Hi moms! Thank you for joining me today.
Are you getting tired of your 12 year old’s disrespectful attitude? Is your 7 year old acting completely entitled and that the world revolves around her? Is your teenager not coming in at curfew or taking advantage of their privileges with the car? It might be time to consider Commando Parenting.
I am a Dr. Phil fan. I actually haven’t watched him for years because I got rid of cable a while ago, but I watched him while raising my young children and I’ve read all his and his son’s books, which are all very informative and have mostly great information in them. I will summarize some thoughts from those books here on my podcast sometimes because some of their parenting advice is really helpful. My dream is to someday get him to come on my podcast for an interview because he really has some excellent things to say that I know would be helpful to all of us moms AND I’m just a superfan. So that’s my goal. Let’s see if we can make that happen. Let’s see if we can get him to come on the podcast. So keep those ratings and reviews coming in. Maybe he’ll see that I have so many listeners that he just has to come on my show to get interviewed!
So on the Dr. Phil show, years ago, I’m not sure what types of things he talks about on his show now, but years ago it was very strong with helping parents become better parents. Years ago, he asked, “Do you threaten to punish your child when he misbehaves, but then don’t follow through with it?” Dr. Phil says, “if you do this, you’re sending your child a mixed message.” He said, “If you give in some of the time, you’re tough some of the time, what you have is called the intermittent reinforcement schedule. It creates the most resistant maladapted behavior of all.” Being inconsistent sends the message to your child, “The last time it took five times before she caved. Then it was seven times before I got mom. So, I’ll just hang in there.” Your child is going to have to unlearn this behavior, because it’s taught him that he gets to do whatever he wants to do whenever he wants to do it.
Your child must be shown with 100 percent certainty that forbidden behavior will meet with consequences (Dr. Phil calls it punishment, but you know how I feel about that word). I will refer to it as consequences, whether they be natural or logical as we talked about in episode 3. You definitely want to stay away from punishment so that you are not deemed the bad guy, but always put the problem back on your child so they know it’s because of their choices that these things are happening.
So if you don’t enforce those consequences, you’ll sabotage your child’s development. You will confuse them. You will create anxiety and encourage poor behavior. Those consequences and that consistency is extremely important to have in place. Consistency is seriously one of the most difficult things to do well as a mom. It’s one thing to set a consequence, hoping your child will just follow along and be agreeable, but often, as children always do, they want to push the boundaries and test you, and then you are forced to follow through with the consequence. It’s actually really painful at times. If you feel this way when your child forces you to enforce the consequence, know that you are not alone. I find myself quite often stating an awesome logical consequence that I came up with, while hoping and crossing my fingers that my child will just listen, so I don’t have to follow through with it. Cause that’s the hard part, right?
But just know that that’s what’s going to make it or break it with your child and what Dr. Phil refers to as the intermittent reinforcement schedule that we want to avoid at all costs. Like he says, it will sabotage all the good that you’re trying to do for your child’s development.
Today I wanted to talk about something along those lines that Dr. Phil calls “Commando Parenting.” This is just a fancy way of saying be really strong with your follow through, make sure to have consequences and be consistent, but also it means having a “do-whatever-it-takes” mentality.
If there are two parents in the house, he says this type of parenting only works if they both adopt this mentality and try to really stay on that United Front that we talked about in episode 10. Dr. Phil went even further with this united front thing and said that That means, if dad needs to take off a few days of work while the smack down, as I like to call it is happening, then that’s what needs to happen. Anything to just change things up so the kids realize that this is serious business, and they are ready to listen.
So when you have a child whose behavior is out of control, that is what I’m talking about here is just that out of control behavior, and you don’t know what to do about it and it’s been going on for a long time—they are throwing temper tantrums, bullying, screaming, and hitting, or like I said being super disrespectful and turning their nose up at your house rules, and just not obeying you at all—it might be time to mix it up a little or a lot. Dr. Phil says when you “shake up dysfunctional behavior patterns, you can create positive change.”
