Mother’s Day: Get Your Kids Under Control and Get Your Life Back. More Super Easy Tips

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I know, sometimes you feel like you are down on your knees…And not just figuratively. Here are some more tools in honor of Mother’s Day to get your kids under control and get your life back.

1. Don’t make threats you can’t carry out.

Never say, “I’m going to kill you!” because obviously (I hope) you’re not. Keep your threat real. Keep your punishments simple. Keep them timely. Don’t say, “You can’t go to your friend’s birthday party next week,” because that is too far away. Besides, we all know that when next week rolls around and all their friends are going to the party, you’re going to give in and let them slide.

Better than giving punishments—which is a negative reward for bad behavior—try to give your children a lot of positive rewards for good behavior. Praise them often. When my youngest son was about four years old, he was getting into trouble often. I gave him time-out punishments but they didn’t seem to work. Instead, I started a Lego tower. Each day that he acted appropriately, I added a level to the tower to see how tall he could make it. He loved his Legos so this gave him something to strive for. This small activity gave us time together and helped his behavior improve each day.

By the way, this rule also applies to adult relationships. Don’t make threats you can’t (or really don’t want to) carry out.

2. No attention is better than negative attention.

Some of the kids were grumpy in the morning. Instead of reacting to negative comments, I ignored them. I just didn’t “hear” them. I focused on the positive. I tried to praise anything,   based on the girls’ soccer coach who shouted, “Good fake!” to a kid who completely missed kicking the ball. The morning went smoother when I ignored the cranks and complimented the tiniest achievements.

Ditto for adults. Don’t jump into the boat of negativity with those around you. That does NOT help them and certainly doesn’t help you.

3. Make a job chart!

Mothers don’t get extra points by being the slave of the household. It’s never too early to start giving your kids jobs to do—and it’s never too late to introduce them to the concept. Give all kids a chore to do each day. (You can probably start when they’re about five.) You can make one with a paper plate and an arrow. Kids can spin it. Or you can make a daily chart with something your kids can do each day. Make the chores very specific. Make the chores something they can accomplish in less than 10 minutes which is the average attention span of people (and not just kids) these days.

Simple chores: empty the garbage cans, sweep, fix the pillows on the couch, organize toys, empty dishwasher, bring laundry to washing machine, help with dinner, set table, etc.

And then don’t worry if the house is not as perfectly clean as you’d like.

At first it bothered me when, for example, the floor wasn’t swept as well as I would have liked. But then I learned that their contribution was more important than my need for neatness. (Sometimes I re-did the chore when nobody was around.) This way, they learned responsibility, and that running a house was a group effort. It also decreased my resentment as a Mom because I didn’t feel like I was were doing it all by myself. Remember: we’re Moms not slaves!

Your kids won’t love you any more than they already do. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING for them. Come to think of it, don’t do for others what they can do for themselves.

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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