Outsmarting the Smart Child

Emberly  - age 9 Lutz Learning Center

Emberly – age 9
Lutz Learning Center

Let’s face it, as parents our lives are uber busy.  Between juggling our work life, personal life, kid’s school, sports, homework, household duties, birthdays, bedtimes and all things in-between, we are rock stars minus the paparazzi.  But before we injure ourselves with self-pats on the back, let’s take a moment to reflect upon the whole reason you clicked on this blog in the first place: you have a smart child that is outsmarting you.

First you have to realize a child is born with a phenomenal survival instinct.  That sweet bundle of joy comes pre-programmed with the innate ability to manipulate and train you to meet their needs.

So what is a warm, loving and doting parent to do when they find themselves constantly falling victim to the manipulations of their precious wonder?  Easier said than done, you must get in front of the behavior and set not only your expectation but identify the rewards and consequences.  Use these tips to STEER your ship:

S. Take just a moment to identify your biggest struggle.  Is it eating dinner?  Bedtime?  Mornings?  Homework?

T. What specifically is the target struggle?  Is it that your child does not want to eat or stay at the table?  Doesn’t want to go to bed?  Doesn’t want to get up or get dressed?  Lollygags?

E. What can you do to get in front of the entire situation?  Set your expectation in firm but loving way, for example: “When we sit down to dinner tonight, I expect that you will try at least “x” bites of each item on your plate.  I know that a few items are not on your list of favorites, but I want you to try them for me.”

E. Then offer the reward they will earn for good behavior: “If you try “x” bites of each item with a good attitude, then (insert something awesome) at bath time I will get out the super-duper bubbles.” Or, “…then Daddy will do his silly happy dance right after dinner.”

Sebastian - age 5 Lutz Learning Center

Sebastian – age 5
Lutz Learning Center

R. Then remind them of the resulting consequence: “But if you can’t at least try “x” bites with a good attitude, then (insert something you will uphold and that has merit, use your judgment as to the severity of the consequence) I can’t read you a bedtime story tonight.”  Or, “…you won’t be able to sit with us at the dinner table.”  The consequence needs to be something that you as a parent are comfortable upholding but that makes the child a bit disappointed in the missed opportunity.

The biggest key to successfully outsmarting your smart child is to take a moment and analyze the root of the problem.  Often times, it is a child taking control of a situation in an attempt to gain your attention.  When you backup and find a creative way to offer your attention in a positive and empowering way, you are not only setting your child up for success, you are actively keeping your child’s needs at the top of your priority list, which as parents, is what we are all about.

Enjoy the journey; the future is in your hands!

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