24 Sep When your kids don’t listen
Most parents will tell you that one of their greatest frustrations is that their kids don’t listen. Inevitably at these times, parents feel disrespected. And what happens next is that frustration kicks in, and so in order to solicit some kind of action, we raise our voices, maybe even shout, repeat ourselves over and over again, until everybody is tense and angry.
Needless to say, this kind of parenting strategy rarely works out well.
In fact, all that seems to happen as a result, is that we end up raising kids who shout when things don’t go their way. Because that’s the behaviour we’ve modelled ourselves.
Children are wonderful mirrors.
The vitality and happiness of our relationships comes from the way we interact with each other … and this starts with the way we communicate.
None of us are ‘taught’ to be parents – sure we read the books, we talk to other parents, we sometimes go to classes and we even search the internet for solutions! But there are some tricks of the trade, according to Australian nannies in finding non-argumentative ways to resolve conflict and to get your children to listen.
A nanny’s role includes being an educator, playmate and occasional disciplinarian. They are
usually qualified to Certificate III or Diploma level. This means they learn some child-psychology and of course, ongoing experience working with children exposes them to all sorts of situations!
According to nannies and child care workers, there are solutions that don’t involve getting annoyed, threatening and shouting.
And so here are some phrases that you can use with kids of all ages, to smooth out those moments when you feel like they’re tuning you out.
- Instead of ‘Be Careful’.
For kids this phrase is a real excitement killer, and a sign that you don’t have faith in their abilities. Kids often feel like they are old enough, strong enough, big enough and capable enough to do anything, and usually it’s us parents who aren’t quite ready. It’s ok to let them know you’re worried. Try instead: “What do you need to remember when you’re skateboarding/climbing a tree/ on the jungle gym at the park?” Engage their critical thinking skills as they consider the need to wear a helmet, to keep an eye out for other kids, to only climb as high as they feel comfortable, take turns at the slide, not walk behind the swings etc. By doing this you’re teaching them to assess risks.
- Instead of “I’ve already asked you to do this three times!!”
Try: “Would you like to do it on your own, or do you want some help?”
Empowering kids works better than demanding. And gently set a deadline together – do you think you could do this for me before dinner time/ before you go to bed/ get ready for school?
- Instead of “You should know better!”
We all make mistakes and dealing with failure or mishap is an important part of being human. Ask: “What did you learn from the mistake? How do you think you should fix it?” Keeping kids accountable without losing your temper is one of the hardest parenting tricks to master, but ensuring they face consequences (paying for the toy they broke, cleaning the wall they drew on, saying sorry to someone they were rude to) means they will consider their actions more carefully next time.
- Instead of “It’s time to go NOW!”
Try to get into the habit of building a buffer into your schedule, and ask your kids – “Are you ready to go now, or do you need a few more minutes?” Then negotiate – five or ten, or whatever you can spare. This way you’ve given kids a choice, they don’t feel ‘forced’. As a result they’re likely to be more compliant, and you won’t run late!
- “Stop Whining!”
Any parent will tell you that children whining is an incredibly irritating sound. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your unhappy child is to sit together and take a deep breath, or several. When you and your child are both calm, ask them to tell you what they are unhappy about. Taking a moment to do this, rather than respond when you’re annoyed can be a great circuit breaker.
- “Put it on your birthday list.”
Tired of all those endless requests for you to buy things when you’re at the shops? So instead of “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” “No!” And, “It makes me angry when you keep asking for things!” Instead, keep a notebook in your bag and tell your child to write their request down so you can remember it when their birthday is coming up. Or take a photo on your phone.
A great tactic at the supermarket is to let them choose one item – you can decide the category, for example lunch box snacks, or ice-cream or even just a random grocery item. This way – they feel involved, and you can get through the shops without losing your cool.
- When they’re upset
Teaching your kids to be resilient and self-reliant is one of the best gifts you can give them. When they’re upset, acknowledge their feelings, and ask them what they think they can do to make themselves feel better. Leaving them to discover their own solutions rather than try to fix everything for them, is a powerful way to let them know they can self-soothe. Let them know that processing their emotions is important and nothing to be ashamed of, and assure them that you’re around if they need you, but you’re giving them time to figure it out for themselves first.
Of course, parents see both the best and worst of their children, but most of us make the mistake of ‘reacting’ rather than ‘responding’ especially when we’re tired/busy/stressed/ pre-occupied and then all we do is perpetuate the behaviour we don’t want – the stuff that really pushes our buttons! We create ‘patterns’ of relating which can be hard to break, but not impossible, with a little thought and consistency.
The important thing to remember is that when we keep calm, we teach our children to stay calm and we can focus on building their resilience in all situations, enabling them to take responsibility for themselves which will, over time, teach them to be self-reliant adults!