Rules or Relationship?

My oldest daughter just turned 16 and got her driver’s license.  Many people have asked me about our rules for her driving: What time is her curfew?  How far can she go?  Whom can she drive?  My simple answer is we focus more on our relationship than the rules.

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My husband majored in Family Science while doing his pre-med courses at BYU.  In one of his parenting classes he learned about this concept. He learned the importance of cultivating a relationship with your teenager over enforcing a long list of rules.  Many people think that when it comes to parenting teenagers you’ve got to “lay down the law” and battle them to get them to obey and behave.  Parents think you’ve got to establish a lot of rules and consequences and be on the lookout for any misbehavior or rebellion.  But there is a different way.  If you have nurtured a good relationship with your child, you can focus more on that bond for influencing good behavior than any rules and punishments.

This philosophy is based on an understanding of the developmental growth that occurs in the teenage years.  Growing up includes the process of separating from parents, and by the end of adolescence that separation should be complete.  Parents will and should have less and less influence.  In Parenting with Love and Logic the authors describe this situation with V and an inverted V as two symbols of children’s decision making as they age.  The upright V shows that when children are small (the bottom of the V), they are not making many decisions on their own.  The parents control most of their lives and make most of their decisions. Parental control decreases over time as children mature.  Children learn how to make more and more of their own decisions, and by the time they leave the house they are equipped with the skills to live independent lives.

Some parents mistakenly subscribe to the inverted or upside down V philosophy, where young children are given many liberties and allowed to make their own decisions (many of which may be beyond their developmental level). Then as the child grows, the parents clamp down and implement more rules (presumably to keep the rebelling teen in line). This is a vicious cycle because it leads to more rebellion from the teenager, followed by even more rules from the parents. This kind of cycle can dampen the parent-child relationship.  Interactions start to focus on reviewing and enforcing the rules and this leads to a more closed-off relationship.

With a strong relationship already in place, parents are ready to guide their children through adolescence with less and less control over their choices.  This doesn’t mean you don’t know what is going on with your child.  In fact, it is the opposite.  Through your relationship you know a lot about each other.  Rather than reviewing rules, you are getting to know your child in a more mature way, trying to understand what the child is thinking, learning, doing, and experiencing.  You have mutual respect and consideration, and you communicate about what is going on each day.  You know where your child is and what they are doing, not because they have to tell you, but because it is a natural part of your relationship.

In the context of a relationship, the child understands that she can’t come home whenever she wants, because her parents will be wondering where she is and would be worried about her.  She wouldn’t take the car without discussing it because the parent might need it.  In this system, parents expect the child to talk to them regularly, not just to inform them what she is doing, but to have an open discussion together.  This might include the child recognizing that what she has planned won’t work for the family as a whole.  For example, if a child says she wants to go to a friend’s house after the football game and stay out until one am, the dad might explain that the family has an activity planned early Saturday morning, and so she will need to come home earlier.

Don’t get the wrong idea that keeping a healthy, strong relationship with your teen is easy!  It takes work, patience, and self-control.  But it is possible, and it is preferable to viewing your teen as an adversary and trying to control her behavior with rules.  In the book How to Hug a Porcupine, the author goes into detail about how to create and maintain a positive relationship with your child from about age 9 on.  The tween years (9-12) can be the time when children start to get “prickly,” harder to love and more distant.  The author describes how to overlook the difficult but normal behaviors (similar to the difficult toddler behaviors I talked about in Why Is She Crying?!) and forge ahead with a positive attitude toward bridging the gap that your child insists on creating.  If you get in the habit of these helpful tactics, you will have a good relationship in place as your child enters the teen years.

