How to discipline your kids when you’re exhausted
The longer I do this job, the more I am convinced that being a parent is the world’s toughest gig. That is the case even with a partner who shares the load 50/50 and extensive support systems. Feeling like the entire weight of parenting is on your shoulders, particularly the difficult parts such as discipline and boundary setting can feel like an impossible task.
Often in the midst of a meltdown, a full-blown row with a 3-year old over triangle or square toast or a heated conversation with a teenager over why you ruined their lives, the battle seems like one that isn’t worth the energy. Finding the will to reply to your child, let alone discipline effectively seems like a mountain far too big to climb.
“The secret is that your energy is better spent planning your discipline in advance rather than in the moment. This way you feel like you have something concrete to turn to and a back-up system ready to go.”
There are also things you can do to make parenting a little easier on yourself. Here are five ideas to discipline your kids when you’re exhausted.
HOW TO DISCIPLINE YOUR KIDS WHEN YOU’RE EXHAUSTED
1. DEAL BREAKER RULES AND CONSEQUENCES
Once your kids are asleep tonight, sit down with a glass of wine and blank piece of paper. Write down the five non-negotiable rules for anyone living in your house. This may be to do with manners, fighting or jumping on furniture but there shouldn’t be more than five.
Then there should be a consequence for each one which is immediate and related to what they have done. For example, if they have thrown a toy – that toy is removed for at least 48 hours. If they have hit their sibling, they can’t be around them for a period of time (maybe 15 minutes).
One of the biggest stresses when trying to discipline your kids is caused by not thinking clearly in the moment and not being able to think of consequences.
If you can turn this list of rules and consequences into a visual chart on the fridge, this part of parenting becomes predictable and hopefully easier.
THE WITCHING HOUR
Almost every parent I speak to tells me that the most difficult times of day are getting their children through the morning and evening routine. You are trying to cram a lot into a short period of time and if you have more than one child, you can’t be everywhere.
If your children are in childcare or school, they are each likely to be able to do some of these tasks themselves. One idea to make these times of day easier is to have a checklist for each child of five things that they need to do in the morning and five in the evening. These can be as simple as brushing teeth, having a bath and finding their shoes. Once these tasks are in a chart, they are up to your children to remember. It isn’t worth the fight to remind them or ask them multiple times.
Rather, pair these charts with an earning system – each task they do earns them a token and once a jar is filled with tokens, they get a reward. You don’t need to stress about the things they don’t do – a day without brushed teeth won’t cause harm in the long run.
The consequences here are self-inflicted because if they don’t put their shoes on, they can go to school in socks – this is generally pretty effective!
Stockist: Etsy Australia
PICKING YOUR BATTLES WHEN YOU DISCIPLINE YOUR KIDS
For many parents, their children fighting with each other is very annoying and seemingly pointless! However, the thing to remember is that your children fighting with each other is not your fight and turns you into a policeman rather than a parent.
Of course, if someone is actually being hurt, you need to step in but if not, encourage your children to sort it out themselves. By getting involved when they ask you to, you are giving yourself stress over a discipline that may not be required.
“If the noise gets too much, disappear with some music or a book to the bathroom and give yourself a 5-minute breather … one of the most effective tricks when trying to discipline your kids!”
HOW TO DISCIPLINE YOUR KIDS WHEN YOU’RE EXHAUSTED (CONT.)
ONLY ASK ONCE
One of the biggest frustrations for parents is when their children seem to not be listening and when they have to ask the same thing repeatedly. This is as frustrating for the child being asked because they are telling you through their behaviour that they can’t or won’t do what you are asking!! The more you ask, the more aggravated you will both become and the more heated the situation is likely to become.
A better idea is to take the following steps:
- Ensure your child is actually able to listen (not engrossed in a screen or busy with something else)
- Ask them the question
- Wait about two minutes
- Go up to them and tell them that you noticed they didn’t do what you asked and that they have until the timer rings to do it. Explain what the consequence will be if they don’t do it. The idea here is not about punishment but rather about encouraging them to understand that every action they take has an automatic consequence. For example, if they haven’t put the toy away, you take the toy away completely.
- After the time has passed, the consequence occurs
The aim of this method is two-fold.
- Firstly, you are only asking once – Ask once/warn once/ consequence. Therefore, your child is learning you mean business!
- Secondly, you are transferring some responsibility onto your child’s shoulders which gives them a sense of control – they are making a clear choice.
There will be certain circumstances where this approach is not practical. However, if there is a conscious effort to ask your child fewer times, then they are likely to become more responsive when you do ask.
SELF CARE AND REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Trying to parent effectively and discipline your kids when you are running on empty yourself is close to impossible.
Therefore, as important as it is to have strategies to manage your children, it is also important to have strategies to ensure you are getting what you need for your overall well-being. Depending on your circumstances, this could mean many things. Such as:
- Arranging play dates more often for your children
- Utilising before care and after care so you can lessen the stress at work
- Asking your parents for help with a once a week babysitting commitment
- Having a regular cleaner help take some of the domestic pressures off
“We all have an image in our heads of the perfect home and the perfect parent (not aided by the images we see in the media) but setting your own goals based on your reality is very important.”
Being kind to yourself by letting the laundry wait another day as you are tired or allowing yourself 10 minutes more snuggling with your child instead of washing-up is OK, and in time, will become habitual.
Whilst it is true that not all of these ideas will work for everyone, hopefully there is something here that resonates with you, your family and your situation.