Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Cynthia Hanson for Life & Beauty Weekly

Tired of nagging your kids to pick up their dirty clothes to no avail? Do you sound like a broken record repeating, “Eat your veggies”? Good news: You can put an end to the daily battles!

“The biggest source of conflict between parent and child has to do with over-controlling methods of parenting,” says Alyson Schafer, psychotherapist, parenting expert and bestselling author of Honey, I Wrecked The Kids and Ain’t Misbehavin‘. “Children will refuse to listen to their parents simply to assert their own autonomy. Parents need to have more faith in their children and approach parenting with an eye to win the child’s cooperation rather than forcing their compliance,” she says. Try these expert strategies to break four of the most common parent-kid conflicts once and for all. (No nagging required!)

Conflict: Your 9-year-old won’t do her chores.
Chores aren’t negotiable; they’re a fact of family life. Designate a few simple tasks for your child to do every day (e.g., make her bed, set the table) or a few bigger ones for her to do each week (e.g., empty the trash). Set a specific chore time each day and explain that the task must be done before she watches TV or has a playdate. Then enforce the rule!

“Ask your child what should happen if the chore is not done by the agreed-upon time,” Schafer says. “What should be the consequence for not upholding one’s responsibilities? If your nine-year-old creates her own consequences in advance, they almost never have to be exercised.” Also important: keeping kids motivated. Instead of criticizing, “You didn’t tuck in the sheets when you made your bed,” say, “Good job! I love it when you help out.”

Conflict: Your 7-year-old dawdles in the morning and can’t get to school on time.
Mornings are super-stressful — there’s so much to do in such a short time. No wonder tempers flare! First, be sure you’re ready for the day ahead of your child so you can stay calm and be responsive to him. Streamline the process by making lunch the night before, putting out your kid’s clothes before he goes to bed and leaving his backpack by the door. Then, create a morning routine and prod your child along as necessary.

But be flexible: Rather than standing in his room yelling, “Get dressed or you’ll be late!”, let him put on his shirt as he goes down the stairs for breakfast. “I would let your child know that it is his job to watch the clock and move along with the morning routine,” says Schafer. “I would offer small time prompts — ‘It’s 7:30′ or ‘Breakfast is on the table’ or ‘I’m ready to take you to school, I’ll wait for you outside.’ But other than that, I would allow the child the experience of missing breakfast and being late so he develops intrinsic motivation to want to move along faster.”

Conflict: Your 6- and 8-year-old sons fight over toys, say “I hate you,” and call each other names.
Families need a zero-tolerance policy for name-calling and verbal aggression. Keep in mind that statements like “I hate you” are driven by powerful emotions that your child doesn’t know to express properly. “They’re simply fighting and using their words as weapons,” Schafer says.

The next time one of your kids says something hurtful, remind him that statements like those won’t be tolerated, then help him acknowledge his feelings and offer more appropriate alternatives. “Help your children learn other ways to deal with their anger and help them find solutions other than name calling,” Shafer suggests. “Since almost all sibling outbreaks of squabbling serve to engage parents, it’s best to say ‘I have a hard time watching you two treat each other this way – I’m leaving,’ and walk away from their fight. If you refuse to be an audience or referee to sibling fights, they will greatly reduce in frequency and intensity!”

Conflict: Your 10-year-old daughter refuses to eat fruits and veggies.
Food is a deeply personal choice — and an area in which parents shouldn’t set up unnecessary control struggles.

“Forcing never works,” says Schafer. “All you can do is encourage.” Schafer suggests parents continue to serve fruits and vegetables up in a variety of ways and see if kids will take a ‘polite bite.’” Continue to comment on how great it is that they try the foods, rather than nagging and labelling them as a picky eater.

Cynthia Hanson is a journalist who writes for many national publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents and American Baby. She is a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.

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