My daughters were monsters this weekend!
No, not Lady Gaga fans (Gaga calls her fans her “little monsters”), but literal monsters! My daughters we grumpy, mean and at each other’s throats every second.
We tried to intervene but it did no good.
“Ashley, please stop talking to your sister that way.”
“Don’t talk to me, talk with Alyssa, she’s the one being the jerk!”
This, of course, catalyzed a retort from Alyssa. “Who’s the idiot that just borrowed my shirt without asking for the 10th time!”
Nothing was working. They were on a rampage.
The question is always, how to respond. As a guy with an Irish temper, I always have to be careful. The easy route is to simply raise my voice to a painful volume and yell, “That’s it! Shut up right now or you’re both gonna be doing yardwork until midnight!”
It works, mind you. They actually will be quiet when I do that. But yelling is a temporary fix if you think about it. It gets you what you want for the moment. When I yell, my girls know I’ve had enough. They know I’m serious. They don’t want to poke Papa-Bear at this point. But unfortunately, yelling is just a short-term solution. Within a minute several things happen:
- My girls are both mad at me for yelling at them.
- I’m feeling guilty.
- They don’t even see their own inappropriate behavior any more because they are too busy focusing on my angry outburst.
Oh yeah… yelling has one other cancerous result: my wife is now disappointed in me! (Is there anything worse? Not in my house. Disappointment is the ultimate punishment. I’d take “anger” any day.)
Maybe that’s just me. Perhaps no one else is ever tempted to just bark out a fatal, “shut up!!” at times. But for those of you who, like me, struggle with how to respond to hormonal teenage girls on rampage, I’m slowly learning a few truths:
- A soft voice can be just as effective as a loud one, if not even more effective.
Think about it for a second. What if I said almost the exact same words, but with a quiet voice. Try this:
“Listen to me once because I promise that I’m not going to repeat this. The next person to say a mean word to someone in this house today is going to be outside pulling weeds for one hour.”
Pause for effect, and then with a smile you could even add…
Then leave the room. But you can’t neglect this second principle…
- Follow through with your promise.
Yes, simple but true. It’s like this. If you threaten to take away your daughter’s iPhone if she gets a D, and then you don’t take away her iPhone when she gets a D… she’s going to get more Ds. Lots of them! Because she knows that you’re full of it!
If you tell your kids something, follow through with it. Yes, this means that you can’t threaten to ground them until they’re 30—that might prove difficult to enforce. So think through your punishments carefully (My wife and I like to have a few nice chores on hand. “Oh wow. The 145 pound dog is getting pretty smelly. Next time a kid needs a chore, let’s have them wash Sasquatch!”) and keep your word.
This isn’t easy. If it was easy, then there wouldn’t be so many messed up teenagers. Unfortunately, there are literally millions!
Don’t go for the temporary solution. If your house is full of monsters, don’t bark at them; just give them a promise that you intend to keep. You’ll be amazed how quickly your kids will obey. (And if they don’t, Sasquatch will be clean and your wife won’t hate you! It doesn’t get much better than this!)
Jonathan spends an entire chapter talking about how imperfect parents can discipline effectively in his book, Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent
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