Don’t expect that this will always go smoothly.  There may be a time when your child forgets or doesn’t want to communicate and just stays out late without explanation.  When this happens, try to keep you irritation in check and have a discussion (not a lecture or a reprimand).  The discussion centers on finding out what happened and why the communication broke down.  Give the child the benefit of the doubt, asking for her perspective rather than launching into a lecture about how terrible the behavior was or how it impacted you.  Believe the child wants to make good decisions and keep up the relationship, and reemphasize that expectation.  Assume the best of the child, and be surprised when she doesn’t behave in that way, rather than assuming the worst and trying to “catch” her in a mistake.  It makes a big difference to come at the relationship from this perspective.

Again, it’s not easy, but it is possible.  We are fortunate to have this foundation of a good relationship with our daughter (the new 16-year-old), and therefore don’t have a lot of rules in place for her.  She tells us where she’s going, whom she’ll be with, and when she’ll be back.  We decide on an appropriate return time depending on the particulars of each situation – week night or weekend, what the activity is, etc.  If she gets into a phase where she doesn’t want to tell us these details, where she wants to pull away emotionally and gets annoyed when we “make her” talk to us, we will remind her of this concept.  We’ll tell her that we prefer to have a relationship instead of a lot of rules, but that requires consistent and respectful communication.  We’ll be understanding and sympathetic, knowing this emotional separation is a normal part of growing up and not something to get annoyed about, but we’ll be firm in the fact that we need to know some of these details before she goes out.

Time Out

No parenting website would be complete without addressing the topic of Time Out.  Time out is a popular parenting tool, and can be used effectively, but it’s an ill-defined concept.  Your version of time out could be different than mine or anyone else’s, so I’ll start with some clarification.  One use of time out is as a break.  In this sense it is not a punishment or a sign of misbehavior necessarily, simply a neutral, unemotional separation.  If two children are having a hard time getting along you might see the need for a little break from each other and suggest a time out.  The children can go to different rooms and play something else for a specified or unspecified amount of time.  If two or more children are arguing over a toy and can’t find a good solution using their words, the toy might have to have a time out and be put away somewhere for a while.  Even moms can have time outs in this sense: a short period of time to be in your room alone. When interrupted you can explain to your children, “Mom needs a break for just a little bit, a time out.”

The more common usage, however, is time out as a punishment.  Parents know that spanking is no longer an acceptable general-use punishment, and they want something that they can hold over the child to elicit cooperation.  The problem with punishment is the more you use it the less effective it is.  The child may be afraid of the punishment in the beginning and motivated by that fear to behave as you want them to. But after a few times of experiencing the punishment he will realize it’s not that bad, and the motivating effects will wear off.  Any kind of punishment (taking away privileges, grounding, time outs) needs to be used sparingly to be effective.  If this is your main tool, it’s going to work less and less over time.  Using the proactive principles described in this blog will be more effective in producing the desired behavior.

Another problem with punishments, including time out, is that often parents don’t actually follow through with them.  Saying you’re going to enforce some punishment and then not doing it is just giving the child permission to misbehave over and over again!  The child quickly realizes the punishment is not coming. Granted, it’s a hassle to follow through with your punishment.  It requires a lot of effort on your part, and it brings up a lot of emotions, such as anger and irritation.  It’s easier to threaten the punishment and *hope* the behavior improves so you won’t actually have to go through with it!  But, this style of parenting is less effective, of course.  This gets back to the idea of say fewer words when you’re angry or disciplining.  If you are not ready to enforce the consequence, don’t bring it up!  Just don’t say it.  Say something about how you want them to act; try to find positive behaviors to reinforce; but don’t threaten the punishment unless you absolutely intend to enforce it.

