The topic for today will be a discussion on the problem parents write to me about often. The issue is that they try various parenting techniques that work for awhile and then stop working. They are frustrated by this, so I would like to discuss why this frustration exists.

There are two basic reasons why some types of parenting techniques stop working.

Number one, the most basic reason is because they are really faulty from the beginning and that means that basically the techniques were never really based upon solid parenting principles such as the relationship and building upon the relationship.

Many times these programs are built upon enforcing consequences, which are really not a good direction to focus upon for proper parenting techniques. For that reason, these programs work very well initially but after awhile they stop working. This is usually because it is when the novelty wears off.

This is one of the faults in programs many parenting programs that offer short term methods. The methods work initially and people have said they work. Many parents have told me that they have tried these programs and for a short while they worked, but then failed.

The reason these other programs do not work is because they are not based upon relationship building techniques. They tend to be based more upon enforcing your power as a parent, which is not really a good long term strategy. Relationship building is a much better and healthier long-term parenting technique.

There is a second and more basic reason why these short-term parenting techniques stop working. This is because your child today is a different person than he or she will be six months from now. The techniques that might work with you child today are not going to work with the child who is going to be in your house six months later.

This may seem very frustrating and like a lot of work, but it is the truth. It is really the job of the parent to change with their child.

I will give you an example in my life. When my oldest son, who is now a teenager, was in the third grade, he was having a lot of trouble with his teachers. He had a difficult time with school and also got into a lot of trouble with behavior while in school. What we did was arrange for the teacher in school to tutor him privately after school.

That extra relationship he had with the teacher turned the whole year around for him. He did that in the middle of the year and he became an excellent child and did very well the rest of the year. We felt we had the answer.

The next year, we hired the fourth grade teacher to tutor our child and he reluctantly went. It ended up not working at all and did not make a difference. There were still problems all year long. The reason for this is because our son was a different person in the third grade than he was in the fourth grade. Also, the teacher was different.

The whole idea is the principles change and the rules change because the child changes. That is really a fact of life and a fact of parenting. Your child is going to be constantly changing and you are going to have to change with your child in order to meet your child’s needs as they come arise.

The techniques you try this year are not necessarily going to work next year because your child is a different person. This is one of the unfortunate things, but it is also one of the great challenges of parenting. It does not mean you are a bad parent and it does not mean you are failing, it just means you have to grow and change with your child.

Your job as a parent is not over when you find one solution that works, you have to keep monitoring it and make sure it continues to work.

Let’s discuss a very common scenario which I am sure you may have experienced as a parent.

You tell your child or teenager to do something and they argue with you until they finally say, “But it is not fair|!” What often happens is that parents get sucked into discussing what is fair, why it is fair, and proving it is fair. I want to show you two reasons why it is a mistake to get into this conversation with your children.

First of all, when you ask or tell your child to do something, whether it is fair or not is not the issue. The issue is that you have set a limit or asked for a request and the child does not want to do it. Whether it is fair or not fair is a side issue and not the issue at hand. It is a way of getting off the main issue and that is never a good thing to do.

You must stay with your primary goal, which is to get the child to obey you to do something or not to do something. On a deeper level, I want to explain why the ‘not fair’ argument is not really an issue.

We live in a country where all men are created equal, at least that is what we are told. If you think about it, all men are not created equal – for example, George W. Bush was President of the United States. There is a good case that can be made that the reason he was President was that his father was President and the reason he became governor of Texas was because his father was a big person in politics.

John F Kennedy you could say the same thing – because his father was senator, he became President, but you could very easily say for example, say George Bush sold sandwiches on Wall Street, it is very unlikely his son George W. Bush would become President.

Is that fair?

No, it is not really fair because in reality all men are not created equal. Some people are given certain things and some people lack those things. There are people who are born rich and some people who are born poor. There are also people who are more intelligent and some who are less intelligent. So, in reality, the world is not fair.

That is the way it is and your child must learn to live with it and deal with it because that is the reality of life. When you start getting into the argument of it is fair or not fair, you are now backing up the whole argument, the whole fallacy about the world which does not really exist.

The world is not a fair place. You have to obey laws that are or are not fair. You have to listen to people who are not fair. You have to do certain things even though they are not fair.

When you are parenting your child you should try to do what is right and not worry about whether you are being fair or not fair. You try to be fair, of course, but fair is not the issue. Your child has to obey the rules and learn to behave even in situations that are not fair. That is your job as a parent when teaching your child, because that is how the world works.

Your job as a parent is to teach your child how to function in the world.

Your responsibility as a parent is to teach your child how to become a good person and a well functioning adult. One of your most important roles in doing this is to teach your child how to be good at problem solving.

