By Ineke Van Lint
The most important value you will ever teach your children is: to respect their parents. And since you cannot pass anything on that you don’t incorporate yourself, you will have to start by first respecting your children. If they don’t feel treated like a human being, worthy of respect and love, deserving of your attention, then their cooperation will be in short supply.
First, you show them respect. Second, you teach them to respect you.
So how to go about this in practice? What to do if your children complain about the food, insult you because you’re picking them up from the gym 10 minutes too late, or if they don’t want to clean up their own mess?
Let’s have a look at these situations one by one:
1. Are the kids complaining about the food?
Do you hear a “Uggh” when they see what’s in the casserole? Well, you are no fool, are you? You just spent one hour in the kitchen preparing that meal. Before cooking, you spent one hour at the grocery store buying the food. Before that, you spent many hours on the job, earning the money to pay for that food. So you now start asking yourself, “Did I not give enough of myself for this meal?” Yes, you did! You do not owe it to them to prepare a warm meal every day. But you do owe it to yourself to get some respect from those for whom you make all these efforts. Enough is enough! You did your part of the deal, now it’s up to them. Teach your children to say “thank you” for every meal. If they have no “thank you” on offer but only muster a “Uggh,” then you are not making dinner for at least two days! Soon they’ll be begging you for a warm dinner, and God knows they will be very grateful when they finally get one on the third day! Never continue delivering a service that is not appreciated. You’d be a fool to do that! How does it feel to be toiling away behind the stove, all the while fearing your efforts and goodwill won’t be appreciated? This is no way to live! If they appreciate neither your efforts nor your cooking, then make them go without for 2 or 3 days, and see what happens.
2. Are the kids insulting you just because you’re ten minutes late when picking them up from the gym?
Then stop picking them up from the gym for a few times! Make it clear to them that they have to appreciate your effort of taking them and picking them up. Don’t start an argument with them, for that doesn’t work. Don’t keep explaining time and time again that they should respect you, but rather show them by taking action. If they are unable to see the difference between the important facts (you are there to pick them up) and the unimportant facts (being ten minutes too late), then let them feel the difference. Next time around, simply don’t take them to the gym, so they will become aware of the difference and learn to appreciate what you are doing for them. Don’t settle for being treated like a slave. You are worthy of respect! Show them what it means to be a person who respects himself. Respect yourself and others will respect you.
3. Are the kids complaining that “there is nothing to eat” in the house, while the kitchen cupboards are bulging with food?
What they mean, of course, is that THEIR favorite food is not available in large enough a quantity. Do your kids have these kind of complaints? Okay, here’s what you do: stop going to the grocery store for a while. That way the kids will have to first finish all the food in the fridge and in the cupboards (or go do some household shopping themselves, also an enlightening exercise). This also makes for an economical cleaning up of all those half-finished packs of crackers, biscuits, cheese, and the like. Then comes the next phase where there really is “nothing” left in the cupboards. Now is the time to go to the grocery store, and you can bet on it that they will appreciate the new arrivals! They will feel like there’s “so much to eat,” while in fact there’s less food than when they were complaining there was “nothing to eat.”
4. Are the kids putting tons of ketchup on their food, continuously ignoring your warnings to be more economical and eat healthier?
Stop arguing about it, for that doesn’t work. Instead, stop buying ketchup all the time! For example, buy one bottle of ketchup per month and clearly tell your children that they’ll have to do with this one bottle for the whole month. When the bottle is done, it’s done, till next month comes around. If necessary, buy a bottle for each child and label it. That way your children will learn to regulate their “ketchup behavior.”
5. Are the kids ignoring your orders to put their shoes in the designated place?
Do they go on leaving their shoes all around the house? Tell them this will be the last warning, and that from now on, any shoes found scattered around will be “launched” into the back yard. And then, stick to your promise! I had to do this once with my son’s basketball shoes: I launched them outside. As it happened, that night it was raining cats and dogs. The next morning he cried, “What do I do now? My shoes are all wet!” I said to him, “Sun, this is your problem.” Believe me, I had to do this only once! Once your children know that you will do as you say, then you won’t have to do it. They will respect your word!
6. Are your children’s rooms a mess? You want the mess to be cleaned up? Don’t do it yourself! Your teenagers should clean up their own mess!
So instead of arguing about it, tell them that they have to clean up their room before dinner on Saturday. That way you are giving them plenty of freedom to chose their own timing. Come Saturday evening dinnertime, go check if the room is tidy. If not, then there is no dinner for that child. After all, this was the deal: room to be cleaned BEFORE dinner. They can still clean their room right there and then, and have dinner when they’re done, but as long as the room is not clean there is no dinner. You could also say, “You clean your room and after that you can go out with your friends.” Be consistent and do as you say.
This is where many parents stumble when dealing with their children: they argue too much. They go on explaining the same thing dozens of times. Do you really think the kids didn’t understand what you were saying? If you have said something two times, then that’s enough. After the second time, you should ACT and not TALK.
Don’t argue with them! Never argue with a child. You are the parent, you are the one who decides. You can negotiate with your child, but don’t feel you need to explain yourself. Kids have much more energy than you do, and sooner or later you will give up (or give in) because your energy is spent while theirs is not. They know that and they will win the battle! Don’t get tempted to go into endless discussions with your child. Learn to act after the second warning. Be consistent! That’s the only way to get respect.
Ineke Van Lint is a psychologist whose goal is to help you achieve success and happiness. Visit her at TheEnthusiasm.com.