Written by : Jane Nelsen, Kristina Bill and Joy Marchese 

Be a Consciously Irresponsible Parent

Stress, disorganization, frustration, and anger; are these part of your morning routine? Getting sleepy, uncooperative children out the door on time in the morning can try any parent’s patience, and it is especially difficult when both parents have to get out the door and off to work themselves.

Have you ever muttered, “There’s got to be a better way?” Well, there is.

Picture this: Your children wake up on their own, get dressed by themselves, take turns fixing breakfast (including yours) and get their lunches (which they fixed the night before) from the fridge. They then pick up their homework and gym clothes (from the place where they had them all laid out the night before) and give you a kiss as they leave for school with time to spare.

Sound good? This could be your home—or very close to it.

A win-win situation

In Positive Discipline, we teach the importance of “winning children over” instead of “winning over children.” Winning over children invites rebellion or giving up. Winning children over invites cooperation. Winning your children over does not mean giving them what they want so that they like you and are more likely to do what you want them to do. Winning your child over means you created a desire for cooperation based on a feeling of mutual respect.  One of the best ways to win children over is to do things with them instead of to or for them. Doing things with them means respectfully involving them in finding solutions that work for everyone such as chores charts and set routines.

Not my job

Another great way to help your children learn responsibility is for you to be “consciously irresponsible.” Parents sometimes spend endless energy and time being responsible for their children. They set their alarm clocks for them, shake them out of bed in the morning, issue incessant reminders to get dressed, eat breakfast, find their shoes, pack their backpacks, and grab their lunch, and still they find themselves driving children to school because they missed the bus. It’s a good system for the kids (at least on the surface). But children aren’t learning self- discipline and motivation and often become discouraged about their own competence, and parents are becoming cranky, frustrated, and resentful.

Lead by Example

To be consciously irresponsible, let children know what they are capable of doing on their own and take time for training. Then, don’t do it for them. Don’t set the alarm clock, don’t remind them to get dressed or eat. As they experience natural consequences, they may choose to be more responsible themselves. After an initial uncomfortable learning stage, they will likely start to enjoy their growing skills and confidence. This is a great way to acquaint them with their personal power in a positive way.

Imagine how much more relaxed and contented we can be both in the home and in our professional lives when we let go of a bit of control and empower others.
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