By Lesley Iwinski
My 8-year-old just won’t go to bed!”
“My son has to do his homework. I don’t want to hear the arguments!”
“When I was a kid and my dad told me to do my chores, I jumped to it! What’s with the protests?”
These are common questions. Is it more important to lay down the law, or to just let kids do what they want?
An effective parent has learned another way – finding the balance between the two extremes.
Say it’s time for your 8-year-old to get ready for bed. Lately, it has been the same struggle every night: “I don’t want to go to bed!”
So, we reason. “If you don’t get enough sleep, you will be tired tomorrow.”
We educate. “Research shows that children your age need 10 hours of sleep to function well.”
We bribe. “I’ll get donuts for breakfast if you go to bed now!”
We threaten. “If you don’t get into bed now, you’re going to be grounded!”
There is another way, which gets better results and brings us closer to our children.
We need to be both kind and firm. How?
Kindness connects you with your children by letting them know you hear and understand them.
“I see you having so much fun playing. It’s hard to stop.”
“You’re angry because you want to stay up,” or “I bet you wish you could stay up as late as you want.”
Kindness asks us to truly stand in our child’s place and try to feel what they feel.
It honors the feelings of our child without dismissing them and recognizes that everyone has a right to their emotions.
Feelings don’t need to be “fixed” or “talked out of” but listened to and acknowledged with respect.
But we also need to be firm, not overpowering, while still being open-minded.
By all means, agree upon a new bedtime if it seems reasonable. Just remember that negotiating under pressure can make you appear wishy-washy.
Instead, say, “I appreciate hearing your ideas, so let’s see when we can really talk about this. For now, the rule stands.”
When we realize we have neither the need nor the ability to control our child’s feelings, we are free to be what they need: kind and firm.