An example of this happened in our family recently.  My daughter had 5 friends sleep over for her 11th birthday party.  My husband and I knew it would be difficult to get them to go to sleep and not disturb us in the night.  He went down to see if they had the blankets and pillows they needed.  He decided to “lay down the law.”  He told them if we had to come down to tell them to be quiet, we would separate them all to different rooms to sleep the rest of the night.  When he told me that, I was surprised.  I said, “You’re not seriously going to do that – separate them after only the first time we have to go tell them to go to sleep?!” We’d be the meanest parents on the block!  He thought for a minute and said he guessed he really didn’t intend to enforce that consequence.  I was a little disappointed that he (who is usually in complete agreement with my parenting principles) would threaten something he didn’t intend to do.  It didn’t matter that much in this one instance, but it shows how easy it is to come up with a scary sounding threat to manage behavior.  As parents we don’t always think through if the threat is reasonable, realistic, or even advantageous to us!  We’ve all had that sinking realization that the punishment we just gave our child was really a punishment to ourselves.  Think before you speak!  Ask yourself if a punishment is really necessary in this situation, and what it will be like for the child and you to carry out the punishment.

These same ideas apply to rewards (i.e., bribes).  Rewards are really just punishments turned around.  If you do this, you get a reward; but if you don’t do this, you don’t.  The withholding of the reward based on behavior is the same as a punishment.  To build enduring patterns of good behavior, children need to be motivated by internal rewards (the positive feelings they have inside knowing they are doing the right thing) more than external rewards (what someone is going to do or not do if they behave).  If they get used to being rewarded for each action, they will stop doing the behavior once the reward stops.

There are the occasional instances where rewards can be effective.  When you’re in a situation that doesn’t come up very often, such as flying on an airplane, rewards can be a great tool.  If the behavior is one you want her to do consistently (not hit her brother, take her plate to the sink, clean up her toys) rewards as motivation are not very helpful.  The effects will wear off over time.  But, if it’s a behavior that you just need them to do once (or once every long while), the short term benefits of rewards can be just the thing to get the child motivated.

Time out can be ONE of your parenting tools, if used only occasionally.  This is how I would suggest implementing this tool.  First, use the proactive tools that have been described in other posts (positive reinforcement, explain expectations, stay close to your child, stop and redirect).  If there is a situation where the child is misbehaving and these other forms of redirecting aren’t working, explain that if the behavior continues, the child will be put in time out.  Don’t ask, “Do you want to go to time out?”  It’s tempting to say that, but it’s a silly question with no good answer.   Say something like, “Please stop hitting your brother with that toy.  If you don’t stop you will have to go to time out for 3 minutes.” If she continues hitting her brother with the toy, you say, “You will need to go to time out.”  Some books say don’t start the time until the child stops crying; I think that sets you up for a control battle.  Some books say to have a discussion about the behavior during the time out; I think this is giving too much attention and reinforcement to the misbehavior.  When the time out is over you can give a short summary and explanation of what you expect: “You were in time out because you hit your brother with a toy after I asked you to stop.  I expect you to treat your brother kindly, and I expect you to follow my instructions.  Please say, ‘Okay, mommy.’”

If used sparingly, the time out will have a strong effect on the child and the behavior will improve afterwards.  If the misbehavior continues you may need to look at the larger situation.  Is the child tired or hungry or had enough of spending time with her brother?  Is there something else reinforcing the behavior (the attention or laughter of an older sibling)?  If you find yourself using time out often, review the posts on this blog and try to implement the other, more positive parenting principles.  It takes dedication and effort to parent in the proactive rather than reactive way, but your child’s behavior will improve and the improvement will not be just for the short-term.  He will have the internal motivation to succeed; he will have the desire to please you with his good behavior because of his positive relationship with you.

Why Is She Crying?

As a new parent, when my child misbehaved I used to think, “I must not be doing the right things or else she wouldn’t be acting like this.”  The parenting books I read would describe certain methods to get your child to behave.  I would do those things, and she would still be difficult.  (I’ve mentioned my irritation with parenting books before!).  My mind couldn’t help but sense that maybe I was not doing it “right.”  There had to be some change I could make so her behavior would improve and parenting would be easier.

