Teaching Responsibility & Cooperation The Easy Way
After last week’s article on why controlling children ultimately fails, I received an email from a mom who commented, “While your article makes sense in theory, how do you get the kids to brush their teeth, or get their homework done…if you don’t push them to do it…I realize that the ‘pushing’ is very controlling (and exhausting to me) but I don’t understand how to ‘make it happen’ without that PUSH. It feels like the only way to get three kids through their day. If there is another way that works…please tell me.”
How To Get Kids Through The Day Without Pushing, Prodding & Yelling!
When children don’t listen, after we ask them to, many of us fall into the habit of trying to ‘control’ the situation. We use forceful, demanding language and push things along. While this works for some kids better than others, it almost always deteriorates with time and frequently becomes exhausting and ugly during pre-adolescent to adolescent years.
So what to do?
The secret here is to understand that your children are learning machines. Their brains are designed to learn if we just understand how to teach.
Rule 1: Never Give Up Your Leverage
This rule points to the source of power we often neglect; leverage. Leverage comes in the form of all the goodies, all the toys, all the electronics, and everything your children enjoy.
If we learn to use this leverage early on, life is easy. Children learn that in order to get to the ‘goodies’ they must take care of their ‘business.’
From a practical perspective, it means this, “Everyday…it’s Work, then Play.”
I emphasize this simple formula repeatedly because it is the secret juice that can set you free! When you embrace this formula, then life gets simple. Why? Because you are using leverage to get cooperation—not your voice, your words, your threats, or your yelling!
We use the leverage to make sure that the homework, the chores, and other responsibilities are done first (i.e., The Work)…before getting to the goodies (i.e., The Play). This is the core lesson to understand because the “Work, then Play” formula takes advantage of how your children automatically learn habits.
Rule 2: Abandon Control Of Your Kids. Obsess On Control Of The Goodies.
Instead of trying to control your children (almost impossible), you now focus on controlling something much more practical: the goodies! It is essential to get very skilled at managing the stuff your children seek out for pleasure and enjoyment.
For easy children, this can mean that you simply say that the TV and playroom are off-limits until the homework is done. However, for more challenging kids, you must take Rule #2 more seriously. You will have to lock up the toys, shut down the TV room, and make sure the computer is password protected.
Simple solution: Remove the goodies, until the Work is done.
Rule #3: Be Patient.
Now, you must wait. Some kids cooperate immediately, and some will waste time. Some will do nothing. Some will forcefully resist.
Be patient. Time is really on your side. You must let them learn that life will be easy for them, once they take care of their responsibilities. So, let them find their path to cooperation.
For some, it will be quick. For others, they will waste hours. For stubborn kids, you may wait a day or two. Eventually, all kids come around. Why? Because they want the goodies!
So be patient, and abandon the reminders and the nagging. Allow the leverage to do its magic, and an easier life awaits!
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