Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Changes and New Habits Aren’t Working in Your Home: From A Parent’s Perspective

Ivana PejakovicB.Sc., MA

This school year you said and you thought would be different. You set out proposed changes and had high hopes that homework would be done on time, there would be little arguments, grades would be up, and life would be great. A short time later, you’ve realized things have not gone according to plan.

Perhaps you thought about and implemented a plan of how the kids would start pulling their own weight around the home? You imagined the dishwasher would always be empty, the trash would disappear from the can, and the bathrooms would be sparkling clean (not to mention the dust-less furniture). Now you look back and think...things didn’t go according to plan.

What went wrong, you wonder? Is it just your household that is highly resistant to change or do other families go through a similar process? Is this normal?

Normal? That is debatable (depending on the expert you speak to)...but it is certainly common! During this process, try not to get discouraged because things aren’t getting better right away. Sometimes it can take up to a full year before there is a noticeable difference in behaviour. The kids (and you) need to adjust to a new schedule, change habitual behaviour, deal with stressful situations, and successfully overcome a bunch of disputes.

In fact, things often get worse before they get better as your teen may try to rebel against the new rules. And although things may never reach your ideal picture, change and improvement is possible! To make your journey easier, keep these tips in mind:

1. Bond/Attachment: Kids listen and respect those who they are emotionally attached to. The weaker your attachment is with your child, the less interest s/he will have in your attempt to improve the household situation. You need to strengthen your bond with your child before any effective changes will be made in the home.

2. Consistency: Although most parents know about the important of consistency, many have a hard time following up with this concept. The reason being? It requires a lot of attention and focus on the child to ensure regularity. With life being hectic, parents assume and feel they can hand over the responsibility to their children who ought to be reliable and sincere. If the rules are not their rules...think again! Also, try to be consistent in your behaviour (saying one thing and doing another will not work).

3. Giving up: When the going gets tough and kids challenge you, it’s easy to give up a little every day until you settle into old habits. Kids are smart and they have learned that if they challenge you long enough you will back off (they don’t know how or why it works, they just know it does). It is necessary for you to stay persistent (and consistent in your own words and behaviour) until the new behaviour becomes a habit for them. Eventually, they will repeat the new behaviour long enough for it to rub off in their daily life.

4. Lack of patience: Whenever making any major changes in the household (or in life), things will not transition perfectly. Some individuals will protest, some will not get it right, some will not seem interested in your new ‘self-improvement’ kick, others will just think it’s dumb to fix something that ain’t broke! During these times it is extremely important for you to hold on to your temper. Emotional explosions are not fun for anyone. Remember that it takes a while before habits are changed (21 day rule doesn’t always work). Sometimes it can take a full year, before you can look back and say...wow...things have sure improved. Stay patient.

5. I’m the parent! You listen to me: Right! When parenting, it is easy to assume the role of “I am the boss.” And while this is true, it is not a good approach to rub it into your child’s face (imagine if your boss said this to you...and if s/he has, how did you feel?). As most parents will agree, this approach tends to work more with little kids but less with teens. Teens demand more respect than little kids and are not afraid to say no and walk away.

6. Your plan: The problem is that it is YOUR plan...not your kids’ plan! Sit down to discuss the changes that need to be made in the home. Ask them for their opinion, ask them what new routine would make them happier, less stressed. Show them how these changes will benefit them....not just you! It could be that they do not see a problem. If there is no problem, then what is there to fix? Create a plan TOGETHER! Write down who volunteers for what. Let everyone know the chore difficulty must be age appropriate and distributed fairly. Make it the team’s plan not yours!

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

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