Here’s another summer re-run from the early days of the blog, so maybe you’ve already seen this one. But if your kids are driving you crazy this summer, this might be able to help.

For a post on WHY we practice Parenting With Authority, see here.

I started out to
make a list of rules for Parenting with Authority.  But it turned out that all the rules I wrote
out just ended up coming back to one single concept:

Period.  That’s the whole method.  But it wouldn’t make for a very long blog
post.  I want you to get your money’s
worth.  So let me flesh it out a bit for

First off, it works for every type
of parent.  Do you really, really want your kids to clear their dishes,
or perhaps not run full speed into the parking lot because you’re too
pregnant to catch them?  Great.  This will work for you.  Just always
mean what you say, especially about dishes and parking lots.  Don’t mind
if your kids eat pudding off their mittens?  Terrific.  You don’t have to say any things about that.

It’s just that easy.  But in case you have become accustomed to my super-duper long posts, here come a lot more words . . .  

SAY:  So when you say it’s time to leave
the park, it IS actually time to leave the park. 
If I say it’s time to leave the park, but
then I don’t leave because the kids throw a fit or they “don’t hear me,” then my kids learn that I DO NOT always mean what I say.  If they learn that they will ignore me and argue with me.  I do not care for being ignored or argued with.
MEAN WHAT YOU SAY: And never lie to them. 
So I don’t say, “Nope, sorry, the
crackers are all gone,” as I stash the rest of the crackers under the
stroller.  When what I mean is,
“No sweetie, you may not have any more crackers.  It’s okay to feel a little hungry, we’ll have
dinner when we get home.”  Or,
“No, I brought those crackers for the baby.  You’ll have to be a big girl and wait until
we get to the car.”  And that’s it.  Mean what you say.  
MEAN WHAT YOU SAY: And get up when necessary. 
If I told him not to, and he still is, I’m going to have to get
up.  I get the concept well-ingrained in a toddler before the next baby comes along.  It’s better not to start the process
when you’re nursing a newborn. 
Because a toddler will surely call your bluff.
SAY: Even if they are sad or mad or loud. 
Here’s a little play, by way of illustration.
You: (taking your sunglasses back from baby)
No, no, those belong to Mommy.
You: (giving your sunglasses back to baby)
Okay, okay, sshhh, you can have them.
Baby: (addresses audience) Really, that’s all I
have to do?  That will not be a problem.  THE WORLD IS MINE! <evil baby laugh>
Don’t let this happen to
MEAN WHAT YOU SAY: But obstinance is not a virtue. 
The answer should be “O-K Mama” 90%
of the time.  I say 90% of the time,
because probably 10% of the time, they do have relevant information to share,
and it will change my mind.  That’s not
the same as not meaning what you say. 

   When I say something to my children, more often than not, they say
something back.  I begin by listening carefully, but if it’s
just a bunch of nonsense that’s only going to waste everyone’s time, I don’t feel
badly about cutting them off with an “O-K Mama” to remind them of the
preferred response. 

     If they DO have new information, I can change my mind.  I am always sure to
be clear about why I am changing my mind, and to point out that it was only
possible because the child presented his case calmly and without crying.  I have a personal policy against changing my
mind if my kids are whiny, even if they are also right.

6. ALWAYS MEAN WHAT YOU SAY: And have rules and keep them. Established
rules create comfort and clarity in a home.  Without them, everything
is up for discussion.  And by “discussion” I mean whining, pestering,
and finagling.  For instance, in our house kids are allowed to play Wii
under the following conditions (for more on this topic see here):

  1. Done with schoolwork, chores, and practices.
  2. Someone has agreed to play with you.
  3. It is dark, or raining, or over 100 degrees, or a Sunday.

So, when they ask me if they can play Wii, I can turn it around and ask them
if they can.  If they haven’t met the conditions, they can’t play.
 There’s no confusion so there’s no incentive to whine or pester or

I try to have set rules
that explain how we’ll accomplish all of our routine activities.  But
they only work if I only very rarely bend or break them.  

MEAN WHAT YOU SAY: But you don’t have to be a bully about it. 
Hey, I married a Marine, so my kids get the concept
of following orders, immediately and without question.  But in practice they respond much better
to, “Let’s gather up all the library books and get going, the
closes early today,” than they do to, “Stop reading that and put it
in this bag.”  Being consistent
doesn’t mean being unpleasant.  And yelling isn’t going to be effective
if you don’t actually mean it, and if you DO mean it, you probably don’t
have to yell (much). 

SAY: Give clear consequences and then follow through with them. 
So I
don’t say, “If you leave your clothes
in the bathroom again I will make a big pile of all your clothes and
light them
on fire.”  Since I probably won’t
do that.  I DO say, “If you kick the
counter again, you will stand for the rest of lunch.”  Then I follow
through if necessary.  Be calm but firm.  Don’t get mad.  Just mean what
you say.
For excellent advice
on particularly effective punishments, I like Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime
by Dr. Ray Guarendi.  Dr. Ray
really focuses on the concept of consequences for kids, and the book is funny and charming.
SAY: And as far as I know you don’t have a crystal ball. 
 I don’t ever get pressured into promising
something that I can’t necessarily deliver.  I won’t make promises about anything in the
future: be it what they will have for snack when they wake up or whether they
can do a particular craft after their school work is done.  Because I
don’t know the future.
  Say I tell my kids we can do a craft as soon as we’ve all finished our math lessons.  What if IT TAKES THEM SOOOO LONG TO FINISH that Jesus comes back before we’re done?  I would hate for my kids’ last earthly
thought to be, “Hey, she said we could make play dough.”

     I will take a quick moment here to say that
always meaning what you say doesn’t mean that life doesn’t sometimes get in the
way.  Plans do change. 
Kids need to be able to learn to handle disappointment and control their

     I never promise to “make it up”
to them, or say they can go next time for sure, because I don’t know what’s going to be happening
next time.  In fact I never say “I promise” to them at all.  It’s right there in the
sermon on the mount: “But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:34-37)  

     I happen to think “We’ll see, We’ll see” is okay too.

SAY: And convince them that resistance is futile. 
I have no idea if this is true, and Google
wasn’t particularly helpful when I tried to figure it out, but let’s just
pretend it’s true, for argument’s sake. 
I heard once that if you have two aggressive fish in a tank, you can put
a clear divider in there and the fish will throw themselves at it and try to
attack each other for a while.  But
eventually, they will decide it’s not possible to get through.  Then you can remove the divider and they’ll
just each stay happily on their own side, because they are convinced that they won’t be
able to get through.

That’s the goal of Parenting With
Authority.  If your kids are utterly
convinced that you ALWAYS MEAN WHAT YOU SAY, then why in the world would they bother
to not listen to you?  They know it won’t
work.  And they know they’ll just get in

But if
sometimes you mean what you say, but mostly you give in, (especially if
you give in because your child is sad or mad or loud) all you do is
teach them that being sad or mad or loud is the way to accomplish
things. You force them to be unhappy so that they can get what they
think they want.  BUT, if being sad is NEVER an effective way to get
what they think they want, children quickly realize that they might as well be happy.

I wouldn’t want to be a person whose kids listen to
their teachers and coaches and tutors, but don’t listen to me, because I do NOT always mean what I say.

My kids are still often lazy, or selfish, or
forgetful, or even argumentative, but they are almost never willfully
disobedient.  Because they are at least
as smart as fish.