by Elisabeth Stitt
If you have not been following our series on Building the Consistency Muscle start here: Find the Positive and then follow the arrows at the bottom of the post.
You have all the steps for becoming a consistent parent; now it is just a question of putting the pieces into place. Here are some final tips:
Prepare Physically for Battle
Do I really mean go to the gym and work out? Well, only sort of. But we all know that we never do our best parenting when we are feeling tired and worn out. So, set yourself up for success by being well rested. Develop a meditation practice or find some simple yoga practices on YouTube. Plan on taking a walk on your lunch hour at work. At home with the kids all day? Nap when they nap. Let's say that you have set a clear rule of no distractions (reading material, video games, phones, etc) will be allowed at the table and you are worried that your new meal time expectations are going to increase the tension for a while. They will, so you might even want to sneak in a high protein afternoon snack so that even if your meal is upset, you will have energy to sustain you. Really need a break? Get yourself a babysitter one night and forget to mention the new dinner table policy! Maybe plan a meal in an alternate setting where the rule just won’t come up. A picnic with all finger food would make it mighty hard to hold a phone! Put whatever structure in place you need to sustain your determination to see the new policy through until it becomes a habit. If you are not absolutely convinced this is a rule you want, don’t even start. To build success, you need to start with something you care deeply about. (That is what makes the values clarification piece so important.)
Prepare Mentally for Battle
If there has not been a rule in place around an issue—or there has been a rule but it has never had any teeth—expect things to get worse before they get better. Face it. None of us really like policy change unless the previous policy was so bad that we are desperate for any change at all. If dinner has been a free for all with each family member doing what he wants, no one is going to want to put down his video game or book in favor of polite family conversation. Things WILL get worse before they get better, so before you make a big announcement, spend a lot of time thinking through your responses to as many unexpected situations as possible.
How can you structure things so that no distractions even come to the table? What are your consequences going to be for texting under the table? What is your consequence going to be for yelling, crying or talking back when you take the phone away? What consequences will you be able to absolutely follow through on consistently? What if your children sit tight lipped and stony faced every night for a week?
Role play if you need to practice staying calm: Have one spouse be the recalcitrant child and the other be the enforcer. You know your partner’s week points: Will Dad give in if his little girl starts to cry? Is Mom so uncomfortable with swearing that she will just lose her temper completely? Practice, practice, practice. This is a new part you are playing. It will not feel automatic. It will be uncomfortable. Support each other in whatever way you need to.
Celebration, Reflection and Recommitment
Being consistent is hard! So celebrate any step or part that is working. Was dinner a nightmare, but you held your ground? Do a private jig for joy. Call a friend and crow. Give yourself a gold star. Changing our way of being and reacting takes going back to the drawing board over and over. Have a pow wow before the next meal to reflect. Did you support each other sufficiently? Were you able to stay calm? Did you reward the compliant child with genuine interest and lively conversation? Would it help to have a different seating arrangement next time? Did it go better than you thought it would? Give yourself another pat on the back! Remind each other of why you are doing what you are doing. What values are you honoring by following through? In your mind’s eye see the warm, connected family dinners that you are in the act of creating. Take a deep breath and recommit to the vision. Tomorrow is another day!
I mean it! One of the biggest impediments today to effective parenting is isolation. We have got to start sharing our stories. So be brave! Be the first person to post your failures and your success here. Will we think less of you? No, way! We will cheer you and thank you for having the courage to say what everyone else is thinking. In my classroom, I used to give cut-out paper stars to kids for Acts of Conspicuous Bravery when they were willing to have their work commented on in class. It is not easy, but it provides tremendous learning for every one else--and it is one way to get my input on your exact situation! So, who's going to earn the first gold star?
I am fully committed to you being a consistent parent. If you are looking for individual support, let’s start with a complimentary coaching session. Sign up HERE.
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