Changing the Culture of your Home; What You Put up With, You End up With
Many people either comment to me about how well behaved my kids are, or that their kids are just different than mine, and that “nothing works” on theirs. Well of course! All kids are different – each of my kids are different from one another. I have one kid that is insanely easy, I have another that is sooo stinking hard. The rest of them are what I consider pretty typical. The trick is determinging your goal, and finding what “works” on yours.
Despite them all being different, the one constant anchor is me. Granted, some days I have more bandwidth for shenanigans than others, but my core principles never waiver. My kids have no confusion about what is and what is not acceptable in this home. But here is the truth of it: my kids were older (4 and 8 and pregnant with our third), by the time I started realizing we were in need of re-establishing some fundamental concepts. There were some patterns that needed to be changed and some behaviors that needed to be straight-up eliminated. My gripe list was a mile long and I felt powerless against some of these behaviors and patterns, i.e. “the culture” that was already in place in my own home.
One day I was near broken. So over it. I seriously was not having fun anymore. I thought parenting was joyous? I felt like a hostage! Here is what the real problem was: in the busy-ness that is life, I had become REACTIVE with my kids instead of PROACTIVE. You know the whole “intentional living” thing I’m always talking about? It started as a revelation, and I was suddenly able to dream a bigger dream for my little growing family.
I sat down, collected my thoughts, and began to strategize my plan. My daddy often asks the question, “what does success look like to you?” to help people really visualize exactly what their goals are. After identifying a picture of success, you can kind of work backwards to fill in the steps to get there. I used this model when I began my “home life makeover.” I am happy to pass along the Cliff Notes to anyone who can benefit from a change in the climate of your home life.
Here are the steps I took that changed the culture in my home:
1. Narrow down exactly what you want to change. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I sat and pondered what my top three concerns were so that I wasn’t ripping into the kids every five minutes. (Mine were bedtime process, homework, and lying). Once I had identified my top three concerns I was able to focus solely on those for a period of time. (I mean I still had a longer internal list – but I isolated my attention initially on these top 3). I started brainstorming effective ways to change what I was unhappy with. Sometimes alone, sometimes with my husband, sometimes with the kids’ input.
2. Explain the change and your reasoning behind it. “From now on, homework is going to be done right after school during snack time. Doing it after dinner is stressful and rushed. I know that feels disappointing because it cuts into your playtime, but if we focus and get it done you will have the whole rest of the day free. In this house, we think it’s important to remember to complete our responsibilities first, and play comes after as the reward.” OR “I’ve noticed that a time out hasn’t been effective in keeping you from potty talk. From now on, if you use potty talk you will have to have a spoonful of ‘naughty juice’ (apple cider vinegar). This family is polite and respectful, and when we use potty talk we aren’t showing that we are polite or respectful of others.”
3. FOLLOW THROUGH. Do not sit your kids down and roll out “the change” if you are not ready to follow through. This is actually worse than never trying to change in the first place. Some days the follow through is just so excruciatingly hard. (Though not as hard as living with the aftermath of kids who have learned your “word” is negotiable. OOPS, sorry! Sometimes my sass spills out!) This is, in part, why I suggest narrowing your list down to three things at a time. In my experience, I give things a go with a specific consequence tied to it for a month – if the behavior doesn’t change, I know the consequence is ineffective.
4. Recalibrate when needed. If I give a new process a try for thirty days and find that the behavior isn’t changing, I dig deep in my Mommy arsenal and find a new consequence. Consequences are a means to an end – they are meant to change behavior. “Effective” consequences change behavior. If I give my child ‘naughty juice’ every day for thirty days and he’s still using potty talk, it’s time to up the ante or change the strategy. “Well, Billy, I was hoping the taste of naughty juice would make you think twice before talking inappropriately, but it didn’t. From now on, potty talk earns no screen time for the day.”
5. Stay focused on your goal. Being a disciplinarian is emotionally taxing! When looking at the disappointment in the face of your sweet baby, crocodile tears and all- you may be tempted to relent in hopes of making them happy. It hurts when our kids hurt, even when they impose it on themselves! However, I would suggest that the best way to love our kids is to stick to our commitments, in spite of our feelings. Discipline and accountably are acts of unselfish love.
6. Don’t give up! It is truly never too late! What you put up with, you end up with. BUT… success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. Consistency is key! Behaviors can change, schedules can change, the whole vibe can change! We are talking about humans here – and we are so very pliable.
If the climate you call home is currently in a storm, you are not alone. Parenting, heck life in general, is an ever-evolving equation. We learn, we grow, and we reformulate as the pieces change around us. I am constantly rolling out new protocols on my kids. (when you leave your shoes out I take them away – good luck when you’re down to a pair of penny loafers…). But seriously, we’ve got this. One behavior at a time, one streamlined bedtime, one spoonful of vinegar…we’ve got this. And if you see my teenagers at school in some penny loafers or flip flops, please remind them that Mama could trip on their misplaced shoes.