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How to Get Your Kids to Listen: Five Stages of Behavior Management

First off, I’d like to apologize. You may have clicked this link hoping I was going to share some magic secret to getting your kids to stop acting like assholes. Unfortnately, I have no solid advice. This post is purely to share the everyday stages of my attempt at behavior management – and if your kids are anything like mine, hopefully this will make you feel like less of a parenting failure in attempting to raise decent citizens.

  1. Politically Correct Parenting – Everyday, I wake up and give myself the politically correct pareting pep talk. I promise to be patient, calm and understanding. I won’t yell when my kids piss me off. I’ll encourage them with gentle words and reminders when they aren’t listening. I’ll allow them time and space to solve conflicts independently. I’ll channel my inner mother monk and exude zenlike vibes all day, which will in turn lower my kids’ anxiety levels and promote a peaceful and enjoyable day. And when it hits 8:30am and I can no longer utilize this level of calm, patient parenting, I remind myself this is all a load of shit and my kids need to be punished.
  2. Consequences – That’s right. This is what they need. They need to know that there are limits and consequences when they don’t behave. By 9:00am, I’ve given up all hope in having a peaceful day and I’ve decided to just put them all in time out. To a toddler, time out is initially a death sentence. Sitting on the bottom step of the stairs for 30 seconds is apparently equivalent to a life sentence, and they will let you know their feelings about this via blood curdling screams. However after about 14 time out breaks, my toddler realizes that coloring all over the walls with markers while mommy feeds the baby is totally worth the 30 seconds on the bottom step and alas, timeout becomes irrelevant. On to Stage Three.
  3. Negotiation – About half way through the day, I start losing all focus and I just bring myself to their  level. If you can’t beat them, join them. Amirite??? I start acting like a four year old myself, negotiating and arguing with them to the end of time over whether we are going to watch Daniel Tiger or Paw Patrol. Occasionally I cry even louder then they do, hoping this might scare them into behaving. I lock myself into the bathroom, throw a mommy tantrum, chug a cup of coffee, and try to pull myself together to get through the remainder of this god awful day.
  4. Bribery – After engaging in my very own tantrum, I realize that the kids are winning. It’s over. By 4:00pm, I have nothing left except for good old fashioned bribery. Cookies, fruit snacks, whatever it takes for you all to shut the fuck up until Daddy gets home.
  5. Survival of the Fittest – After I’ve bribed the kids with all of the freezie pops and juice boxes, they start to go ape shit due to the sugar overload. At this point of the day, I’m usually attempting to cook dinner, which is totally pointless since they are already full from all the junk food I bribed them with an hour earlier. I can hear them wrestling each other to death in the front yard, but by this time, I don’t care. It’s like fucking Lord of the Flies out there. Their shirtless, shoe-less, carrying Nerf guns and threatening to shoot anyone who comes to close. Good luck, kids. Mommy has officially given up. They’ll figure it out, right?

This is usually the time when my husband pulls into the driveway, and tears of joy fall from my face into the large glass of wine that I’ve been chugging for the last 45 minutes. Still two hours until bedtime, but at least I’ve got back up. As soon as they are quietly in bed, I peek into each of their rooms and remind myself of how cute they are (when they are sleeping) and promise myself that tomorrow, I will be better. I won’t yell when they piss me off. I’ll encourage them with gentle words and reminders when they aren’t listening. I’ll allow them time and space to solve conflicts independently. I’ll channel my inner mother monk and exude zenlike vibes, which will in turn lower my kids’ anxiety levels and promote a peaceful and enjoyable day.

And maybe if I’m really lucky, that will last until lunchtime.