This is one of my favorite lessons for parents. The lesson is: if you set things up correctly, think ahead as much as possible, and have good control over powerful motivators, you can use four of the most powerful words in the parenting dictionary: “Its up to you.”
Lets think about a pretty common scenario: chores. Kids hate chores and do not look forward to doing them.
Neither do you, but you do them because there are certain things that motivate you: your husband wants it done, you have friends coming over, your wife considers socks on the floor as “inconsiderate,” etc.
NEWSFLASH: Your kids are not motivated by these things. They don’t (and likely won’t) do it “because you should.” You hold the motivation and it does not have to be the avoidance of pain! If you have control over preferred things (we have talked about this before and will continue to, by the way) you lead the way.
Lets say, for example, little Timmy likes to come home and search YouTube skating videos. Cool.
PARENT: “Make sure you get your room cleaned then you can check out the new videos.”
TIMMY: “Im not doing it…nope…I cleaned it last week. Its fine!”
PARENT: (knowing the computer is password protected) says, “OK, its up to you” while doing the shoulder shrug thing that generally indicates “oh well.”
The point you communicate when you say “its up to you:” there are controls and consequences in place that will either make the appropriate behavior more likely in the future or make the inappropriate behaviors less fun and less likely. You got it! No emotion, no screaming, no points for argument.
A couple important things about this seemingly (and rightfully so) easy strategy:
1) You have to be O.K. with the room not being cleaned RIGHT NOW and even today. We are working on the power of the computer to motivate here. Remember: long term. This is not about what makes him do it right now, but more about what makes them more likely to do it over time with as little carnage as possible.
2) Deprivation matters, but so does satiation. Having not played Wii in 5 days for some kids is like not eating for 10. Motivation. However, if you are not dealing with something powerful on a daily basis, you might get some satiation. Grouping things such as electronics (Wii, TV, Computer) helps.