Okay. Summer is officially on… and the kids are on summer-time schedule. And yes, it’s been a rush! Hectic and crazy at times. Everyone is ready for a breather.
Here’s the dangerous and often tempting thought process: “Oh, the kids had a tough year. They need a break. We will just take it easy…no chores…go to bed late…get up when they want. No big deal.”
Start Weak…Life Gets Harder!
If you decide to start summer with no structure, and abandon most limits, everything is smooth and sweet. The kids love it. It seems easier and everyone is happy.
At least for a few days! However, as time goes on, weaker limits simply get pushed harder. The kids will want to stay up later and later. They will want more and more video time. They will fight responsibilities more and more. Their disrespect or talking back increases the moment you start to ask them to help out a bit.
This is the nature of things.
Children and adults thrive on structure and limits. Oh yes, we fight it. Kids fight it. But the proof is overwhelming. When we abandon this in favor of weak limits and little structure, life simply gets harder to manage.
Start Strong…Life Gets Easier!
The secret is to go against the tide. Instead of starting off the summer weak, start strong. In the long run, you will have more joy, more fun and more easeful times this summer.
How do you start strong? I’s not too complex. Let’s go over the basics.
• Set clear limits on bedtime (not more than an hour later than school year times)
• Get the kids up at a standard time, regardless of their whining.
• Serve breakfast at a regular time, and don’t adjust.
• Require a few morning chores before video, phone, TV, pool, friends or computer.
These are just the basics, but it gets you started. Remember this: your strength as a parent stems from how you manage yourself and how you manage the home (particularly the goodies in your home!).
If you manage your emotions poorly (i.e., are reactive and easily upset), you will lose the respect of your children over time. You will see your authority erode, despite your desire to show strength. The critical solution is to keep your calm and have a game plan, rather than believing that yelling or getting upset should get them to listen.
Secondly, the game plan comes in the way that you manage your home, and the goodies the kids really care about. During the summer, there are goodies everywhere: the pool, baseball, soccer, playground, biking, camping, TV, friends, phones, computers, day trips…and the list goes on.
These ‘goodies’ represent leverage. It is critical to manage this leverage every single day! I am often reminding my clients, “Never give up your leverage! It’s your key to sanity.”
That’s why the day begins with some structure and chores, before the children can get to their goodies. If they get up, start to play a game, turn on the TV and then you discuss breakfast, you can see it all turns ugly. They are eating in front of a video game, and you can’t get them to pick up their room. This is weak approach, and the summer will get harder!
So instead, start strong and watch the summer eat easier! Keep routines in place, and don’t argue or negotiate about that. And NEVER give up your leverage!