My favorite parenting tip came from Shannon Tweed on the TV show “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” around 2008. I didn’t expect to receive a golden parenting nugget while tuning in for mindless entertainment. Their kids were lovely. Well-behaved, helpful, creative, loving and respectful. I had a 4-year-old at the time, so when she offered the advice, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” to the audience, I took note.
That was it. Simple enough, or so I thought.
I wish she had mentioned starting off small is most effective. If you say it, you must follow through. Out of the gate, my knee-jerk reaction to the child not listening was: “No birthday party!” The punishment did not fit the crime, but I had to own it. Start with something such as no dessert or an earlier bedtime, the lesson will be learned without total ruination. Go big when you have to, but not before.
They’ll come to see how their choices determine the end result…and that you mean business. You’ll become a more thoughtful, tempered and no-nonsense parent. Establishing this awareness early on is a gift to your children, and sets them on a path to live a mindful life.
No wavering or they will seize back control!
A brief *disclaimer. That was my one go-to for years, now I offer four additional pieces of advice. The titles are tongue and cheek as parenting continues to bring out my irreverent side for survival’s sake, but the strategies are invaluable.
Don’t look them in the eyes.
Don’t look them in the eyes.
It may seem counterintuitive as we teach our kids to look people in the eyes when speaking, but this tactic is a must.
They incessantly call your name, tugging at your sleeve…begging and whining. Do not look directly at them, it acknowledges their pleas for attention. If you do, they win. It’s over. Those Bambi eyes will stop you from the task at hand, and you’ll engage. And they know it. You’ve now indulged the negative behavior…not to mention losing valuable time and control of the situation.
Use the same intensity you would when walking into a reception scanning for the bar, skillfully avoiding eye contact until you get there. If you talk at and around them, avoiding the eyeballs while going on about your day, eventually they will give up and problem solve on their own; paving the way to self-sufficiency.
Look away people!
I enjoy embarrassing my kids as often as I can. It’s the best.
I’ll sing or dance on a field trip, volunteer to be the mascot, or walk them to school in a nightgown. The oldest slinks down in the front seat when we see a group of her friends, knowing I will yell “Make Good Choices!” out the window.
It’s silly. I do it for sheer pleasure, but, as a bonus, it builds character, a sense of humor brimming with self-deprecation, and that no matter your age, silliness can lift your spirits. I found the sweet spot with humor and discipline…imagining what I may (or may not) do lights a fire under their butts to help around the house. They secretly love it, so sometimes it backfires. No matter. The bond created sharing a laugh with your kids is worth the chores left undone.
Laughter is good for the soul.
If you forget your lunch at home, I am not bringing it. Don’t like the meal I made, too bad.
Eat the school lunch. Go to bed hungry. The real world isn’t always accommodating…it falls on you. It doesn’t take too many missed lunches, or growling stomachs at bedtime for them to grasp the overriding lesson: Their choices have consequences. They live in a culture where parents swoop in to make their kids’ lives easier and perfect. Make ’em squirm…it toughens them up!
I want them to be sure-footed, grateful, and responsible when they burst forth onto the “real” scene. Don’t make them an alternative supper because they aren’t in the mood for what you provided, and if we could all stop dropping off what they left at home to school, allowing for them to be embarrassed, irritated or put-out for a moment, they’ll start to do for themselves. By taking ownership, they become more confident and successful in other areas of their lives.
They will not starve.
The occasional spanking or pop. I am aware of the controversy and differing opinions on the subject…the psychology makes sense. Nevertheless, I am comfortable with how we went about it. There was no formal time for punishment. It was an in-the-moment situation, often preventing something dangerous from happening, the shock of being popped on the bottom an aid in averting disaster.
I am of the generation where spankings and paddles in the front office were common, and came through it intact. I never feared anything more than getting in trouble at home, knowing a spanking would be imminent. And “Big Brownie,” the slotted paddle in the headmistress’s office at school, was legendary. I never saw it myself, but that it existed was enough to keep me in line just enough to not come in contact with it.
My oldest child told me of a conversation with her peers that school is considering bringing the paddle back! They were indignant and confident their parents would never let that happen. She raised her hand and said: “MY MOM WOULD!” It’s the same fear that keeps you out of jail. Just don’t do anything that sends you to the principal, duh!
“Make Good Choices!”
Parenting is hard, and can really suck. Preparing small humans for the world while sitting in the realization you are raising them to head out the door into the wild can be debilitating. If I let myself imagine my daughters on the streets of New York City at night, I am suffocated with fear. I find solace in the hope they are taking the lessons I’m passing on to heart, and I breathe lighter.
I use humor (and wine) to keep my sanity. Sharing these parenting lessons helps take the edge off the reality of our vast and never-ending parental duties. And if you can deadpan say these four things out loud without giggling, the millisecond of conflicted emotions on the face of the recipient is priceless.
Also of note, if you enjoy rock and roll all night, and partying every day alongside parenting, KISS is on their “End of the Road” farewell tour. Not to be missed if they come your way.
Elizabeth Holmes, Elephant Academy Apprentice
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