The hard truth is it’s part of children’s normal growth and development to misbehave, cry and act out.  They are going to throw fits, hurt other children, refuse to go to bed, whine, and hit. Maybe everyone else gets that intuitively, but this was not something I knew or understood or could even begin to grasp when I was a new parent of a toddler.  I am more of a Type-A personality, used to solving problems head-on.  If my child’s behavior is a problem, there must be something I can do about it, right?!  It was a real epiphany to me that you can hold these two truths in your head at the same time: “I am a good mom with sufficient parenting skills” AND “My child will misbehave.”

This is when I started saying the phrase, “That’s just how kids are.”  It was seriously a shock to me how difficult parenting is and how bad kids are!  Of course, I don’t mean bad, but there is a lot of unpleasantness that I was not expecting. I had to say that phrase over and over, and at first I really didn’t believe it. This can’t be how parenting really is!  Why didn’t someone warn me?!  You don’t see the worst behavior of other children in public (and if you do, you assume they usually aren’t like that), and I became obsessed with wondering how my child compared to other little kids.  Was she worse?  Better?  By how much?  I secretly wished I had a camera in other moms’ homes so I could see how things really were.

Because I had unrealistic expectations, I became unduly irritated at what I perceived as misbehavior.  One incident that sticks out in my mind is putting on my two-year-old’s shoes.  She was fighting me and kicking her feet at me.  Looking back it seems silly that I was so shocked, but at the time I was very irritated and angry!  Just put your *&%$ shoes on!  After a while (and a few kids) I came to see that as normal and even expected behavior.  I got used to the general, every day difficult behaviors.  Children will fight the shoes, the car seat, eating dinner, and going to bed.  I had to learn to be patient through all of it.  Part of the problem was I was magnifying these problems and viewing them as a reflection of my parenting skills or self-worth.  Once I truly believed this was normal behavior, I was also able to believe that I was a competent parent.

So I realized that parenting becomes easier when you have the appropriate expectations of children and when you are accustomed to their behavior. It also helps to focus on the good parts more than the difficult parts.  Reinforcing your child’s positive behaviors helps you focus your attention on what the child is doing right more than wrong. Another skill is being grateful for the tender moments with your child: when she’s on your lap and you’re reading a book; when she hugs you and says, “I love you”; when she learns how to do something for the first time.  Unfortunately, it took me quite a while to do learn these lessons.  I am so grateful that in my parenting now the tender and fun moments far outweigh the irritating moments.

You have to understand and believe that not only is misbehavior normal, but children’s behavior is very complicated.  They are motivated and controlled by so many different factors, physical and emotional.  You can’t know or understand all those factors.  Many times the reasons for their misbehavior are a mystery.  Sometimes there isn’t a quick fix to that particular problem at that particular time.  You can’t let their behavior undermine your self-worth as a parent.  All you can do is be the best parent you can be, and trust that is enough.  Again, having confidence in your parenting principles can give you the security to get through difficult situations.  It’s easy to get focused on specific misbehaviors and bogged down by what that behavior means about you and/or your child.  But it’s better to look at the big picture.  Keep your focus on your core parenting strategies, and don’t worry if they don’t work all the time or if you’re not sure of the correct response to one particular problem.

Remember, the tantrums, the whining, the stubbornness and all their other difficult behaviors are an important part of their normal development.  THAT’S JUST HOW KIDS ARE!

Electronics-Updated

Monitoring your child’s use of electronics can be challenging.  I’ve struggled with this parenting problem for quite some time, but finally realized that if I apply the principles outlined in this blog, I can get a handle on it, because the problem of monitoring electronics is just the same as any other parenting problem.  You have to 1. Decide what your rules are and 2. Calmly enforce the rules.  (This is one of those “simple” but not so “easy” situations!)

Step One: Decide what your rules are.  This is really where the difficulty comes in with electronics, because we don’t have a sense of cultural or family norms.  With many other situations you can look to what your parents or other parents you know or admire did, but with electronics everyone is new at it!  All parents are floundering, walking around blind, bumping into (metaphorical) corners and chairs.  Talking to other parents helps some, but there are so many particulars – type of electronic, age of child, personal comfort with electronics, knowledge of parental controls. It used to be you could reasonably keep electronics (computers) in the main living area, but more and more children want their own personal device.  You have to decide: Are you going to have all electronics on the main level? Have them “turn them in” at a certain time at night? Turn off the wifi at a certain time? Monitor their usage through history or mobile updates?  There are many options.

