Working and parenting with kids indoors is going to be a challenge for most. I’ve done a bit of research and Professor Mark Dadds, director of the Sydney Child Behaviour Research Clinic, has some tips for staying sane and getting
along during the extended lock down.
Long periods of time together in the house can lead to bored children, getting on each other’s nerves, increased conflict, and serious challenges to our sanity! And sorry folks alcohol isn’t the answer!
- Divide your home up
Nothing makes us lose our marbles quicker than chaos. Family spaces can quickly descend into unpleasant chaotic
zones unless an effort is made to limits different activities to different zones of the house. Define clear zones in your
home corresponding to 1) adult only zones; 2) child play zones; 3) noisy rough and tumble areas; 4) quiet activities,
and so on. Put a map of this on the fridge door for all to see.
- Make a schedule (one that can go with the flow)
Again, put up a schedule on the fridge with planned activities to keep your kids, and yourself busy. Create a loose
schedule for morning, afternoon and evening for each day, one week in advance. Choose a mixture of creative, learning, and light-hearted activities, mixed with regular chores for all to participate in. Try to make it all as much fun as
- Plan for rewards and discipline
Work out what child behaviours you want to see more of, what behaviours you want to see less of, and then plan
consequences for both. Thus, positive behaviours like following instructions, playing nicely, playing independently,
and speaking nicely should be rewarded with praise, cuddles, affection, prizes, and especially your time. Fighting,
aggression, refusal to follow instructions, and other problem behaviours should be met with calm, clear consequences like loss of a privilege, or time out. The rule here is to make sure you are giving more attention to positive child
behaviour than negative. And don’t forget, rewards should be fun, unpredictable, emotional, and different each time;
discipline should be predictable, boring, and non-emotional.
- Hold a family meeting
Meet together to brainstorm and decide on the points 1, 2 and 3 above. Involve everyone, listen to your kid’s opinions, and keep it fun. “Shake on it” (elbow bumps for now) at the end of the meeting to confirm the family plan. You
are wanting the kids to buy into the plan, so the more they feel they were a part of the process, the better!
- Give your child your full attention
Schedule in dedicated special time, say 30 minutes here and there each day, for each child individually.
- Pay attention to your partner (SUPER IMPORTANT)
Schedule in dedicated parent time, again 30 minutes here and there, to nourish yourself and adult relationships.
- Don’t get involved in fights
Try not to get involved in refereeing children’s fights by trying to find out who started what, and who did what to
whom, is not useful and reinforces the fighting. Instead, treat the children as a team, refuse to get involved in who
did what and reward them as a group for playing nicely, and apply consequences to them as a group, for fighting and
not playing well.
- Use the Premack principle (First and Then)
A useful principle in the psychology of learning is that people will perform a less favoured task to gain access to a
more desirable task. Thus, make access to screen time and other highly desired activities, dependent on having completed chores and homework first!
- Do an online parenting course
Help your children learn to behave well and be happy, by doing an online parenting course. This
one works! If the children are constantly fighting, arguing, throwing tantrums, and whinging and
being noncompliant, such that you are having trouble managing the children and your own reactions
to them, do an online course that teaches specialised skills in managing problem child behaviour.
Try ParentWorks. This is a free online program for Australian parents
and caregivers of children aged 2 to 16. It provides evidence-based parenting strategies to improve parenting skills, confidence and child behaviour. If you can give it a try.
Congratulations on surviving another week. Give yourselves a pat on the
Keep healthy and stay safe.