Parenting, much like love, is a battlefield. And as any good general knows, the key to triumph over your enemy is having a good battle plan (or a bunch of highly trained ninjas who can do cool flips). Clinical psychologist Erica Reischer has pored over tons of parenting books and scientific studies about raising kids, and distilled it down for your TL;DR pleasure. In What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive, she lays out an exhaustive list of both common sense and under-the-radar ideas. But, because no parent actually has time for that, she just went back through them and gave up her 6 key takeaways.
How To Understand Their Behavior
Kids are always doing social experiments, and you are their unwilling test subject. “Parents see their children doing something unacceptable like pulling out someone’s hair, and say, ‘They’re always testing me.’” According to Reischer, the reason you think that is because it’s true. Unfortunately, this is how they find out how the world works. If you picture them wearing a little white lab coat you’re more likely to respond in a constructive way, she says. Ugh, they blinded you with science!
How To Avoid Arguments With Them
Practice saying “yes” in a way that gets you where you want to be. As in, “Yes, we can go to the park …. right after you finish your snack and clean your room.”
“Using this phrasing gives kids less to push against,” says Reischer. Bear in mind that you’re not changing your standards, because the answer to, “Can I eat a tub of Cool Whip for breakfast?” is “Yes, when you’re old enough to live in your own apartment with your own kitchen and buy your own Cool Whip.”
How To Argue With Them (If They Insist)
Instead of telling your kid that they’re annoying you — which would makes anyone defensive — tell them that you are annoyed. It’s a subtle difference, but they can’t argue with your feelings. You’re not assigning blame; you’re communicating. “Avoid toxic phrases where shame or blame or fear are used to change your child’s behavior,” says Reischer. “It’s better to focus on your own feelings.” Of course, she didn’t say anything about blaming your own parents.
How To Keep Them From Saying “Please!” 1,001 Times
Pull a lever on a slot machine 1,000 times and you’ll be broke. Pull it once more and you might get rich. If you’re not always consistent with your rules, Reischer says, your kids will view you as a slot machine and view their own reserve of “coins” (they’re ability to ask for something 1,001 times) pretty much bottomless.
So, no matter how close you are to your wit’s end, maintain your commitments — as long as you’re being fair and reasonable. If your rule is that they must clean up their room before they can go outside, you wait until that last toy go into the bin. Then give them a flashlight because it’s 3 AM. (That’s reasonable, right?)
How To Keep Them From Whining
You know that you have the power to stop their whining by giving them what they want. They know if they whine they get what they want. “In your head, divide this into two categories: Goals and Methods,” she says. Tell your kid you understand that they want a glass of milk (the goal), but let them know they’re not going to get it by whining (the method). For little kids, propose an alternate, whine-free method. Like bringing you a glass of wine first.
How To Avoid The ‘I Want Mom!’ Bedtime
Especially when kids are little, they may want a few more cuddles with their mother at bedtime. You get to be persona non grata — which loosely translates to “guy who isn’t mom.”
“It can be hurtful when they want Mommy to do something, but try not to take it personally,” says Reischer. If you start to maintain a schedule for nights that you’re on bedtime duty, and make it an expected part of the weekly routine, it’s usually not a point of contention, she says. Tada. Now you’re persona non nada!
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