Have you ever had this conversation with yourself while trying to get your child to follow through with even the simplest request? If so, you're not alone. The "Art of Listening" is hard to perfect, but there are steps you can take as a parent to get things on track and keep them there!
First, be very clear about what you want. Often times you know what you expect from your child, but it's hard to choose words wisely, especially while you are juggling the daily grind. As a result, things are easily lost in translation, frustrations rise, and meltdowns may ensue. Sometimes all before breakfast!
Case in point, you want your child to stop whatever they are doing and slip back in to the morning/afternoon/evening routine. You might say something along the lines of, "Please stop!" or "It's not a good time for that right now," or even your child's name—but with a tone that implies you are about to lose your mind if something does not change ASAP.
If you make a small tweak and present a simple, specific directive you'll be a step ahead in the listening game. For example, "Please put the iPad down and get your clean sneakers on right now." Or, "Please take your hands off of your brother and do your math homework at the kitchen table." For younger children, you can use silly directives to but the brakes on behaviors you want to see less of. One of my favorites has always been, "Everybody put their hands on their heads" or "Everybody clap your hands." These tools work great to get little hands occupied for a few seconds while you re-group (just use caution if they're covered in catsup or ice cream!).
While these small edits may still be met with some backlash, at least you are being crystal clear about what you expect. This sets the stage for the next strategy: Present your child with a choice. This may take some forethought, but it works wonders. Once you get the hang of it, you will be presenting options left and right, and seeing a lot more compliance and follow through. When thinking about a choice to give your child, it's less 'Do it or don't do it,' and more, 'Do it and you'll get more of what you want, give me push-back and you'll still do it, but you'll get less of what you want.'
Here's the formula:
If you can do _____ before/by the time we (certain time-frame/event), then you can have/do _____.
If you can put your laundry away in the next 15-minutes, then you can have your phone back.
If you can get dressed, brush your teeth, and get your shoes on by 7:45 then you can be in charge of music in the car.
The beauty here is that the task gets completed either way. If your child can follow through with your expectations, then they get something they want. If they don't hop to it and take it seriously, they'll still be expected to follow through but they just won't be able to earn whatever it was you offered.
This means you will have to tolerate the temporary distress your child is bound to experience, especially if he or she is not used to having choices like this communicated so clearly. Do your best to ride the wave of whatever comes your way and tell your child you trust they will make a wise choice (and stay tuned for next week's post which will help you navigate back-lash like a pro!)
One final point. We started off talking about follow through. Like most things, the apple won't fall far from the tree here so the better you are at following through with whatever "choice" you present to your child, the faster you'll see them improve their listening and follow through.
Post a comment and let me know if these strategies helped move things in a positive direction for you and your family!
Sharing practical strategies that help parents rediscover joy in their children (even when someone's crying, the phone is ringing, and it smells like the house may be burning down)