Enter Commando Parenting.
So an example of commando parenting is stripping everything from your child’s room. Take away everything they love and enjoy. This means all toys, games, posters, and entertainment, even their smart phone. Strip their bedroom of everything except a mattress, a blanket, and a pillow. Then make them earn it all back one item at a time. There’s a sense of entitlement with spoiled children and they need to learn that their toys and games, use of the car and cell phone, are privileges and not rights.
When stripping your child of everything except for the necessities, Dr. Phil says, to be prepared for war…
Your child will often revert to primitive behaviors, such as screaming, stomping around, wetting the bed, gagging, vomiting, throwing tantrums and other disruptive behaviors. Be prepared to tough it out. Think ahead and make a list of your child’s most probable power plays and plan a reaction to each.
Try not to engage in any of the power struggles though. Just give them space and walk away, unless they are destroying the house, then save the house and get them out of the vicinity, if possible. Wait until they have calmed down, and then explain to them that they haven’t been behaving well and they won’t be seeing any of their things until they’ve earned them back. Be specific about what they need to do to earn them back: Play nicely with others, use a nice voice when asking for something, don’t scream at Mom and Dad, follow the house rules, and all the other expectations you have of them explained as clearly as possible.
The other step of commando parenting and reshaping your child’s behavior is catching them doing something good. When you do, scoop them up in your arms and tell them how good they’re being and thank them for being such a good kid. And then you can begin by giving them back a toy. But if they revert back to their previous behavior, don’t be afraid to start all over again.
I’ve actually done this whole Commando Parenting–strip your child of pretty much everything they own–with two of my children. They were between 11 and 12, I don’t remember exactly, when I did this. And boy, did it wake them up. I actually warned them about it before I did it, hoping that would bring on some major attitude adjustments so I wouldn’t have to do it, but it didn’t. I don’t think they believed that I would really do it, so it actually made them worse as they tested me. So, I put everything that meant anything to them in a huge bin and took it out to the garage. Some people even buy those bins that have a place you can put a padlock on it. That might be good if you have a very sneaky child.
Dr. Phil suggests making a big thing to do of it, and driving all of their stuff to the nearest Salvation Army with them in their care and just give it all away to the less fortunate. I’m not that brave, nor did I want to start a real war with my child, and also I have some hoarder mentality maybe, so I think that would be really too hard for me to give all their stuff away. Maybe if they didn’t shape up after I did it my way, I would’ve tried that next, I don’t know. But it worked beautifully so I never had to do anything again. I actually never had to repeat the process either, with them.
I have to tell you about one of my clients, they had done something like this Commando Parenting with one of their children, who is now a grown responsible adult. But when he was in high school, they not only took everything away, but they had him move to a tent in the backyard. He was allowed to come in the house for an allotted amount of time, at a certain time, so that he could get ready for school or whatever, but he was mostly out there on his own until he proved that he could follow through with his responsibilities, like going to school and also figure out how to treat his parents with respect. Nothing makes you appreciate your parents and the roof they put over your head like losing the roof and all the comforts of home, right? Talk about a tough follow through. Could you even imagine how strong those parents needed to be to do that? But they had tried everything, and nothing was working. So Commando Parenting is adopting the “do-whatever-it-takes” mentality. And the thing is, this worked for them. I can’t remember all the details or how long they had to do it for, but they were strong and consistent, they put it all back on their child, they stayed calm and unemotional, and it worked for them. And it probably ended up completely changing the trajectory of their son’s life.
So I did want to say, that I wasn’t actually coaching this client at the time that they were raising this child when they kicked them out to the tent in the backyard, I coached them on a younger child. I’ve never actually coached someone through Commando Parenting to where they make them move out. But I just wanted to use that as an example as a type of Commando Parenting that maybe Dr. Phil would be super proud of. And it would probably make for a great story in order to threaten your child with. Just kidding.
