A teen may not want a curfew, but having one will let that child know that you care. Do you ask your teen where he or she is going and who will be with them? I know you want your teen to feel independent, but not asking can confuse the child into thinking that you are not interested. What if he or she comes home after curfew? Does he or she get punished? Again, let your teen know that you care, pay attention to what he or she is doing.
The same holds true for the little ones: How many times can your toddler say “no” to a bath before getting a timeout? Even little ones will respond to consistent boundaries.
Expectations Must Be Clear and Realistic
This leads to the issue of expectations. Let your children know exactly what you expect from them, and please be realistic. If you want your child to do chores, set up a chore chart so he or she knows what nights to clean up the table and what nights to take out the garbage. I know a lot of parents don’t like the idea of putting a chart on the fridge and using stickers, but it helps establish a routine and will help establish structure. Does your child get an allowance? Does the child earn it or is the cash simply given? Some families I’ve counseled have turned the allowance into an incentive.
Children need to know what to expect and what will happen next. This becomes a bigger issue than just chores; children feel safe and secure when they can anticipate what will happen next. A house with no rules, boundaries or expectations will confuse your child and make him or her anxious. Children often will act out in an effort to find out what the rules are, what the boundaries are and what you expect of them. They will act in ways to seek out the structure that they secretly desire.
Fulfill Your Child’s “Secret” Desire
Did you catch that word, secret? Most children will try to keep it a secret that they want rules and order in their lives, but don’t let them fool you. Parents often don’t realize why their children misbehave. It’s not because we are bad parents or because we have failed them. It can usually be attributed to their well-kept secret of needing a stable environment.
I am not preaching tough love or tyranny; I don’t believe in it. I am convinced, however, that parents can take a firm yet fair approach. Children will always be testing their parents; that’s what they do best. But they do it for a good reason. They want to make sure you love them. Structure in your home can provide them with a sense of security and help maintain your sanity.