the movie in five minutes – but we can finish it later.
And on and on…
We usually set a kitchen timer, but now phone timers may be easier. It’s helpful for kids to see the timer so they can gauge how much time they have left. This helps them feel in control of their little world. Some kids are more easy-going and go with the flow, but most need specific boundaries and to know what to expect. If they feel in control, they won’t act so out of control.
Another way to help kids feel in control is choices. Give them choices instead of just commanding one way on everything. As parents we do know what’s best for our children, but we are raising them to be independent people who can make their own decisions, so we should start that process early. A practical way to do this includes clothing choices. If you are home for the day, I encourage letting children make their own selections for what to wear (within reason, of course). But if you’re going out and need them to dress appropriately, consider laying out two outfit selections, both of which you approve for the occasion, but still allowing the little blessings to choose what they wear. Then it’s a win/win.
So choose your battles wisely and don’t make everything a war. Life is hard enough.