Put Fun back into parenting

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Put fun back into parenting

Sense of humor can diffuse many arguments

Karen Mahoney
Special to Parenting

Your daughter refuses to get dressed for school in the morning. Your son won’t do his homework. Both have started to mouth off at you or throw tantrums.

And so, the battle of wills begins for many parents.

But, a sense of humor can act as a lubricant to ease the flow of family life.

It helps to remind us of our humanity with all of our limitations. It encourages us not to sweat the small stuff and to squash the big stuff.

Humor reminds us to have a perspective about life that keeps things properly prioritized. It allows us to see the forest in the midst of dealing with each tree. Paul Gasser, a marriage and family therapist at the Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston believes that it is possible to put the fun back into parenting and to actually enjoy your kids.

“I think most parents have a difficult time setting appropriate boundaries and limits with their kids,” he said. “They have a hard time dealing with things like arguing and defiance and later on that leads to accountability. If you can’t hold kids accountable then why in the world would they ever ask Jesus into their life and follow the Catholic faith because there is no accountability.”

Parents must regain control

According to Gasser, one of the most discouraging aspects of parenting is dealing with noncompliance issues. Adults may feel as if they have lost all control with their kids and become embarrassed by the unsuccessful methods they have used to get the control back.

Generally, control battles take on a form of the following:

First Stage: Judy, please pick up your books. Please come for lunch.

Second Stage: The child or teen can respond with either a Yes or No response.

Third Stage: If the child or teen doesn’t comply with the command the first time, the adult will often become trapped into the Repeat Stage. This is when the adult continues to remind the child or teen repeatedly.

Fourth Stage: After repeatedly making this request most adults will become frustrated. Both the volume of their voice and the style of their interactions will change. The adult will now move into the Reactive Stage, such as becoming angry, lecturing or reasoning with the child or teen, using threats or giving warnings.

Further exacerbating the problem for the parents is the question: What if they do all of these things and the child still has not complied?

Try one-liners over reason

To regain control Gasser lightheartedly advises parents to “Go brain dead.”

“There is nothing wrong with a kid that a little reasoning won’t make worse,” he said, adding, “Never attempt to reason with a child that wants to argue.

Reasoning and logic will not work in these situations because the child is playing by a different set of rules than you are. He is not interested in facts and logic. He is interested in getting his way and seeing you give it to him.”

Gasser suggests choosing a love and logic “one-liner” antidote in lieu of reasoning.

“Consider using terms such as: ‘I love you too much to argue,’ ‘I bet it feels that way some times,’ ‘This sounds like an argument,’ ‘Let’s talk about it later,'” he said. “Become a broken record, saying the same antidote for each new argument the youngster comes up with. Keep your voice soft. Allow any frustration to be that of the child, not you.”

Gasser recommends telling strong willed or manipulative children, “I argue when I am relaxed.” Or “I argue when things are peaceful in the house.”

Successful parents avoid control battles by locking in empathy by utilizing detachment statements they have created ahead of time to deal with chronic issues such as whining, tantrums and arguing.

“In order to avoid further enabling of the child, the adult, in a compassionate way, avoids arguing with the child by using their prepared detachment statements,” said Gasser. “This hands the problem back to the child in a loving, empathetic way. It’s important the adult remains loving and empathetic and not mean, as they will decide the adult is the source of their problems. The goal is to provide this child with the opportunity to learn how their behavior will affect them and their quality of life.”

Detachment statements stop control battles

Using detachment statements to tell kids what the parent will do eliminates the trap of trying to control something they are unable to do. Children will look at the parent and reason that the adult always follows through with what they say, and it might be wise to listen to them.

Quick detachment statements to stop control battles:

“How sad.”



“Oh, oh”


“Oh wow”

In another behavioral intervention, Gasser suggests using enforceable statements to achieve the desired results. Simple comments such as,

“I will be starting dinner just as soon as you pick up your coat and put your shoes away.”

“I will be driving you to your football practice just as soon as you have finished your chores.”

“I will be buying soda and other sweets just as soon as I don’t have to worry about you brushing your teeth.”

“I’ll be happy to do the extra things I do for you when you’re talking to me in a sweet voice.”

Try delayed consequences

Each child and each situation are unique and opportunities arise which can throw even the best parent off track, so oftentimes Gasser implements what he calls a delayed consequence strategy.

“Using a delayed consequence allows time for the parent to think over how he or she might want to handle a certain situation,” he said. “The time also allows the parent to determine if he or she can actually follow through with the consequence and whose support is needed so that the holes are plugged.”

As a parent of four children ages 21, 19-year-old twins and a 17-year-old, Gasser believes his techniques saved his marriage in many ways.

“A key thing we often talked about was not only the gift from God that was given to us, but also how do we wind up maintaining a solid marital relationship with kids,” he said. “Kids need to see us model a healthy marriage and relationship. If they don’t see it in us, we don’t see it either and will exhibit poor parenting skills – and then you have problems.”

Gasser quoted Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. If the two are not united and if they don’t set good boundaries, marriages will be affected and the relationships will die of loneliness.”

“God commands us to focus our attention on our mates and our kids will model what we have been doing,” he said.

Use consistent parenting techniques

With consistent parenting techniques, parents can become more effective, and will have more time to enjoy their role as parents.

“A lot of parents don’t have good parenting skills because they were not raised with them,” admitted Gasser. “In defense of them, a lot of materials on bookshelves are not helpful to them. When I read some of the things in parenting magazines, I say to myself, ‘Good Lord, no wonder you have problems.'”

The number one mistake parents make? Counting down with warnings when their children exhibit bad behavior.

“A little girl was behind us in Mass one Sunday, standing in the pew and holding her dress up so we could see her underwear. Her mom told her to stop that and began to count one, two and then my daughter came over to me and said, ‘Don’t make me say three,'” he said, laughing. “Those things are pretty ineffective. Parents get into telling their kids three and four times to do things. Later on, most employers don’t groom on that – if you get to a third time, the employer will give you a new lease on life.”

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