x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Don't let children rule the roost

Whining can be hard to deal with, but succumb at your peril: when it gets results, parents unwittingly hand power over to the little people. Here's how to reassert authority in your house.

Therese Sequeira at home in Dubai with her children Anton, Simeon and Dominic. Sarah Dea / The National
Therese Sequeira at home in Dubai with her children Anton, Simeon and Dominic. Sarah Dea / The National

Who rules your roost? Is it a strong-willed baby or a tantrum-prone 2-year-old? "It sounds simplistic, but many parents gradually give away their sense of power to their little ones without really noticing that's what they are doing," says Helen Williams, the managing director and a family counsellor at Lifeworks Counselling and Development (www.lifeworksdubai.com).

Tiredness makes it difficult to think clearly and it's easy to become overwhelmed by your children's demands when you're trying to do the best you can for them. "It is a rude awakening to discover that you have given all the power over to an infant under the age of one," says Williams.

Here's how to ensure you're in charge of your household, with an equal amount of love and limits thrown into the mix.

Give instructions rather than ask questions

We're used to speaking to people politely, suggesting they might want to do things and approaching subjects tentatively. It's important to remember that children are not adults and if there's something you need them to do, it should not be posed as a question. For example, instead of saying: "Would you like lunch now?", say: "It's lunchtime now, would you like soup or a sandwich?"

Be a parent first, a friend second

Children love you because you are their parent - your friendship with them is therefore a given. If you try to act as a friend, you are denying them the one thing they truly need: your parenthood.

"I frequently hear mothers say, my baby doesn't like her high chair, the car seat, eating carrots and so on," says Williams. "I usually ask them how they know that, and when they decided that the baby would be responsible for those decisions."

Check there isn't any cause for their unhappiness, such as hunger or tiredness, and then take charge of the situation and be firm. Slowly resistance will fade.

Talk to your maid

It's unfair to expect your maid or nanny to raise your child as you would if you haven't taken the time to explain your parenting strategies to them.

If you don't have this conversation you may end up blaming each other for your child's inappropriate behaviour.

"It is imperative that parents and carers work as a team," says Therese Sequeira, a parent educator at kidsFIRST (www.kidsfirstmc.com) in Dubai.

"Parents are the ones who decide the values, skills and behaviours to encourage in their children and they need to communicate these clearly to other carers so there is no confusion as to what behaviour is acceptable."

By explaining your approach, you can empower carers to effectively manage difficult behaviour in your absence. A united front ensures your children aren't confused about what is expected of them.

Do not waver

It's not easy at first, but consistency pays off in the long term. If you say it's dinner time, that means it is dinner time. There shouldn't be one more episode of Peppa Pig, or another five minutes playing with the fire engine, or your child will expect this every evening.

"When your children know that they can trust you and take you at your word, they no longer attempt to manipulate you. When your direction is clear, fair and firm, they know that you will stick to it," says Williams.

It helps if you keep the long term goal in mind. "Once parents start practising good team work and a consistent approach using positive strategies, it can take as little as six to eight weeks for effective change to occur," says Sequeira.

The cause of household hiccups

Therese Sequeira, Parent Educator, highlights how things can go wrong

- Threats - parents often use threats as a way of frightening children into cooperating with an instruction. Most parents don't follow through, which is why they don't work.

- Ignoring good behaviour - children like to receive attention from their parents, so notice your kids when they are showing behaviour that you like. Give them some attention, praise them, discuss what they're doing, give them a wink, a touch or simply watch them.

- Accidental rewards - giving in! This commonly occurs when children continually repeat themselves, whine, make a lot of noise, hurt others and so on. When parents give in they are accidentally rewarding a behaviour they do not like.

- Displays of anger and frustration - children will learn through watching you that using aggression is an acceptable way of behaving.

- Giving emotional messages - sometimes parents emotionally manipulate their children into cooperating. Using tears, silence, or fury to get your children to behave can make them feel emotions such as guilt or shame.

Group Triple P, an intensive parenting course, which runs over 8 weeks starts on Saturday 23 February 2013, see www.kidsfirstmc.com