Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:
- Be cooperative
- Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative
Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:
- Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around
The possibility of allowing choice Cis what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.
Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to Cand reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.
Here We Go…
If you are like my wife and I, you sometimes struggle with keeping your house clean. As difficult as this can be, it is exponentially harder if you have a kid or kids who come through like a wrecking ball and re-destroy the house once you have cleaned thoroughly. The only answer is to train your kid(s) to not mess up your house.
Please note that this CAPP does not address training kids to keep a clean room. For that, click here.
What Not to Do
Do Not Give In: Don’t accept anything less the exact level of cleanliness that you desire. If you are like me, messes everywhere, or anywhere, drive you crazy. I just don’t allow the house to be out of order.
Do Not Warn: Kids need exactly as many warnings as they are given, so don’t give them any. When you say, “Don’t do _______”, a savvy kid will hear, “You can _______ at least once.”
Do Not Lecture: No one cares about your stories regarding what your parents would do when you were messy, how hard you work to have a nice house, or how you are a put-upon, long suffering parent. Keep these useless lectures to yourself. They do nothing but raise your blood pressure.
What to Do: Setting the Limit
Apologize to your kids. Tell them that you are sorry for getting upset, and/or lecturing, and/or threatening, and/or warning. Let them know that you will stop doing all of these things.
Tell them that from now on, you may occasionally give them little, tiny clues that they may have forgotten to put something away, but often, you won’t give them any clues at all. Tell them that this is the last time you will ever talk to them about this. Remember: Words set limits. Actions enforce them.
What to Do: The Interventions
When you see that a child has left a mess, and a mess is whatever you define it as (one piece of cereal on the table could be a mess), always start by being sad. Say something or use a heavy sigh. It could be a grunt if you like. Just say anything calm and very brief that isn’t a reaction that comes from your brain stem.
Once you have replaced an angry reaction with a sad sound, you are ready to use an intervention or go straight to consequences. First and foremost, these interventions are designed to allow you to take good care of yourself and keep your heartrate low. They also assume intelligence and compliance from your kids, which builds self-esteemand responsibility. They are also designed to show your kid(s) that you are not owning their mess and their irresponsibility. The use of these interventions will, at first, be for you to practice them, because they will not be very effective at stopping the messy behavior at first, because you have not yet attached them to consequences.
Here are the interventions to be used after your sad sound. They are listed in order from least intrusive and time consuming to most intrusive and time consuming (though none are intrusive or time consuming).
Just Use Your Sad Sound by Itself: This one will be most effective once you have used it in tandem with delivering a consequence You simply use the sad sound while looking at the mess.
Mess Tap: Silently tap the mess with your finger and walk away immediately. Your kid(s) will probably be looking at you in order to see this because you have just made your sad sound.
Statement of Fact: Simply saying that there is a mess without telling the kid(s) to clean it up says to the kid(s) that you think that they are smart, capable and that you know you will take care of it. “There is cereal on the table.” works better than “How many times do I have to tell you to clean off the table?!?!”
Questions: Asking questions as prompts can replace all unenforceable statements. “Where does this go?” and “What did you forget?” are my two favorites for messes.
What to Do: The Consequence
If you have already trained your kid(s) to be messy without doing anything about it over an extended period of time, you may want to go straight to consequences. Once you have used this extremely simple consequence, it will make the interventions significantly more effective.
Just like with interventions, use your sad sound before you give the consequence.
Once you have used the sad sound, you can give a consequence. Tell your kid(s) that keeping a clean home is part of how you live your life and that you are no longer going to allow anyone to mess up your clean home. Tell them that their actions (leaving a mess) have shown you that they do not yet know how to keep the house clean, so you are simply going to ask that they go to their room so as to guarantee that the house will remain clean.
For kids older than four, the amount of time should be one of two options, and both options should be used intermittently (don’t predictably alternate). The parent chooses the option.
Kids over four should either go to their room for the rest of the day (yes, the entire day), join the family for dinner, and then return to their room,
They should come back for dinner and stay with the family after dinner. When this happens, the following needs to be said, word for word: “Feel free to stay with the family for as many seconds as you cannot make a mess.” At this point, do not use any more interventions. If you see a mess, repeat the consequence process and send your kid(s) away for the night.
Remember, this a logical consequence, not a punishment. They can play in their rooms. You can play in the room with them. They are just giving you a guarantee that your house will remain clean while they are in their room. Similarly, if you have things to do and were planning on leaving the house with a kid or kids who are spending the day in their rooms, by all means take them with you, and enjoy their company! If they already had a play date scheduled, or even if your 17-year old has a real date, allow them to enjoy those experiences. Whenever the kid comes home, continue to make your house mess-proof by having them go to their rooms immediately. Again, this is not a punishment. It is just a logical consequence that allows you to take great care of yourself and your home. There is no reason to talk about the consequence while out with your kids. Just enjoy them!
- If there is an argument about which kid left a mess, and you don’t know who left it, all kids in the house who may have left it get the consequence. If you suspect that a kid is secretly setting up a sibling, put on your private investigator hat and catch the culprit in the sabotaging act!
- Do whatever is necessary to get your kid to her room and to stay there. If she is small enough to carry, give her the choice to either go with her feet in the air or her feet on the floor. If she does anything other than walk to her room, pick her up and say, “Feet in the air it is!”
- For kids who are too big to be carried to their rooms, it is important that you understand that your kid is in a position of power at this moment, since you are trying to set a limit and your kid is refusing to be compliant. It is in this arena called “now” when an uncooperative kid is in control, by the nature of the situation, since the kid can have power simply by manipulating with demands or refusing to be cooperative. The parent has no control over either of these kid tactics. All the adult can do in this situation is to get away from this place called “now” and get to another place where they have the control. This place is called “later”. Simply say, “Oh, man. This is going to be very rough for you. We will talk about this later. Try to have a good day.” When possible, walk away from your kid. Walk to another room and lock the door behind you if the kid tries to follow. If physical retreat is not possible, just keep repeating your word, sound, or phrase. Know that there will be a serious consequence coming for your kid, and that it will be more and more serious the longer your kid persists. This may help to keep you calm enough to avoid responding with anything else.