When you are figuring out your family rules talk with your spouse first.  Explore how you both feel and make a plan for what the restrictions should be.  Then present the plan to the children and get their input.  Involving them in the discussion (in a developmentally appropriate way) will help them be more invested in the rules.  Be sure to listen respectfully to all their ideas, experiences and concerns.  They may have some valid feedback to consider and you will possibly modify the rules accordingly.

We sometimes present it like this, “We are worried about your electronic use (maybe elaborate on the specific worries and/or reasons these behaviors can be harmful).  What ideas do you have to fix these problems?” These types of discussions can lead to some very useful information – how they feel about their own usage, what their friends’ rules are, what apps or sites they like or visit frequently.  It’s a time for open discussion about issues that are important in their lives.

I’ll tell you a little about our experiences and rules we’ve set.  This is not meant to be a template for your situation because each family is different, but you might benefit from our example and learn some lessons sooner than we did.

A few things that seem like no-brainers now took us a while to realize.  Requiring the door to be open when using a device was the first of these.  The oldest child complained that the younger ones were loud and annoying, so we allowed her to have her door closed.  She would be holed up in her room for hours playing on her device.  Once we figured that out, we changed the rule to doors must be open when using a device.  After a while we changed again, and now we only allow device usage on the main level.

Our second discovery was Restrictions on Apple devices.  If you go to “settings,” “general,” “restrictions” you are able to set up a 4 digit passcode (on EACH separate device) and then set the age appropriate levels for many different aspects: music, apps, websites, games, etc.  It is the simplest, most effective way to limit what content they are consuming.  I wish I’d known about it from the beginning! One friend told me that when she gave her 10-year-old an Apple device she simply took off the Safari (web-browsing) app.  There are plenty of other fun ways to use the device without surfing the internet.

Here is a screen shot of the Restrictions menu.  It’s very simple to turn off certain applications or set maturity levels for various media.

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Third, we realized we must create our own account for whatever social media our children are using, and follow them.  Many parents (including myself) don’t necessarily want accounts on the apps their children are using.  But to effectively monitor your child’s usage, you need to take the time to figure it out and check on his activity from time to time.  My husband used this analogy: would you allow your child to have a locked room in the house that you weren’t allowed to go in?  Of course not. You need to be aware of what your child is doing on these sites.  This not only allows you to monitor his electronic activity, but also helps you get to know him.  It’s a little window into his world: his interests, his friends, what he’s posting or liking.

Beyond those basics, it gets a little trickier.  We have two teenage daughters with devices.  The devices, ages and rules have changed over the years, but currently the older one has an iPhone and the younger an iPod.  After having some problems on school nights with late night usage (posting on Instagram at midnight?!  Did you think we couldn’t count back the hours?!), we wanted to require that the devices stay on the main floor overnight.  We had a long discussion with the girls, and they convinced us that they needed the devices to use as an alarm to wake up in the morning.  I know, I know, people have woken up early for decades without i devices, but my husband and I feel bad (guilty?) about how early they have to get up for school and early morning seminary, and the i devices do have the option of multiple alarms in multiple tones, so we relented.

Their bedrooms are upstairs, so we said they could have their devices in their bedrooms but not use them at all except for music/podcasts (another concession they fought for) and alarms. Any other usage has to be downstairs.  This goes for the older one’s laptop, also, even though she wants to use it in her room to do homework.

Here’s a summary of our other rules or methods of dealing with electronic usage.

