Now that the kids are back to school, or your college adult child has moved out to attend college, parents are becoming anxious as schedules become disorganized and routines disrupted. In my Delray counseling office, Therapy by the Sea, parents often ask, “What is the most effective way to help my kids get their heads back “into the game”? How do I discipline my acting-out children or my defiant teen that has a bad attitude about school?” “What if my college-bound child is showing anxiety about leaving home?”
Remember, you have a very precious, and valuable relationship with your child or teen, and a very limited amount of time to shape them into the adult you hope they will become. This relationship is one that must last forever; and any childhood traumas are carried into their adult relationships, so how you parent them has a lasting emotional effect on their sense of self-esteem, happiness and ultimate success as an adult. How you handle their transition back into school, gives you a great opportunity to create a fabulous supportive relationship or to grow a better, distant relationship with your college-age child into one with fond memories and close bonds.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Focus on your child’s positive qualities and constructive behaviors. Use the Positive Parenting, Behavior Modification Star-chart to enforce great behaviors and give rewards. Positive discipline works 10x better than negative punishment. Use the Allowance Chart for teens and do a Star Chart for children to encourage them to do their chores and follow house rules. This weekly chart states a reward for meeting their weekly goals, and a discipline if they do not meet the minimum requirement (24/30 stars) for the week.
- Praise them often when they are doing well. Tell them every moment you can, you are proud of them when they do something outstanding at school.
- Do your best not to take their misbehavior personally and keep in mind that we all make mistakes – including your child. Teach them a better way. Young children are tired when they get into a new school routine; as there is a lot of excitement and new expectations with their transitioning. College students feel a ton of pressure to get good grades, and to be liked; also the anxiety of meeting new friends can feel overwhelming.
- Explain clearly the house rules and what discipline the child can expect if the rules are broken. Rules and routines should be more ridged than rules during the summer. Those over 18 who are attending local college should also get a part-time job. They will be learning adult responsibilities and rules that come from the business world. They will become proud of their ability to earn some money for a doing well on a job. I suggest they spend and enjoy half, and save half for something meaningful – like a car or life-after-college fund. Younger children should have regular house chores during the school year as a “job” to help “the family team.”
- Have regular play dates for the smaller kids on weekends to encourage new friendships; get them away from the computer, video games, and just sitting in front of the TV.
- Don’t overwhelm your kids with a lot of sports. Clubs like Drama, Newspaper, and Photography Club may be more their speed. Have them involved with activities THEY like, not ones you may have done. And please, don’t have them in too many things. Clubs and sports should be fun, not a lot of pressure for college scholarship money.
- Should your college-age teen be struggling with their adjustment, do hire them a Certified Life Coach; I do SKYPE calls with many students around the world for this issue.
Remember, you are the example and role model to your child. What they see at home, they will repeat or see as “normal behavior” when they are an adult. So if you and your spouse are fighting, your child or teen will also rebel with anger and defiance (externalize) or shut down and become depressed (internalize). You must take steps now to improve your marital relationship so your home is calm, peaceful and loving.
The word Discipline is from the Bible; and it means, “to teach.” It is a part of The Positive Parenting approach that I coach my parent-clients to use to teach their children self-control and to make wise choices. Parents must learn to be more of a calm, enthusiastic teacher, not a yelling, demanding, or controlling tyrant. Positive discipline teaches children appropriate behavior, important values and corrects a child’s misbehavior. It is important that your child learn how to resolve conflicts by reasoning and negotiating, very crucial skills for their future success in life and relationships.
The most effective discipline helps children learn from the results of their actions, while preserving their self-respect. It minimizes power struggles and allows for the possibility of compromise. It is important to be firm, fair and consistent. Clear boundaries and expectations give them a sense of security and teach the consequences that can be expected for bad behavior, choices or attitudes. “Good” discipline could include removing TV, sending the child to his room or time-out chair, taking away their video games, computer, or phone for a teen.
Avoid physical and emotional punishment because it is more likely your child will be rebellious towards you when they reach adolescence. Abused children often are substance abusers as teens; teenage girls often engage in cutting, risky sexual behaviors, or develop eating disorders. You also increase the chances your child will be abusive to their own child one day.
If you are having power struggles or other family problems, seek out a Relationship Coach or Family Therapist to help guide you with these issues. Read more tips and how to use these Behavioral Modification charts in the Parenting chapter of my book, Live Beyond Your Dreams – from Fear and Doubt to Personal Power, Purpose and Success. Learn to use the Positive Parenting method to raise successful, happy children and young adults. It works great!
Riana Milne, MA, LMHC, CAP is a Certified, global Relationship, Love & Life Coach, a #1 Best Selling author, upcoming Life & Relationship for the TV Show, Radical Dating; Host of her former TV show: Lessons in Life & Love, a motivational speaker, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Cert Addictions Professional at Therapy by the Sea; 15300 Jog Rd, Suite 109, Delray Beach. Her free App: My Relationship Coach offers more articles and her 5 star rated books, LOVE Beyond Your Dreams – Break Free of Toxic Relationships to Have the Love You Deserve and LIVE Beyond Your Dreams – from Fear and Doubt to Personal Power, Purpose and Success, addresses life transitions and relationships with yourself and others. To learn more about Riana’s Coaching programs or suggest a topic, go to www.RianaMilne.com or email RianaMilne@gmail.com.