In last week’s article on spring cleaning your parenting toolbox, I discussed four ways we can detect parenting tools that need to be updated.
In this video, we explore how to improve on a commonly used but exhausting approach to getting children to listen.
How often do you hear yourself saying these things?
- Hey guys, please pick up your toys for me.
- Why do I have to keep reminding you to pick up your stuff?
- Please clean up your toys for me. I am asking nicely.
- Didn’t I ask you to pick up your toys?
- Why do I have to keep doing this?
- How many times do I have to ask you to pick up?
- Why haven’t you picked up those toys? I am not going to repeat myself.
- Look! I am tired of asking you to pick up. Do it now!
- I am not going to ask you again! Pick up your stuff!
- If you don’t pick up your toys, I will give them away!
- You are making me angry. Pick up your stuff now!
If these sound like your home, then an easier, more cooperative future is just a brave step away.
In my work with families, I often asked parents to hide the video cam and record a “typical” afternoon or evening at home. I do this when parents are reporting lots of frustration and making little progress when they should be making more headway with the negative behaviors in their home.
Here’s what is often revealed. When mom or dad reports that they have to remind the kids a few times, the video reveals that many instructions are repeated 5-10x. And as you expect, each repetition comes increases parents’ frustration and increase in volume, and increase in threatening language.
Life Rule #1: If Mom or Dad Repeat, Children Keep Repeating Their Behavior. Let me explain. When your only parenting tool is to keep repeating the same or similar words over and over, you are destined to keep getting the same result over and over. If you keep repeating requests that have no consequence attached, then you’ll find that your children often learn that words simply mean more words are coming. You might be thinking that your children should listen to your words. Yet you find that they don’t. So, instead of clinging to a “should” that has no basis in the reality that you live at home. Why not notice that your strategy is not working. It’s a losing strategy. If your
desire is respectful cooperation at home, this repeating and repeating not only leads to frustrations on your part but it even more painful future awaits you.
More about this next week. For now, please remember this: if you want your words to be heard by your children, for many children this will require a shift in your behavior. Many of us lead our parenting with words rather than action. This is a mistake. And one commonly sold to you on talk shows and magazines. Just test what is like turning things around. Instead, lead with your actions and let words follow. When you do this, your words will then take on meaning with your children. You won’t have to keep repeating yourself over and over.
Let’s quickly make this concrete using the example above.
Updated Parenting Tool #1: I will ask once, and give you a few minutes to pick it up. If you don’t pick up, I will pick up you without complaint but you lose all of it in 2 days. No second chances.
When you do this, you must follow with consistent action and you must ignore the drama that unfolds after you pick up the toys, or remote, or video, etc. into a bag for 2 days. Also, you take this action with no anger or frustration.
You have explained the new rule, and now you simply honor it with quiet resolve. Then watch what happens over the next few weeks. You will find your words begin to have meaning, and your repetition drops dramatically. More ease and peace will follow.