  1. The wifi goes off at 10:30 pm. We literally unplug the router because I couldn’t find a system that would turn it off for certain devices at certain times.
  1. The iPhone can still be used through its data, so her data is turned off at 10:30. I set this up on AT&T’s website through our account.
  1. We created an Open DNS account. I set it up to restrict adult websites all the time, and restrict social media usage (what Open DNS calls “time wasters”) after 10:30, just in case we forgot to unplug the wifi.
  1. We don’t allow use of electronics while making or eating food.
  1. Likewise, they are not allowed to use them during family dinner or family meetings.
  1. Netflix is limited to two 40 min shows/day.
  1. In addition, they get two hours of general use a day. Remember, they are 14 and 16 and get very good grades. They rarely get close to this limit except on summer break.

We wanted to make a rule that they have to hand over the devices when we ask for them, because really they are ours. Even if they bought the device themselves, we pay for the phone service and the wifi.  We got a surprising amount of resistance on this, partially because we didn’t set this up as an expectation from the beginning.  They really believe the devices belong to them and that we are invading their privacy by looking at them.  I can understand their position somewhat.  On the one hand, we as parents need to be monitoring not only the amount of time they use devices, but also what they are doing on them and with them.  However, it is also like reading their diaries in a sense, or listening in to both sides of their phone conversations.  It’s a tricky balance. As I was thinking about this problem I came up with the following solution:

We have one hour a week, set the same day and time every week, when they give their devices to us.  We chose Sundays from 6-7.  The regularity helps solve a few of the problems.  First, it gets the girls in the habit of handing over their devices.  It is a weekly reminder that the devices do not belong solely to them.  Second, it gives us a weekly reminder to check on what they are doing.  Without a system or routine, we tend to forget to do this regularly.   We look over their usage and do a quick check (or a lengthy one, if warranted) of their texts, emails and posts.  This is not a complete solution.  They still can and might delete their web page history or texts.  We just have to trust that we have a good enough relationship with them and have taught them correct principles well enough that they will make good decisions.

We do allow exceptions to these rules, especially when the children calmly explain what they want.  As I explained in the post Use Your Words, I want my children to learn that the more words you use the more likely you are to get what you want.  For example, if friends are over, the internet can stay on beyond the usual time. Or, over Christmas break if they want to watch an extra show on Netflix, that’s okay.

Here is a link to a blog with more tips on parental restrictions.  There’s a menu at the top (called Click Here for Cheat Sheets) with options for various applications.  It can be complicated and time consuming, but welcome to parenting in the 21st century!

Once you’ve decided the rules for your family, give yourself permission to change them as needed.  If you try the rules out for a few weeks or months, you may find they don’t work for various reasons.  It’s okay to say to your kids, “We’ve realized this isn’t working, we’ve reassessed and these are the new rules.” The rules are necessarily going to change through the years as your kids get older and the devices change.


Now we come to Step Two: Calmly enforce the rules.  The rules you decide on are somewhat arbitrary and may change, but once you have chosen your regulations, you can be certain you are doing the best thing for your family at this time.  If you are unsure, children can sense that and will test you more.  Also, being unsure makes you more frustrated and more likely to lash out at them (when it’s your uncertainty that is really causing the stress).  Be secure in your rules and present them in a confident, sure manner.  Also, present them in a positive manner, explaining that it’s your responsibility to keep your children safe and help them develop good habits around device usage, and that you want to encourage real things with real people as much as possible.

As you explain and implement the new rules, your children may (probably will) complain and balk at first, and you may be worried that it’s going to be terrible.  But, BELIEVE ME, I’ve done this many times and always found that they get used to the rules. As long as the rules are enforced in a calm, kind way, there will be no long term negative detriments to their health or well being, or your relationship with them!  At first it seems dreadful, but after a while everyone gets used to it, and things go smoothly.