So with my children, they were left with 7 outfits of my choosing (which I guess could’ve been really fun and kinds mean, if I wanted to be mean, but I tried to choose things that they liked to wear.) They had their bed, blankets, pillow, a book to read, and shoes to wear. And of course, meals to eat. But I took away most of the fun snacks though. They had no tv or screen time of any kind. I let them know that the State of California only required of me, as their parent, to provide food, shelter, clothing, and a bed to sleep in. All other things in their previous world they used to know were privileges and items provided by their parents, and if they choose not to respect me and the family and choose to be miserable with their behavior, then those extras will no longer be available to them.
Now, Dr. Phil taught that they can start earning them back item by item with good behavior, but my kids are really good at being good for a little while, and coming up with really great fake apologies. So I wanted them to really try to change things around completely, so I didn’t let them start earning anything back until 2 weeks of good behavior. So two weeks as the soonest they could start earning anything back. I didn’t expect perfect behavior, of course, but the few things that I made clear needed to change, or at least them showing that those things were being consciously and seriously worked on and starting to change them. Some of the behaviors were like disrespectful attitudes, talking back, not doing things that I had asked, completely ignoring me and walking out of the room, being mean and rude to their siblings. These were some of the things that they were to work on in those two weeks. I remember with one of my children, it took them a good week just to get over the shock and anger of the whole thing before they were able to start trying to work on their behavior.
But this honestly was one of the best parenting moves I’ve ever made for those two. And they would probably tell you the same thing. It changed them, it really resonated with them, the entitlement they had had before that never quite returned at the same level, they became more respectful. Maybe at first this was all because they knew mom would do it again if they didn’t stay shaped up. But after a while, I think it was more of a habit of good behavior that was established and although we would still have our problems because none of us are perfect, it never got as bad as it was.
Children need to be able to determine with 100 percent certainty that forbidden behavior will be met with consequences. If you don’t enforce negative consequences for bad behavior, you’re going to teach your child that they can do what they want when they want to, and this will serve them poorly later in life–with their relationships, with their job–and just all around it will affect the responsible, kind human you are trying to raise. This behavior modifying, consistent thing is a huge part of how your child will turn out. It actually helps us become more consistent when we can take a step back and see that big picture, of how we want our child to become, as an adult.
I’m not telling everyone to go try this and see how it goes. It’s not for everyone. Many behaviors you’re trying to modify can happen by consistently applying my 3 C’s Method. Commando Parenting is basically my 3 C’s of Successful Parenting method on steroids.
I mostly wanted to put this idea out there, in case someone is in crisis mode and cannot figure out what to do. Maybe this will reach that mom who was at the end of her rope, as I was, and maybe this is something she needs to hear. If you know of that mom, who is about to pull all her hair out and her children are driving her to drink, please share this episode with her.
And if you do choose to do this, just be really careful that you word everything in a way so your child knows that this is happening because of the way they are choosing to behave and not because you just want to be a mean, punishing, make-them-miserable mom.
Please know I’m always here for you. And that you get me for a free 30 minutes. I just opened up some more times this month on my calendar, so make sure to go over to my website and grab one of those time slots. If we need more than 30 minutes to figure out what to do, I make it really easy, efficient—I really love being efficient, I will never waste your time or make you sign up for a bunch of sessions just to get more money out of you—and so I make it affordable also to work with me.
Just remember: Sometimes it really does take quite a bit of shaking up of those dysfunctional behavior patterns in order for some positive changes to happen, and these will help your child and your whole family become much happier and healthier.
Thanks for being here with me today and I’ll talk to you next week.
Now there are two ways to work with me, and I honestly can’t wait to meet you. Please make an appointment for a free 30-minute coaching call with me, you’ll be amazed at how much we can figure out for you and your family in just 30 minutes. And now I also have a free workshop to show you how to help your high school student earn college credits without changing schools or adding hours to their day. I’m so excited to share this with you. Go to the links in the show notes or go to my website heatherandersonlifecoach.com. Let’s talk soon.