“My kids never listen to me.” I’ve heard this countless times over the years from both moms and dads. Whether it’s your kids just never getting the idea that no means no or whether they just don’t take you seriously, this dilemma is one that plagues us as parents on a daily basis.
But what if I told you that maybe, just maybe, there could be a solution. Maybe a few simple steps could make your children listen a little better.
It’s just possible it would strengthen your relationship too.
This one thing would solve not one but many different issues you may be having with you and your child’s relationship. It would build your relationship and possibly create a better understanding between the both of you. Where you could finally have the key to a momentous break though.
Or would you rather have me just end my post right now… and forget the whole thing.
This is the problem right here. And being a lover of example, I just did it to you. (Sneaky sneaky!) I ignited interest with a lead-up and promise then I fell flat. Kind of frustrating isn’t it?
Let me give you an example of what is happening in an “adult” example:
Imagine if you’re sitting in your office as a paid employee on a Thursday afternoon. Your boss comes storming in and demands you to finishing auditing a file by 5 o’clock or you will be added to the weekend auditing crew and coming in on Saturday.
You decide that you’re going to set this auditing file aside because, well, you have better things to work on.
The boss comes back in, turns red with his voice raised, “What are you doing? I told you to this file had to be done by 5. I will give you a half hour or you are coming in on Saturday!”
6 o’clock rolls by and he gives up and tells you to go home.
This repeats again on Friday but at the end of the day gives in and says just come in early Monday in a huff. On Monday he acts like your best friend and asks you to get a drink with you after work. Auditing files are forgotten.
Now here’s the child example:
You storm to your child’s room and demand your child to clean their room by 5 o’clock or (insert punishment here.)
Your 5-year-old shrugs and decides that building his Lego masterpiece is more important.
The boss (You) come back in at 5, turn red with frustration, and start yelling “What are you doing? I told you that your room needed to be clean! You have 5 more minutes or I’m really going to be upset!” And this banter goes on well past 6 before you give up and give them their favorite treat and tell them how great they are.
Seem pretty similar?
It could go on for days in both scenarios. The boss (you) will either become tired and give up or you will lose it. In both these cases, the task was dismissed, the child/employee has won and the parent/boss has grown a few more gray hairs.
These reactions will compound into resentment and not a good long term relationship builder.
Every parent has fallen victim to this merry go round. Even myself.
There needs to be some sort of dinner on the table in the next hour.
It would be easier if you did it for him/her anyways.
All of these excuses I’m sure to have floated in every mother’s head at least once. And to battle a strong-willed child on top of those thoughts isn’t fun. Kids are notorious for pushing boundaries. But being consistent and following through will establish the respect and proper structure on how to behave themselves as adults. Isn’t that what we are all trying to achieve as parents?
Let’s go back to the job scenario for a moment. What would really happen in a job situation in real life? Would you be rewarded for being defiant and lazy? Hate to break it to you but its most likely not going to happen. In the real world (unless your working for Steve Carell from the Office) your boss would write you up or worse. If everyone in the business started blatantly ignoring their work they didn’t want to do then the company would suffer.
The Art of Consistency
Consistency is what children thrive on. It’s survival for them. Being small and incapable of so many things, we are the ones that provide them with basic needs such as food, shelter, and love. If you take one of those things away even for a few days it can have devastating and lasting effects. Confidence in knowing the parent or guardian that is taking care of you will consistently provide certain things and expect a certain behavior a sense of worth as well as security.
So how do you end the cycle?
Take control of the situation. And by control, I mean not pulling out your hair and yelling so loud that your neighbors can hear and your child cowering in the corner. It has to be addressed outside of a problematic situation so that everyone can be on the same page. All it takes is a few steps to get you in the right direction.
First step: Reset
Sit down with your kids and explain things in a calm manner. Tell them your frustrations and how you have a new plan of action.
Explain to them, without negative talk or pointing fingers, how the new plan takes place. There will be a two-step system. One is a warning and the second step is to follow through.
At this time let them know what is at stake. One day no technology or screen time seems to be the major player at our house. If screen time isn’t allowed in your house, make it something they care about that is at stake. But it doesn’t always have to be negative. Enter the second step.
Second Step: Set Goals
Everyone loves a reward.
To make this “behavior intervention” more positive make a list of fun things you could do together. See my list 25 Ways to Connect with your child if you need a little inspiration. Personally, my children do better with goals in mind rather than just take away.
Tips for getting you on the right track of consistency:
I know the baby has a dirty diaper, the dinner is burning and your son needs help with his homework…oh and the toilet is overflowing. But if you aren’t focusing on the child’s issue then they will think you don’t care. Over time they
Prioritize with a Schedule.
If you have a list, stop for a minute and write down the three top things you have to do. If these items are done without your child’s involvement, make sure these items only take 10-15 minutes or less so that you can have extra time for the unexpected. Check in with your child after each task.
Do the most important task first. Vary timing if need be for tasks but focus only 3 items at a time so you will have focus. Knowing your own tasks will help you be able to focus on your child’s progress in whatever they are working on. When you are distracted or overwhelmed that’s when the lag time takes place and your consistency starts to slip.
Listen to your own words- Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Don’t spout off some crazy empty threats such as: “If you don’t do this I’m throwing all your toys away.”
I’m pretty sure you aren’t serious and your kids are pretty sure too. It doesn’t help your child’s trust in you by exaggerating while angry. Let them know you have realistic boundaries. Stick to them so they will take them seriously.
Write down promises both good and bad.
Make your cause and effect clear. That way you won’t have the “But you never told me!” argument.
My bad promises are reduced or no screen time on the weekends. My good one is 2-hour kid activity of their choice. (Movie, craft, kid activity center)
Now it’s up to you to be fair in this too. Don’t have unrealistic expectations or your whole strategy will backfire. Every one wants goals that can be attainable- even children.
Ask for feedback.
This can be a little hard to ask from children at first, but this has been a true eye-opener for me. Questions like- How can we do this better? Is there something you need from me to make this a better situation? What do you think we can improve on as a team?
Sometimes it can be as simple as they feel ignored so they are acting out to get your attention. Perhaps they tried and they just needed help or more time but were afraid to ask. Letting them use their voice to give feedback opens a fabulous discussion pathway.
You WILL have tears or pushback the first few times this plays out. Especially if there hasn’t been much consistency or follow through up to this point. You can give them sympathy and encouragement but telling them things like “I know you’re going to do better next time but the answer is still no.”
Remember to follow through with simple and gentle words. This will be your challenge, my friends. With a little love, reinforcement and positive attitude you will open up a stronger connection within each of you.