Let’s say, for example, your child is called to the Principals Office because he hit another child. You could lecture your child and tell him it is the wrong thing to do, it is not nice, and that it makes people not like you. All of these things are absolutely true.

However, that does nothing to teach your child how to solve the problem. The reason is that your child did not respond in a vacuum. Something happened that caused your child to have the response of hitting. Your job as a parent is to find out what that was and coach your child on how to deal with that problem in a more effective, socially appropriate way.

Knowing whether the other child called him a name, hit him first, or any of a number of things a child could have done, is not as important as teaching your child the proper problem solving techniques. Your job is to find out what type of thing set off your child and to give him appropriate responses for the next time something like this happens.

So if a child called your child a name, you could tell your child to tell the teacher. It is hard to tell him to ignore it. You could even have the child tell the other child, “please do not call me that, it bothers me”. In many cases the other child will stop.

Again, your job is to teach your child appropriate responses to the things that happen to him. This is so your child can grow up to be a well functioning adult. The way you do this is to identify the cause of the inappropriate behavior and then teach problem solving skills.

Show your child the proper way to address things that happen to him with the appropriate responses. These are the best examples of teaching problem solving techniques to your children.

Today we are going to discuss the appropriate way to give consequences.

Before starting, I want to express to you that consequences are a necessary part of parenting; however, should be a very small part of parenting.

I know a number of parenting programs out there that focus solely on consequences. That is all they care about and some parents are looking to do only that one thing. I understand this, but I also know the parents who enroll in my programs are looking for something further. One of the most common comments we get is that parents tell us they do not need to punish their children anymore.

This is because when you work through relationships, you set up situations with your child so that the good behavior is going to happen automatically. You no longer need consequences. This should be your parenting goal.

However, there will inevitably be a need for consequences.

This is how you should deliver the consequences. First of all, whatever punishment or consequence you had should be an outgrowth of the behavior. It should be related to the behavior. Second and above all, the end of the consequence, if it is time related, should be related to the improvement of the behavior.

Let me clarify what I mean in an example. I will use my own personal experience, as I still have problems with my three children at times.

Yesterday, my young son rode his bicycle without wearing his helmet, even though he had just been told to wear his helmet. He told me that he forgot, which is very common for kids to say.

As a result, one consequence would be to say, “okay, so you rode your bike without your helmet on, you are not going to get dessert tonight.” The problem is that this in no way related to riding a bicycle, and is therefore not an appropriate consequence.

A more appropriate consequence, which is what we did, is to say, “okay, you rode without your helmet, then you can’t ride your bicycle for a five days”. That is a better way of giving consequences because the consequence is related to the behavior.

An even better way is to relate the lifting of the consequence, not the five days, but to say until the child shows you that he/she can behave properly. For example, the child did not ride his bicycle with his helmet on, so he cannot ride his bicycle until he shows you for three days that he can listen and be responsible.

We, as parents, have to define what that means. So for him it means listening the first time, not talking back, going to be without an argument, or whatever other types of things we want him to show he is listening to his parents.

This way you tie the consequence not only into the incident that happened to cause the consequence, which is what consequence really means, but you also tie in the lifting of the consequence with the improvement in the behavior you are looking to instill.

It should be specific. It should be something the child understands, can do, and be measurable. Not talking back for three days is a great example. Once the child talks back, he loses, but he understands what not talking back means.

It should not be that the child behaves good for three days, this is too vague. It has to be concrete and measurable.

Today we are going to discuss how important it is to be clear, precise, and direct when giving orders or instructions to your child.

There are two reasons for this.

Number one: The basic reason is because your child has to be able to comprehend what you are saying. If you are clear, precise, and direct it is much more likely your child is going to understand what you are asking.

Number two: More important is that you are the authority figure in your home and with your children. You must behave that way. People in charge or with authority are very clear with their orders. People who feel less confident about their authority will be more vague or indirect about what they are asking.

An example of the wrong way to do it is as follows. It is nine o’clock at night, your child is supposed to be in bed, and he is playing a video game. You go up to him and say, “Bobby, it is nine o’clock, you know the rule Bobby you are supposed to be in bed – don’t you think you should turn off the video game now? It is time to go to bed”.

This is very indirect. It shows a lack of confidence on the part of the parent.

The proper way is to say, “Bobby, nine o’clock, the video game needs to be turned off, and you go to bed, now”. Very straight, video game goes off and in bed now. This way shows much more confidence. You must have confidence in your authority as a parent because you are the authority figure in your home and your child must see this.

It is for your child’s benefit.