If you come home from work and walk in the door to find all hell breaking loose, what is the first thing to do to restore discipline and control?
Stop and Listen.
Take a few moments simply to observe. The screaming five-year-old might have just had her favorite toy snatched by the eight-year-old. If you yell at the five-year-old, you will reinforce the eight-year-old’s rotten behavior and the five-year-old will remind you of it on your eightieth birthday. Better to say nothing, than to accuse falsely.
Everyone Needs a Moment
If Mom or the Nanny has been in control, let them stay in control until you make the often-complicated transition from worker or boss to Dad. If you have a few moments to get into your comfortable clothes, take a shower or take a breath after a hectic day, then you may avoid taking out your stress on the wrong people. Discuss with your partner in advance the amount of transition time that you need, perhaps 10-20 minutes to change roles. Promise to take over the kids and let him or her have a necessary break from the family to take a walk or recoup their sanity before all the food preparation and bedtime rituals begin.
Just Hold It
Eventually school age children can learn to wait, but young children cannot hold in their emotions. Toddlers may have to be carried around when you first arrive. Young children do not know how to delay gratification and will annoy you so much that you may yell at them and break their hearts. Do not ask them to do what they developmentally cannot do, yet.
Spouse Comes First.
Spouses may have urgent issues to discuss. If you ignore your spouse, paybacks will be later and not good.
Ask your spouse what would help him or her the most and then ask the kids to help you. That way you are giving them both some time and energy. Reassure your spouse that you will set aside time to discuss whatever he or she needs in a few minutes. The absolute best thing that you can do for your children is to have a good relationship with their other parent. Fighting, yelling or shunning your spouse leaves big marks on your children.
Give Children What They Want
Needy children and spouses will compete for your attention. You may just want to relax, but that is not going to happen until they know you care about them. Children may have waited the whole day for your return. Take time to sit still and let them all talk to you, look each one in the eye, tell them you are happy to see them and you missed them. If you are affectionate, then give hugs all around and smile at them. If you try to bypass this step, your children will turn to misbehaving to get your highly desired attention. Better to give them attention before they start to act up. Tell them, “When you can quiet down, I want you to sit next to me so I can hear about your day. Who will be first?” Try to ignore the one who acts unruly and reward the one who is talking nicely to you. Ask the children to do for you, get you water, rub your aching feet, or fan you gently. They want to love you and after a hard day, you can benefit from their attention lavished on you.
Spare the Rod
You are tired, hungry and ready to spank. However, striking a child by any other name is still striking a child. Slapping a bottom or hand is not teaching good behavior, slapping a child only teaches violence. Be sure that is what you want your child to learn from you; someday you will be dependant on your children’s kindness and care, and that could be ugly. Millions of people raise children without hitting, screaming, spanking or grabbing them and so can you. Time-out is a consequence of not following parental rules and does make children modify their behavior. Older children respond to grounding and restriction of computer, phone, games and company. If you are crossing the discipline line to abuse, get some counseling.
The Washing Machine is Broken, Two Checks Bounced and We have a Parent-Teacher Meeting.
If you are the one he is coming home to, and you love your children, shut up. Let the man get in the door and see his children, relax and de-stress. Only if someone is bleeding, should you meet your man at the door with a bunch of negative comments that when added to work and traffic, could cause him to stroke out. That anger will likely be diverted to noisy, happy children who will feel blindsided by mean Dad. Almost all things can wait until the next business day. Keep your bad news to yourself until you set a time to discuss family issues after the children are busy elsewhere and you can listen quietly to each other. Otherwise, he will just boss you around and not ever get the details. You will be mad and frustrated and end up taking care of everything yourself anyway. Transition time is sacred.
So pick up the toddler, kiss your spouse and let the games begin.
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