Special from The University of Wisconsin
The job of parenting doesn't seem to have much in common with being a professional baseball pitcher or golfer.
But a child psychology expert with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health says parents — and their children -- could be a lot happier if they focused on the two things that make those professional athletes successful: consistency and discipline.
"One of the things parents struggle with on a daily basis is not being in charge," says Dr. Katie Watermolen, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. "And the one thing I always tell parents is not to be afraid to be in charge --set consistent limits, establish clear boundaries and spell out what the consequences will be if the rules are broken."
Unfortunately, as any parent can tell you, children don't often make the process easy. Whether it's a toddler, 'tween or high school senior, children will always try to push boundaries.
"What I see with children of all ages, is that somewhere along the way, the parents have lost control. Their roles as parents have been taken over by the children or the children have come to believe that they should be on equal footing with their mother and father," says Dr. Watermolen, who never hesitates to remind the adults: "You're the parent. Don't be afraid to be the parent."
Dr. Watermolen is the first to acknowledge that taking charge can be challenging, especially if the parent has allowed consistent discipline to slide and chaos to reign. She advises parents faced with re-establishing authority to be prepared for temper tantrums, and, worse, for being told that they're hated and the worst parent in the entire world.
It's OK, says Dr. Watermolen. It's all part of the sometimes difficult process.
"Work on being extremely clear and concise about the rules, and what the specific consequences will be if those rules are broken. Sit down with your children and talk to them. Write the rules down if you have to — just be sure they're clear and that you follow through on them. Children learn very quickly where the cracks in the discipline are, and will use that to their advantage to get their way."