By Scott Petersen, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Behavioral Health Director for Bayless Healthcare
Our children look up to us to not just protect and provide, but to also be teachers that help guide them. As parents, we often underestimate the influence we actually have in our children’s lives and it’s time that changes.
Here are some examples of common, but ineffective statements that parents make towards children that leave expectations clear as fog. “Behave! Grow up! Act your age! You aren’t ready for school yet?! I can’t believe you didn’t finish your homework!” None of those statements is clear or specific. Instead, the parent comes off as critical with no real plan on what needs to be done to correct the situation.
A parent might instead say to their child, “Put your shoes on right now.” This is a clear statement with a specific timeframe. Do this calmly, but firmly. Both parent and child know exactly what is expected and when it should be done.
Parents that provide consistent expectations to their children create an environment of stability. Kids will come to know that when mom or dad says something, they mean it. Setting consistent curfews, bedtimes, chores, and traditions help children to feel grounded and steady. While younger children may need expectations set for them, teenagers and parents should set appropriate expectations together. This allows the teens to have more ownership of their responsibilities.
Parents that are united in their parenting avoid splitting. Splitting is when a child plays one parent off the other. Parents must resist the temptation to want to be the preferred parent. If a parent undermines the other parent, this can lead to increased stress and frustration with parents and children.
Parents that follow up on their requests are more likely to see results than parents who make a request and don’t follow up. It is easy to ask a child if they did their homework. It is harder to then have them bring their homework and show it is done. Kids are more likely to complete a task that they know their parent will check up on them. A former US President said, “Trust, but verify.”
All parents struggle with how to help their children during the school year. Being clear, being consistent, and following up are proven ways to help children and parents create a more successful and happy home life.