Stop Punishing Your Kids

We’ve all tried hinting, but kids just don’t get hints. Watch Out! Before you realize it you might find yourself on a slippery slope to martyrdom.

“I’m going to stop punishing my children by saying, ‘Never mind I’ll do it myself.’” Erma Bombeck

Erma Bombeck’s newspaper column, At Wits End, was famous for poking fun at the lives of suburban housewives. Her humor was wildly popular because it was just so darn true! I used her funny words in Chapter 3― Set Your Sights, to poke fun at the pointless practice parents have of hinting at their kids. Kids just don’t get hints so watch out; hinting can put you on a slippery slope to martyrdom. 

Fishing for Frustration

Most of us have tried hinting and know that it rarely works on adults, and works even less with kids.  Sure, sometimes it’s easier to just do things yourself; it’s the choice between picking up dirty clothes vs. suffering another conversation about responsibility and appreciation as you remind your kids—again—for the umpteenth time—to do it themselves.  It’s fine to choose doing the work yourself sometimes; I do it, too.  The rub comes if you cast out hints hoping to hook appreciation.  Mostly all you hook is more frustration

So what do you do?  You’ve probably tried direct communication, “I picked up your clothes again today. Please make sure you put them away from now on.”  Clearly stating what you did and what you expect in the future can work . . . but what if it doesn’t? 

Still Frustrated

He keeps leaving clothes on the floor even after you’ve tried all the “correct” responses.  Do you think you’ll get a better response by hinting and shaming? Well, maybe―but not for long. More than likely he’ll sense a new position of power. He’ll recognize his ability to make YOU feel bad and all that it costs him is listening to a few of your insults. Not a bad trade for a kid and actually a great reason NOT to do what you want. Oh, and he’ll surely find other ways to leverage his power, because you’re probably using the same hinting-shaming technique to get him to make his bed, put toys away, eat breakfast, etc.

My Solution:  One More Time

Step 1:  Directly communicate from a position of personal responsibility and power.

“Seeing your clothes on the floor bothers me, so I picked them up again for you today.”

Step 2:  Make sure your child has the skills and resources needed to accomplish the task.

“What would make it easier for you to do?”

Step 3:  Establish a period of time for practicing responsibility for the task.

“I’ll help you for another week so that you have time to practice getting it done on your own.”

Step 4:  Set boundaries and clarify natural consequences.

“Since I don’t want to do it anymore after that, anything left on the floor goes into a holding bin for a month.  That way I don’t have to pick anything up twice for at least a month.”

Step 5:  Follow through without deviation.

“After the month, I’ll return the things you want and we’ll donate the rest.”

Personal Power

I was successful with this plan, but it’s only one possible solution. The point of any solution you eventually choose is to communicate from a place of judgment-free support and personal power. The hinting-shaming way will surely backfire and it won’t teach him how to make good choices as an adult.

“I’m going to stop punishing my children by saying, ‘Never mind I’ll do it myself.’”  Erma Bombeck


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Author: Lorraine Esposito

Lorraine Esposito 914-410-7502 Lorraine Esposito is a certified professional life coach, mentor coach, owner of The Center for Coaching Mastery at Westchester Community College in New York, and nationally recognized author of The Peacemaker Parent, Solving Problems for Today, Teaching Independence for a Lifetime, Lorraine is the featured life coach for a popular New York radio station, WFAS 103.9 FM and is in collaboration with and featured blogger for the National Football League and USA Football adding a ‘coach approach’ to coaching youth sports. Lorraine’s client base includes CEO’s in the entertainment industry, White House and Capitol Hill public affairs staff, entrepreneurs, global TED speakers, award winning writers, new coaches just starting out, successful business women between 40 and 55 looking for more out of life, and parents needing a little help making good on their parenting promises. Lorraine’s career matches the diversity in her coaching practices. Starting out in the rural mid-west, Lorraine has owned four small businesses; the first, an automobile repair center, started at age 16. Her corporate experience is mainly in negotiating multimillion dollar contracts as the buyer of domestic in-flight food and beverages for Trans World Airlines and then as a procurement manager for the New York City Transit Authority. Lorraine’s strength has always been creatively finding solutions to even the most complicated goal. In addition, Lorraine’s 30 years as a professional fitness coach continues to add depth to all her endeavors. She has been featured in various print, broadcast, and on-line media and is a public speaker regarding personal leadership to community and school-based audiences. Lorraine lives in New York with her husband and two teenage sons.

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