Choose your battles. Don’t order kids to do something unless you really mean it. Think about it. If something bothers you, is that your problem or the kid’s problem? Can you enforce your request? Once you put down the order, be prepared to go to the mat.
Win your battles. Have a plan for enforcement in mind. What are you going to do if Johnny won’t stop running around the couch? In some cases, all you need to do is gently stop the offensive behavior. There’s a reason that God made parents bigger than children. In other cases, you may need to stop the kid and punish her. If your kids learn that you don’t mean it when you give instructions, they lose respect for you. And eventually, you lose control of your kids.
Give boundaries. Kids like to know that you are in control, and they count on you to set the boundaries. Without boundaries, they feel abandoned, believing that no one will stop them from harmful behavior. One of the great parent tools is the phrase, “That’s enough.” Translation: “That behavior is not purely evil, but you can’t keep doing it, because it is getting on my nerves.” A corollary phrase is, “Two more times, and that will be enough.” The structure of bed time, meal time, sharing, and physical protection expresses love to a child.
Pay now, not later. It is tough to make children behave. Constantly enforcing the rules is anything but convenient. If they don’t obey when they are small, they will certainly not obey when they are older. The older they get, the higher are the stakes for their decisions. A rebellious 14-year-old gets in much worse trouble than a rebellious 4-year-old. Make them behave and eventually (maybe after their own kids are born), they will thank you for it.
Parenting is lots of fun when you enjoy your kids. If you don’t enjoy being with them, you have to wonder who does….