What does Family Peace even mean? Are you thinking that sounds a bit too “Kumbayah”?
I do not think every minute of family time is going to go smoothly. I am talking about “mostly kind, mostly peaceful”. Trust me. I am a Mother as well as a Doctor. We have teens and a kindergartner. So, with this context let’s go for it!
I want to make sure that you know that parents need to be on the same page in raising your child a “majority” of the time. I also believe that if you are a single parent reading this you need an amazing support system (family, friends, coaches) to support you in raising your child. We all need support and the right kind of help.
I believe the core ingredients to family peace are: respecting each other, having fun together, setting clear expectations, setting clear boundaries and being consistent in your parenting style. This includes letting any relatives, childcare, coaches, and teachers know of your child’s “style” of relating to the world in the best way possible.
If you want your child to respect you, you need to spend time with them having fun too.
I mean it. If your kids are laughing with you combined with obeying family expectations you are “nailing it”.
Most kids respond amazing to praise.
If you like a behavior and want to see more of it you can praise the process of the action they are taking. “I like the way you fed the dog without me asking. Strong Initiative!” “You were really focused when you were doing your homework”. “Thank you for listening to me today. Your behavior was amazing”.
When I was in training as a Child Psychiatry Fellow at UCLA, we all praised and praised and praised the good behavior. I roll pretty positive yet even for me it felt like an “over the top” Hallmark card greeting of joy. Guess what? It works. This method of praise combined with “ignore” described below have been the gold standard recommended of parent training techniques.
Ignore the behavior you don’t want to see.
Do not make eye contact, look away, face another direction. If they keep doing it you can redirect them with: “I really liked the behavior you were having earlier today. I want you to continue to earn your allowance (your screen time, your gaming time); let’s turn it around”.
Step 1: Sort Quality of Behavior
Behavior you like = Praise It
Examples: Feeding the dog. Doing Homework. Saying thank you. Sharing a toy.
Behavior you dislike= Ignore It.
Examples: Whining. Stalling on chores. Fighting with sister. Rolling their eyes at you.
Behavior you find Unacceptable. Set firm consequences.
Examples: Hitting a sibling. Leaving house without permission.
Step 2: Praise Effectively=Better Behavior
Tips on Praising:
Praise the behavior not the child.
Make eye contact.
Get on the same level as your child.
Hug or give a pat on the back.
Have a smile on your face.
Use a loving tone of voice.
Create meaningful praise to your child.
Step 3: Ignore Effectively.
Tips on Ignoring:
Make no eye contact.
Turn away from your child.
Focus on something else (counting to 10, breathing).
Have a neutral, blank face.
Give no verbal or nonverbal message.
Stay calm and emotionally detached.
Praise when the behavior stops or one you like starts.
If your child is wearing you down and there is another parent around (or adult figure) I recommend tapping or whispering “tag team” to your support and to take a break from your child if you are semi “losing it” (aka about to drop the f-bomb or yell at the top of your lungs). Quickly transition with “Your Father is going to talk with you now and I will check in with you in a little while”.
I am a firm believer in “date nights” or “alone time” away from your children so you can be a more effective parent.
Do not spend the entire date talking or thinking about your child. You need to play/relax too.
Be consistent. Be loving. Be concise. Set developmentally appropriate rewards.
I have to “walk the walk” at my house just like you. I find mindfulness and twenty minutes of meditation my “secret peace weapons”. Really. I actually tell myself: “Be kind. Be loving”, all throughout the day.
You can do this!