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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Funkhouser

Do Not Cross Mama

I would consider my parenting style... firm and gentle, but do not cross mama. You will not win.

It’s a pretty delicate balance between dictatorship and “I could squeeze you to death because I love you so much”. Ya feel me?

People often tell me how lucky I am, my children are fairly well behaved, they listen mostly, I can take them anywhere, anytime, and my house is generally clear of messes, they get along. But honey, it has zero to do with luck, and everything to do with the structure.

Maybe it’s spending nearly three months 24/7 between these walls with two kids, or maybe it’s the fact that we are adding one more to the bunch fairly quickly... whatever it was, it had me awake at 4am with a need to write down everything I believe about parenting.... so here it is. And I’m sure yours is different- that’s ok. We are all supposed to be.

Teaching Respect:

The moment you bend a rule, it has lost its power it loses all meaning. You lose control, consistency, and respect. Your child loses respect for you, the rules, and the structure that helps them feel safe and secure in your care.

Respect is a learned behavior, children are not born with it. If children don’t respect you, they will respect nothing else.

Before I go over our house rules, I want to talk a little bit about communication. I am not one of those “because I said so” parents. I know, that when you communicate with a child, you are teaching them how to communicate with you. So in our house, the rules are clear and defined. There aren’t many, and each one has a purpose. Unfollowed rules come right along with consequences. Guess what happens when children KNOW what the consequences to their negative action will be… that’s right! They would much prefer to follow the rules. So keep them simple, make sure they have reason, and always be sure to follow them yourself. Leading by example is the best way to make certain that you are giving that baby the best chance of becoming a kind, responsible adult. It starts at birth, and it starts with you.

Our House Rules:

  1. You make the mess, you clean it up. This is why we only get out one play set or project at a time. This is a rule from the moment you are able to make a mess- if you are capable of creating it, you are capable of cleaning it up. Clean up what you are doing before another project is started. Refuse to clean up and you get to sit in time out, until the mess is clean. Chores are done first thing in the morning, before projects, tv, games or breakfast. Consequence: you may not move on with your day until the mess is cleaned up. LESSON: Respect your space.

  2. If a toy is broken from playing too rough, consequence: another toy is chosen by parent and they are both removed and/or donated. If you break or ruin something that does not belong to you, consequence: you earn money by doing extra chores to pay for it. LESSON: Respect your things and the belongings of others.

  3. No yelling, talking back, whining or arguing when asked to do something. Everyone gets to talk, and everyone gets to state their feelings, your opinion is valued and feelings may be valid - but when it’s time to follow direction, it’s time to listen. Patients is required when you’d like something but I’m in the middle of something else, if that’s hard in the moment- take a deep breath, or a few if you need to. “Cool down time” is taken is a fit is thrown, time out is over when task is completed. Treat others how you would like to be treated. You speak to others how you would like to be spoken to. Make eye contact when spoken to. Do not interrupt when someone else is speaking. If you hurt a friend / sibling physically or emotionally you are removed from playing until you calm down and apologize, apologies must always include the reason you are apologizing. We talk about why you did what you did, are you tired, frustrated, feeling left out? You are in control of how you feel. LESSON: Take responsibility for your actions, have patients. Respect your parents and each other.

  4. Keep your room and yourself tidy, teeth brushed and flossed, hair brushed and clean, clothing appropriate, laundry done and put away. LESSON: respect yourself.

*Time outs do not begin until you are calm, quiet and able to think about why you are in trouble.

*If you need help to calm down, we will hold hands, get eye to eye, and we will take some deep breaths together. Sometimes you need a hug, and no matter what the situation, you can always have one. You are loved and you deserve love, that is never a question.

*Before time out is over, a conversation is had about how YOU (the child) think you should have handled the situation, VS how you did. If you can’t articulate that, you go back to time out to think it through until you can. Parent asks questions, child answers, this is important to avoid the same situation happening over and over (do not answer for them!). You will get to state your feelings, and parent will respond in a positive way. This conversation is meant to correct behaviors, so positive reinforcement is necessary, ie: “next time how will you handle it better?”. Never skip the after time out conversation, this is where the lessons are learned.

*Emotions are good. Get your feelings out. I encourage both of my children to cry, if they feel like they need to. Be angry (but don’t hit), get mad (but don’t yell) - its all ok. Emotions are the most raw form of communication. They are vital to a persons well being.

*We do not shame, this is critical, ie: you are not bad, your choice was, you are not mean, your choice was, sometimes good people make bad decisions- choosing to correct the behavior makes the difference. Being an understanding parent breeds an understanding child who has compassion and considers the feelings of others. There is a huge difference between guilt and shame. Know the difference, it’s detrimental.

*We do not give food rewards. Rewarding good behavior with food, is a great way to create a food addiction later in life. Everyone wants to feel good- so you reward yourself with food if that is what you are conditioned to believe makes you good. Instead we reward with words of affirmation, or an extra fun activity. “You were such a great listener today! Let’s make some new play doh!” My personal favorite is a letter. I write Connor letters (because Addie can’t read yet), thanking him for being so helpful, letting him know how proud I am of whatever he did that was exceptionally great that day (he keeps them!) With a child that can’t read, it’s an easy before bed chat, reminding them of whatever great thing they did that day or if you are a working parent, ask them what they felt they did well that day, let them feel proud about their behavior too. And it sets sleep time up for good dreams and feeling great about their accomplishments.

*Self-talk, the way you speak to your child becomes their own inner voice. Be very careful what you tell them they are. They will believe you, and act accordingly.

*We never ever say “I can’t”. When we say it, our minds believe us, and we can’t. When we say “I can” our minds believes us, and we can! You always have the ability to try your best. Your best try is all you can do, and that is all any parent should expect.

*When you set boundaries, and it is important that you do, respect the boundaries first before you expect your children to respect them. Don’t set boundaries you are not prepared to follow up with a consequence if broken.

*Parenting without consequences is useless. Children learn to respect boundaries and rules only if there are consequences when they cross certain set boundaries. And don’t be afraid to reprimand your children for wrongdoings. They may not like it, but they will respect you for it.

*Consequences should never include removing time with you. Making a child feel unloved, unwanted or unworthy of your time will have major backlash later on in their life.

  1. Stay calm. None of the above will be effective if you blow things out of proportion or lose your cool.

  2. Go to your child, get to their eye level, and make sure you have their full attention.

  3. Speak in a calm, confident, voice. Your child must understand that you are taking the situation seriously.

  4. Make sure they understand the consequence of their behavior. A tip: Don’t ask, “Do you understand?” Rather say, “Tell me what will happen if you don’t listen.”

  5. Give them a little time to consider the choice between the desired behavior and the consequence.

  6. Follow through and apply the consequence.

  7. Remember, Consequences must be consistent and immediate.

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