Parenting Is a Balancing Act

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.

Thomas Merton

You have to determine the appropriate actions to take when your child breaks the rules.  Will you first give a warning for misbehavior, and the next time a consequence?  It is best to know what the process will be so that when a situation arises you can go through the same steps every time.  Otherwise, your frustration can lead you to shouting, and acting out of anger, and giving a consequence that is not in line with the behavior.  Be consistent and follow through with an appropriate consequence when your child breaks the rules.  It might be a warning and then redirect if they are in preschool.  For an elementary school-aged child, you may use take away a privilege or give a timeout.

There will be times when kids do not follow the rules.  Often redirecting a child to something else, or giving them an appropriate time out or consequence for the rule breaking or misbehavior will resolve the behavior.  But more often than not, if our children continue to misbehave there is a reason.

Often, because parents do not clearly set the rules of the house, and determine appropriate consequences for not following the rules, when children misbehave, parents can become frustrated or angry and overreact.  As a parent, you can get so upset that you may actually be the one that needs a time out.  You may need to remove yourself from the situation to cool off.  If you find your blood pressure rising and yourself getting angry or overly frustrated, go out of the room and take a few deep breaths.  Unless your children are in a dangerous situation, you can take a moment to calm down, get composed, and think about what just happened.  Once you have yourself together, you can go back in with your child and handle the behavior.  Your actions will be more appropriate and your child will stay calmer because you are calm.  You are now teaching your child that it is more important to regroup, to think through what we do and say than to overreact, scream or get so angry.  There is a healthy way to handle children and the stress that poor behavior can cause.   Remember that it is our job to keep ourselves calm and to focus and think before we act.  We should keep the behavior in perspective because often it is not as bad as we feel it is at the moment.

Our advice:

  • Set House Rules.
  • Determine age-appropriate discipline.
  • Be consistent with your actions and follow through.
  • Remove yourself from the situation if you are angry or overly frustrated.

Do not give idle threats as this undermines your parental authority.

An excerpt from the Parenting book Parenting Without a Paddle: Navigating the Waters of Parenthood by Kristin Fitch & Sharon Pierce McCullough