Parenting – November-December 2012


Why does everything seem like a big struggle?

It seems that more and more parents face constant battles and daily struggles with their children often resulting in big drama with tears, screaming and emotional upsets.  Parents then try to find ways to avoid these embarrassing or frustrating moments, seeking immediate relief rather than a healthy long-term solution.

While the tendency is to (falsely) hope that these struggles will eventually just fade away, the reality is that these problems will predictably get worse.  Here’s why: we have been taught (by society, books, TV, etc.) to think that words should be used to manage children’s behavior. This is a serious problem, because words are quite worthless in teaching healthy habits.

What’s the answer? Here is my three-step solution to ending the daily struggles and the drama that goes with it.

Step 1:  Stop all word struggles, battles and negotiations – today!

Take a breath, and see how these daily struggles are inevitably a repeat of the same words and dialogue over and over. The same drama you try to avoid just keeps happening.

So, step one: stop it. Stop repeating the same losing battles.

Step 2:  Get clear on the expectations that build healthy habits

Most of us do not see life from the perspective of daily habits. Yet, there is an inevitable, unstoppable force that strengthens over time, making us a slave to our habits. We cannot fight the consequence of these habits.

Yet, many of us do not set up daily expectations that support healthy habits.  We ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ and hope for the best. 
Starting today, let’s change that. What healthy habits do you want to promote?  What habits, if you build them, will you feel good about 10 years from now?  What habits do you want to avoid giving to your children?

Then, establish the daily expectations that will build those habits.  Write them down, and put them up for everyone to see.

Step 3:  Use leverage to get cooperation with the expectations

This is where the magic begins. Rather than using words to try to get your kids on board with the daily expectations, use the leverage you have available to you. Wondering what I mean by the term ‘leverage.’

Leverage:  “Withholding the goodies until the expectations are met.”

Consistent, daily leverage is essential to making your life at home easy (especially if you have a challenging or oppositional child). From a parenting perspective, you have much more leverage than you may think that you have. Everything your children wants is within your control.

And you have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to those wants (i.e., the goodies). However, rather than trying to make this up as we go along, it is important to set up the consistent, daily expectations along with the daily leverage.  We must be willing to maintain a day-to-day structure where we require the expectations to be met BEFORE the goodies are granted. 

Under this system, we do not offer reminders, prodding, negotiations or arguments. We wait patiently for the expectations to be met before we give them what they want.  If it takes hours, we can wait hours.

And we can do this because the kids will always eventually want to get to the goodies.  This is our leverage, and we must trust it.  It’s the key to ending those exhausting struggles!

Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit


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