Your heart is racing, face is turning red, and you’re gritting your teeth as your child, once again, doesn’t move an INCH when you tell him to come help with the dishes!
Your dwindling patience makes you want to SCREAM out of frustration, but your brain tells you to remain calm.
My mom always tells me that yelling was the only way my younger brother and I would listen. And I do remember these scenarios clear as day. I would be sitting on the couch watching tv and my mom would yell from a different room in the house “Allie, go make your bed NOW!”
Yeah, yeah mom. I will when this show is over!
Every few minutes, she would try again.
And you know what would usually happen after all that yelling? She would go make my bed.
What did I learn from that? Nothing except that if I held out long enough, I could get out of the request. Don’t get me wrong, I was a really good kid (I promise my mom will agree!) and my mom was an AMAZING mother, but when it came to listening, I had unconsciously figured out how to beat the system.
So How Do I Get Him to Listen?
1. Go to your child and get on (or slightly below) their level
Getting on the child’s level eliminates the power struggle. When kids feel controlled, they naturally resist. It doesn’t need to get to that point. You are on the same team.
2. Use a calm but firm tone and maintain eye contact
A calm but firm tone also eliminates that power struggle. Pretend that you are a CEO talking to one of your employees. You wouldn’t scream at them, but you wouldn’t talk in a cutesy little tone either. Your demeanor will have a direct effect on your child’s response. Make sure you’re keeping your cool and not putting your child on the defensive. That won’t get the job done.
3. Tell them what YOU need them to do, not what THEY need to do.
A phrase such as “I need you to go make your bed” instead of “You need to go make your bed” may seem like the same thing but is actually perceived very differently. Your kids don’t have the need to go make their bed, you do. Being upfront and honest with your needs is very important.
And Then What?
If your child is in the middle of something they enjoy (i.e. watching tv, playing video games, etc), then use a when/then statement after following the 3 steps listed above.
This type of statement takes out the option word, “if”, that is so commonly used by parents to, unintentionally, manipulate their child into doing something. This word also gives the child an option to comply. You don’t want that.
What could happen if you use “if”? Well your child could decide that they’d rather just stop what they were doing if it means getting out of the request. Yeah…you don’t want that.
The when/then statement is super simple (but can be hard to adjust to!):
When you’re done making your bed, then you can finish watching Dance Moms.
This statement doesn’t give the opt-out.
I can certainly attest to the difficulty in trying to change these habits. And quite honestly, it takes a lot more effort! But the thing is, with consistency, it will be more effective and save you time and energy in the long run.
Experience from the Classroom
One of the perks of working with kids ages 3-11 is that I get to test out all of these cool tricks on them! My son isn’t quite old enough for these steps, but my students definitely are.
I have a few students in particular who can be hard to manage behaviorally. I wasn’t exactly sure how these 3 simple steps would really work with them.
The first time I tried it, I could not believe how easy it was! I kid you not, compliance on the very first try! Definitely thought it was too good to be true, so I tried it again 2 days later. Worked again.
I shared my magic with this student’s teacher and a few days later she came to me and said it worked for her too!
Something so simple, but so effective!
Worth a shot, right?
Comment below with any alternative ways (if not compliance) that your child might respond after the 3 steps + bonus.
Let’s figure out a solution together.