My husband and I have determined that our entire nuclear family struggles with self-control—so I post this week not from a place of mastery. I’m just writing from a family that is intentionally seeking strategies together so our reactions to emotions give love and life—rather than, you know, giving a wrecking ball. Make sure to offer your own ideas in the comments section!
5. Absolutely do NOT give in to manipulation, angry demands, or whining. Help them get to the core of what they want, and ask respectfully. It’s Psych 101: Giving in reinforces that their bad behavior works, like giving a bad dog a biscuit. Whining or disrespect means an immediate “no” to any request in our house, no matter how much I want to give what they’re asking for. Instead, I simply tell my kids they need to ask for what they want.
- Younger kids will need help turning whining into a question, so give them a sample “script” of what to say: “I’m sorry, I will not give you milk if you whine. You could say, ‘May I please have milk?’”
- As kids get older, make them wait, say, two minutes before they can come back and ask appropriately.
- Offer kids a “do over”/“redo.” Allow them to respectfully rephrase (perhaps after a short amount of waiting as “penalty time”).
- When asking kids to do something, consider first asking them to respond with, “Yes, Mom [Dad].” Then they can respectfully ask questions or present reprisals.
6. Examine your own drama. I’m embarrassed by the number of times my husband has gently brought to light that I’m actually whining at my kids! I tend to parent rather…emotionally. You can imagine how the results of my poor modeling creates a vicious drama cycle in our house. So I’m praying for self-control, too! Look here for 12 practical ideas on parent anger-management, and here for a free printable of reminders.
7. Don’t play the shame game. This, for me, is hard to identify: shaming attitudes in my discipline, rather than parenting deeply rooted in grace and truth. I’m talking statements like, “How could you do that?!” or “What were you thinking?!” or anything that could be replaced with Shame on you! So much of this is conveyed through tone: negativity, disappointment, whining, and using fear and manipulative emotion to parent rather than calmly working with your child to construct good behavior. I do understand there is legitimate shame and guilt to be had in kids’ sin, and raising the bar for our children is not a bad thing. Grace-filled parenting still means understanding the full weight of wrongdoing, still holding high requirements for behavior. But it means using heart-probing questions and wise discipline to help our kids respond to the Holy Spirit—rather than forcing them toward proper behavior with the message You should be better, and you are unacceptable to me right now.
8. Instill consistent consequences for emotional outbursts.
- For a couple of our kids, we have a “three strike” rule. Every overreaction is a strike; every three strikes means half an hour earlier to bed. They also lose screen time.
- If you’re having a hard time not giving in to your kids’ wheedling or arguing, imagine what this behavior would look like unchecked in two years, or when they’re a teenager, or with a boss or a future spouse. Think of a lion cub: They’re much easier to train when they’re smaller.
- Extend graciousness in a hard season—like baking a teen’s favorite cookies when stuff with her friends feels dismal, or simply responding quietly to her emotional eruption. Pray actively for discernment to know when to lighten up—and still, to not let her walk over the family in her angst. Her future husband may thank you!
Let’s hear it. What are some of the best strategies you’ve seen to tackle kid-drama?
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