For the first while we took away their devices for various lengths of time as the consequence of not following the rules.  But this started to feel like we were trying to “catch” them breaking the rules, and I felt it wasn’t conducive to a respectful and trusting relationship.  It finally dawned on me that I was not being true to the principles in this blog!  I was focusing on consequences (which were really just punishments) because doing so was easier and more straight forward.  We decided to change our ways and do away with any consequences, except in extreme cases.  Now we use the methods outlined in this blog.  In Stop and Redirect I explain how most misbehavior can be addressed with a simple reprimand and instruction.  In this case I would say, “Remember not to use your phone in your room.  You’re only supposed to use it on the main level.”  The next important step in managing children’s behavior is Positive Reinforcement.  We notice the times when they are using them on the main level and say, “Thank you for obeying the rule of being on the main level.  I appreciate that!”  We also make sure we Stay Close to Our Children in other ways, to maintain a positive relationship and to know what is going on in their lives.

We set up and modify the rules by having discussions with our daughters, listening to their points, and responding respectfully.  Through this process, they became invested in the rules and verbally agreed to follow them.  After that we give them the benefit of the doubt that they want to follow the rules, they just forget sometimes.  If they are repeatedly disobeying or forgetting the rules we would take the device away for a time (corresponding with the misbehavior) but that is not our first line of defense to encourage obedience.  When it was our first line of defense (when we were looking for disobedience and readily handing out punishment) it set up an adversarial relationship – one based on the premise that they will misbehave and we must “catch” them at it.  It just didn’t feel right to us.

So, in summary, to regulate electronics you apply all the parenting principles in this blog just as you would with any parenting dilemma. You explain expectations; you phrase it in positive ways; you reinforce the good behavior; you prevent your own irritation.  You address your own issues, and you practice patience.  Deciding the particular rules can be difficult, but after that you just stay calm and be kind!

Note – I recently wrote another post about electronics for a different website, which you can find here.  Some of the content is overlapping, but it is all important!

Resistance to Change

When you try any new “system” with your family or your children, they are likely to resist.  It is in children’s nature to fight the change, keep the old ways – especially if the new way means any kind of extra work.  I’m bringing this up because many times when parents come up against this resistance, they think they are doing the wrong thing, and they give up too soon.  As with so many areas of parenting, I want to normalize the crazy! We all go through this.  Knowing this resistance is normal and being prepared for it will help you push through with your new way of doing things until the family gets used to it.

For example, at some point your children will be old enough to start helping with chores.  Hopefully they’ve done little, age appropriate chores when they were young (making their bed, unloading the dishes), but then comes a time when you’re ready to give them real chores: daily dish or pet duty or Saturday jobs cleaning the house.  When you first introduce this your children will balk; they will complain.  They will perform the chores badly such that you feel it would be easier to do it yourself.  But don’t!  Be kind and calm as you continue to insist they do their chores day after day, week after week, and after a while, it will get better.  They will get used to this system as the new normal, and you will have extra help around the house!  It takes persistence and dedication from parents to get kids in these habits, but it will pay off in the long run.  Your children will be better trained to do chores obediently, and the younger children will follow the older ones’ examples (so it will be easier to train them to do their chores).

Another example is family scriptures.  Many families want to hold a daily devotional with their children: reading scriptures, having family prayer, and maybe singing a hymn.  If your family is not in the habit of doing this, and you want to start it, be prepared for rough waters!  In the beginning there will be a lot of resistance (the older the children are, the more verbal the resistance will be).  Younger children will misbehave, older children will roll their eyes and beg to be done.  But, stay the course!  Be kind and calm as you continue to insist that they stay in the room and participate (or just stay in the room and be quiet), explaining at times why this is important to your family.  I promise, over time they will start to behave and even enjoy this family together time.

Whether it’s a new chore chart, a new weekly or daily family meeting, or new rules regarding electronics, your children will put up a fight and try to wear you down until you’re tempted to give up.  This resistance is completely normal.  Don’t give it weight or too much thought or attention. You have to persevere for a few weeks before you can decide if the new system is a success or not.  Making these modifications will help your children get better at adapting to new situations, which is an important developmental skill.  Expecting resistance can keep you calm (and kind!) and give you the foresight to keep trying.