Five Parenting Policies that Work
Not every rule is effective, but these five are tried and true.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve made a lot of rules in the six years that I’ve been a parent. From the smart ones like “no running down the stairs,” to the irrational threats of “I’m never buying crackers again if I find one more crumb on the couch!” I’ve definitely had my moments, but every once in a while I stumble upon a rule that works, one of those rare occasions when what I say sticks and works out better than I’d ever imagined. The funny thing is that most of the time, in these instances, the push isn’t really a rule at all…more like a policy or statement of fact. Best of all, they’re easy to remember. So if you feel like you’re always nagging and scolding, it might be time to try one of these parenting policies.
Policy #1: You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit
You’ve no doubt heard this one, but it’s worth repeating. Not only does it have a fun rhythm, but it also trumps the old “life isn’t fair” lesson. It’s essentially irrefutable and, rather than focusing on an abstract notion like fairness, it speaks directly to the individual situation at hand. I’ve personally found this one to work quite well with toddler temper tantrums.
Policy #2: Off at 8 p.m.
Sometimes setting a rule like 8 o’clock bedtimes can be tough. The trick here is to think of parenting as the full-time job that it really is. Just like the working world, you can announce a “clock-out time.” This means no more parenting jobs past 8 p.m., you’re officially off the clock. Your children can know that you will gladly read books, play games, listen to stories, give baths – the whole parent package – before 8 p.m. After that, it’s done, so they should use their time wisely. This works great with preschoolers because this isn’t a rule for them to follow; it’s for you.
Policy #3: I can’t understand you when you speak like that
Simply proclaim incomprehension when your child whines, screams or throws a tantrum. Kids really do want to be heard. Telling them you can’t understand their words when they whine or cry changes the behavior fast. This is especially true if you whisper it. Taking your volume down a notch typically brings the child’s volume down, too, as he struggles to hear you over the whining and crying. On top of everything, it’s also empowering for your children by suggesting they have something valuable to say and you truly want to listen.
Policy #4: We don’t argue about money
This one is for the older kids, but basically the policy is that you can tell your children yes or no on any requested purchase, but you won’t discuss it. If your child protests, simply repeat, calmly, that you won’t argue about money. This shifts the focus from the whined-for treat to financial policy. You’re almost changing the topic, no longer debating why he shouldn’t have gum or some plastic plaything and, instead, invoking a reasonable-sounding family value.
Policy #5: There’s no such thing as boredom
The “I’m bored” phrase basically translates to “entertain me.” While our jobs as parents entail many things such as providing love, nurturing, nutrition and safety, entertainment is not a core function. You can combat this one with the response, “there is no such thing as boredom, only lack of imagination.” By the time your kids have figured out the puzzle of how something that exists can also not exist, they won’t be bored. Also, it changes the terms of debate, from a challenge for you to one for them. Besides—if your child learns how to entertain herself, there truly is no such thing as boredom. And that’s a gift that will last forever.