Gold Medal Rules in Parenting (And Mom Wins the Gold!)

I stumbled upon a good article online at Parenting Magazine titled Quirky Discipline Rules That Work. This article is floating around on Pinterest right now and mothers everywhere are excited about the techniques offered by the author, who is also speaking from experience as a mom.

What I really like about these techniques, and the reason they get such good results, is because they follow the premise of a few golden rules. If you get the philosophy behind the techniques, you can come up with some creative ways to use them and come up with your own “quirky rules”, just like the moms in this article showed us. Aren’t they all about tricking our kids into doing what we want anyways? 🙂

1. Kids want to feel in control. I believe everyone likes to feel some degree of control over their life. My 18 month old already insists on choosing which socks and shoes he will wear to daycare.  Allowing kids an opportunity to make choices helps to fulfill that need for control and independence. When the author tells her kids they can be loud as long as it is in another room, or they can choose to stay in the room with her as long as they helped with the laundry, this is giving them a choice in how or where they will behave. Here’s an exerpt from the the article:

And then one day, as my oldest foster daughter sat and watched me work, asking me favors and waiting for me to be done, I came up with a rule that takes into account two important facts about kids:

* They actually want to be with you as much as possible.

* You can’t force them to help you in any way that is truly helpful.

I played fact one against fact two and told her that she didn’t have to help me but couldn’t just sit and watch. She had to go elsewhere. Given a choice between being with me and folding laundry or not being with me at all, she took option one.

Why it works: I didn’t care which she chose. And it was her choice, so it gave her control even as it took it away.

2. You can only control you. No matter how hard we try, we cannot control our kids like we think. By declaring herself “off duty” at 8:00pm, the author realized that she could not control the behaviors of her family. She could only control herself.  Once they learned she was serious about her 8 o’clock rule, they adjusted!

Goal: Regular bedtimes and time off for you

You can’t just announce a rule to your husband and kids that says, “Bedtime has to go really smoothly so I can get a break at the end of the day.” It won’t happen. But if you flip the problem and make a rule about you instead of telling everyone what they have to do, it all falls neatly  — and miraculously  — into place.

When this occurred to me, back when my oldest was 6 and my youngest was nearly 2, I announced to Anna and Taylor that the U.S. Department of Labor had just created a new rule and I was no longer allowed to do any kind of mom jobs past 8:00 in the evening. I would gladly read books, play games, listen to stories of everyone’s day, give baths  — the whole mother package  — before then. Then I held firm  — I acted as if it were out of my hands. Sort of like Cinderella and midnight.

Suddenly, my 6-year-old (and my husband) developed a new consciousness of time. My daughter actually rushed to get ready for bed just after dinner so that we could have lots of books and time together before I was “off.” My husband, realizing that if things dragged past 8:00 he’d have to face putting both girls to sleep himself, became more helpful. Anna’s now 11, and my hours have been extended, but the idea that I’m not endlessly available has been preserved and integrated into our family routine.

Why it works: You’re not telling anyone else what to do. The rule is for you, so you have only yourself to blame if it’s not enforced.

3. Make the rule objective. Anytime you can blame the child’s disappointment on “the rule” rather than mean ol’ mom, the better. The example in this article is that she never argues over money. So, when the moment arises when the kids want to argue over getting a new toy, then she can remove the personal aspect and claim it’s the outside rule that prevents her from arguing.

It cuts both ways, though: When your kids want to spend their “own” money, point out potential mistakes and give advice on the purchase if you’d like, but at the end of the day, don’t overrule them unless it’s a matter of health or safety. After all, you don’t argue about money. They may make some bad choices, but they’ll learn. And you’ll all enjoy shopping together a lot more.

Why it works: It shifts the focus from the whined-for treat to financial policy. You’re almost changing the topic on them, no longer debating why they should or shouldn’t have gum or some plastic plaything and, instead, invoking a reasonable-sounding family value.

I love it when parents spread wisdom and experience with the rest of us. Honestly, the education I get from other moms and dads is so much more valuable than books written by psychologists (shh don’t tell my psych friends).

You May Also Like:

Is There A “Right” Way To Parent?

Sibling Rivalry: Treating Kids Fairly Versus Equally

Creating a Calm Down Box


Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

One thought on “Gold Medal Rules in Parenting (And Mom Wins the Gold!)”

  1. I love that little cartoon about yelling, and it’s so true! Whenever my kid is freaking out, I lower my voice because if I were to raise it, he would just yell even louder and it becomes an endless cycle.

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