I have two dogs and when they were pups my vet gave me sound advice: Always make sure you assert yourself as the "alpha" dog of the pack. Otherwise, she said, they will walk all over you. While I know that parenting is a far cry from dog training, I happen to believe that the whole alpha dog thing can many times apply in both cases. Since this topic is a bit lengthy I’m going to touch on a few points today and then wrap up next week.
Like most of you, I know people on both ends of the parenting spectrum. My friend Maureen is someone I use as a measuring stick of good parenting. While her two girls, ages 5 and 8, aren’t perfect, I must say they are a pleasure to be around. They are well mannered, behave appropriately and are able to interact easily with other children. I attribute this to their upbringing. Maureen has always set boundaries for the girls and is very active in her role as a mom so I’d like to share some of her tips with you.
Responsibilities and Rewards
One technique that has worked for Maureen is the use of a chore chart. Each girl has her own chart and every time they do a chore they select a sticker and apply it to their chart. When the chart is full of stickers they are allowed to go to the store and select a book (they LOVE books!). The idea of earning a reward motivates them while teaching them about responsibility.
All kids can give attitude or try to sass their parents–it’s going to happen no matter what. The key is nipping it as soon as it starts so you’re not dealing with an obnoxious and disrespectful teen in 10 years. Maureen has handled this by immediately letting the girls know she doesn’t like the tone they are using with her. If it continues the girls are sent to their rooms. After a few minutes, she’ll go in and discuss the situation with them (why they were sent to their rooms, what they did wrong). In almost every instance that little bit of time alone makes them realize what they’ve done and she’s greeted with an "I’m sorry Mommy." She uses a similar routine when they are bickering amongst themselves. They are given the opportunity to work it out between each other, but if it continues they receive a time out and spend it in their rooms to think about how they could have better handled the dispute.
A common theme in Maureen’s parenting success is setting the rules and then sticking to them. Each action or behavior from the girls has its own set of consequences. There are no hollow threats or endless warnings.
Next week, we’ll see how Maureen handles one of the biggest challenges for parents–how she gets her girls to eat healthy.