School is ending, and for most, plans are in place for a good amount of summer fun. Yet, too often, good times are filled with excessive whining, complaining and demands for more, more and still more.
What’s the answer? Is it just “giving them” their phones, IPads and video games whenever they want, so they stop all that? Or do we avoid restaurants so that we eliminate those embarrassing tantrums and crying? Maybe just give them what they want when they want it, because that’s what’s easier?
Of course, you know my answer: Simply, no. Instead, think of these simple strategies.
Summer strategies to keep your sanity
1. Don’t fix boredom. Let your kids do that.
Your kids will inevitably come to you complaining of being “bored.” Yet, in their world, they have more toys, goodies and opportunities to fill their lives than any generation before them.
Children today complain more about being bored than ever before. Why? Because they are conditioned for someone or something or some game to solve the problem for them.
So please recognize that this is no formula for happiness or contentment. We must not solve or fix this every time the kids whine or complain about boredom, nor do we want to sit them in front of the TV or a phone to give them that instant reward for being “bored.”
Instead, allow them to be bored, to complain and to throw a fit. This will go on awhile, so be prepared. Then, eventually, they will discover a whole world awaiting them to explore and enjoy. This does require that they go through some struggles, particularly if mom and dad have habitually fixed these moments.
2. Never indulge negative, demanding, complaining tendencies.
Some kids are easy, and don’t go down this path. But many children find this negative path, particularly as they enter later elementary and middle school. They will adopt a critical attitude toward parents and toward any limits put upon them. When they don’t get what they want, they complain, harass, and demand that you give in.
It might be to take them to a friend’s house, or let them sit inside and play video games, or even let them stay home rather than visit the in-laws with the family. When out in public, they might demand that you buy something for them or take them to Starbucks.
To the extent that we have already set limits on these requests (i.e., we have said no), and now the whining or demanding or negative requests begin, we have a clear choice. We can engage and repeat ourselves over and over. We can say no over and over. Or, we can even eventually give in just to stop the craziness. None of these are good. Why?
We have fed the negative pattern, and all those paths will lead to more and more negativity.
So instead, once you have set a limit, ignore all the negotiations, the complaints and the demanding behavior. Just let it be. It will go away—and life this summer will soon get better!
3. Don’t fight harder for their happiness than they do
When we have invested in a vacation or a day trip out, it’s easy to start “fighting” for your kids’ enjoyment—more than they do.
What do I mean? You dedicate a day to their happiness with a special outing, or perhaps you just spent a large chunk on a great vacation. What do you get? The kids keep complaining about where you eat, or why their brother makes them miserable or they want to sit inside with their phone while the family enjoys the beach. Or perhaps you are on your way to the water park, and they refuse to stop fighting in the back seat or throw a tantrum when waiting for their sister to finish a ride.
In each situation, let them get what they are fighting for: MISERY. Allow that to happen. Don’t save them from this, by trying to fix it again.
How? Don’t argue or negotiate about what they want. Instead, turn around if they are fighting in the car or at the park, and let them sit at home.
On vacation? Take the battery out of their phone and allow them to sit in their misery a while. Don’t fix every moment they complain about their brother or try to make it better. Feel free to do take-out from the restaurant they complained about, while allowing your negative child to discover what it feels like to be hungry for a few hours.
These are all necessary teaching moments, and your summer happiness ultimately depends on your follow through. You can learn more about handling these tough situations at TerrificParenting.com, and you can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter at @terrificparents.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.