"My stepkids come into our bedroom all the time, even when I need some quiet time to work on my college classwork. How can I change things?"
This question was recently posed by a stepmom who adores her stepchildren but needs her
bedroom to be a quiet spot for uninterrupted studying.
I love that she wants to find a way to study while not making the kids feel shut out completely.
My response is filled with strategies to help her find a balance between her little one wanting her attention and her need to have study time.
The steps outlined below will allow you to set up some boundaries and also allow for “Saturday Morning Snuggles” as well. Remember to be patient, your stepkids are comfortable how things are and these changes may take some time to become a new habit.
As for your need for quiet to complete homework, consider the steps below as a pathway to success. They seemed to work well for my clients in the past.
1. Decide on the new family rule
In our family the rule is: If the door is closed you knock and ask for permission to come in. If the person inside says no, you may come back later or ask them to come get you when they have time.
This goes for everyone in the home! It's important parents and kids know their privacy (or need for quiet time) will be respected. (Of course, as parents we may need to tweak this depending on the child and his or her behavior.)
2. Practice the family rule
It may take a while for the new rule to really set in, using gentle reminders will help. “Hey, remember we have the family rule that we knock and wait to be invited in? Next time please knock and wait for me to say ‘Come in.’”
Young kids may need to actually practice this as a new skill. Your husband can stand inside the room with the door closed and you can be outside the door with your child to prompt him through the steps. First we knock, then we ask "Can I come in?" and then we wait for Dad to say, "Come in."
Praise appropriate behaviors: “Hey, thanks for knocking first, I really appreciate that!”
One of the best ways to make the change you want is to model it in your own behavior.
Start knocking before entering your kids’ rooms and make a point of asking “May I come in?” You’ll be surprised how quickly your kids will pick up on the new behavior if you’re also respecting their privacy and space.
When your kids hit the preteen/teen years, they’ll desire more privacy. It’s important that we, as parents, respect that as long as they are not demonstrating behaviors that may require us to intervene.
3. Take it a step further
Once your kids are used to the new rule, then they’ll be more comfortable with the next change: Your door is closed and you are left alone to get your homework done. You could put a sign on the door that says, “Learning time, do not disturb” and explain what that means.
3. Use a kitchen timer
Timers will allow your child to see the time as it counts down. Set him up for success by doing short periods of time studying and then increase it by 5 mins each time you study again.
Say to him: “I’m going to study now and I really need to concentrate. If you let me get my work done, then we will spend some time playing that new game you have.”
Remember to verbally acknowledge when he does leave you alone. “Hey, thanks for letting me get my work done! You were so patient. Now, let’s play that new game.”
4. Involve the family in your success
Put in a request: “Hey, I really need about an hour to work on my paper for school tonight. Will you play with the little ones so I can focus?”
Thank those involved for giving you the time you needed to complete your work. Verbal recognition of their efforts can go a long way to increasing the likelihood it will happen again.
Involving your husband (or your older kids) is important because
This sets education as a priority for the family
It also emphasizes the teamwork approach for success in the family
You'll be showing the kids the importance of being a lifelong learner!
For additional tips on setting up family rules that work, click here!
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