Be competitive with your kids. This is my secret to parenting. That sounds terrible doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I am a silently competitive person. I like to win, but I don’t like other people to know that I’m trying to win. I like people to believe that it’s a happy accident if I win at something. This way, I come off as a very laid back (which I am) easy going person but deep down I hate to lose.
Being competitive can actually be very useful in parenting, so long as it is applied in an appropriate manner. Forget about being competitive with the Joneses, that is so lame and you’ll never be happy. Forget about being competitive with your spouse about who is a better parent, that will be self destructive to your marriage and totally obvious to your kids when they get older, which again will make you appear lame.
But when it comes to having my kids respect and listen to what we need to get done, making it into a competitive game for myself gives me the extra boost I need to stick with it and yield the results that I want. For example, we ran out of child safety locks in our kitchen and the only thing not locked down is our spice drawer, which let me tell you, is so awesome. I can’t say we haven’t had a pile of chili powder on our kitchen floor which almost spelled disaster for the kids and the dog. However, it has become a good lesson in what not to touch and working at self control for my kids. My son has the hang of it, it’s my daughter that we’re working on now. She LOVES that spice drawer. I forget which parenting book it was, but one of them said that provided a child isn’t in immediate danger, the best way to get them to listen is to not run over to them and physically get them to stop doing whatever it is they shouldn’t be doing but instead, ask them to stop.
Well here is where a little competitiveness helps (some might call it patience). No child (okay, well, not mine anyway) will ever immediately stop the first time you ask them and maybe not even the 5th time you ask them. But if you are persistent and keep asking them to put it back and close the spice drawer you’ll start to notice a pause in their activity and you can see them process what you’re asking. Repeat it again always watching them, as soon as you take your eyes off they feel like they’re free to mess around again, and you have to start all over. Soon they’ll start to look at you as they start the activity they know they’re not supposed to be doing, which is a big win because you know that you’re getting through and then repeat again, “put the spices back and close the drawer please”. Eventually, they will catch on that they shouldn’t be playing with spices and will forget about the drawer entirely. So you’re thinking to yourself, seriously, who has time for this? But honestly, how many times do you find yourself wasting time chasing down your kids? This really does work and each subsequent time the standoff is shorter and shorter.
There are certainly days where I just don’t have it in me to fight the battle and those are the days when I actually have to talk myself into bringing out my competitive side – telling myself that I will win the standoff. And if I can muster up the energy and find the patience, then I have won. My competitiveness and feeling like I’d really like to win this battle today because I know it will make tomorrow easier, helps me get through our day.
So go ahead, bring out your competitive side and help your little kids know their limits and improve their self control. Don’t forget to take deep breaths.
As a side note: This is not to be misconstrued as actually being competitive WITH my kids – i.e. I can run faster than you … well obviously, I have 33 years experience on you little guy. Although I do think a little healthy competition among family members can be fun.