It's 11pm and your child still won't brush their teeth. They're whining about how it's unfair that they have to go to bed now and can't they just stay up for five more minutes to finish up that level or that chapter?
You've had a long day at work and you just want them to go to bed so you can finally rest and binge The Good Place in peace with your hard-earned glass of red wine. You've had just about enough of this and end up losing your cool. Out of habit and against your volition, you raise your voice at them to go to bed.
They pout, but you put your foot down and demand that they listen to you because "you're the parent and you say so!"
They might listen to you after that, but they certainly aren't going to be happy about it, and they're only really doing it so that they don't get yelled at again. You're not teaching them to go to bed on time or to brush their teeth because it's good for them. You're teaching them that you're right and they're wrong and that not listening to you results in you yelling at them. It's intimidating. The latter leaves you feeling off and them feeling more isolated.
Or perhaps you give in to their incessant pleading and let them stay up longer, but then they stay up so late that their tomorrow becomes even harder. Maybe you send them off to bed and don't even bother checking in, assuming they'll get there eventually and not really worrying about when or if they ever do.
How you teach someone is almost as important as what exactly you are trying to teach them. The connotation of the conversation taints the content.
Your parenting style matters, both in terms of short-term outcomes and long-term gains.
Are you using the best one?
The 4 Parenting Styles
Image source: Verywell
Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Neglectful.
Each style varies in the level of responsiveness and demandingness that goes along with it.
You're gonna want to use Authoritative parenting. It's got high levels of both.
Why Authoritative Parenting Wins
You should have high expectations for your child. You're raising a small human who will eventually go off and ideally live as a fully-functioning adult out in the real world. But, you want to set them up with good habits.
Most importantly, you want to explain why.
Demanding something without any warmth or explanation as to why you're demanding it in the first place isn't going to get the point across.
On the other hand, being too lenient because you're worried about being too demanding will backfire and leave your child floundering in chaos due to a lack of established structure and expectations.
So, an authoritative parenting response to the situation at the start of this blog post would likely calmly but firmly remind the child about their bedtime and how it's important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule as part of a good routine to feel better and be healthier. The level and the chapter can wait. Brushing your teeth is also important so that you don't get cavities and can still enjoy your treats later.
Being clear and set, but also kind and flexible, is a perfect blend of being warm and firm. You want to be fair and to treat your child with respect so that they can do the same for you. You're the one modeling the behavior, after all.
You don't have to resort to yelling at your child because it's worked before or because that's what you've seen on TV. There are other ways of communicating, ones that leave you and them feeling better.
It will take a LOT of time and patience to break out of default behaviors, but it is so rewarding. And it will bring you closer.
You've got this!
Looking for more tips and tricks as a parent?
Check out The Dad's Bucket List for a wealth of ideas and activities to teach and enjoy with your child.
Let me know in the comments how this style of parenting works for you the next time you try it out!