Constantly using phrases like “Just do as I say”, “Stop it now!” or “Don’t hit your sister!” on your children to no avail? You’re not alone. If you’re having a hard time getting your child to follow directions without resorting to screaming your demands or doling out threats, here are eight handy tips that will get your little tyke to actually pay attention and follow through.
Tell your child what you really want – using positive language.
Instead of: “Don’t pull that dog’s fur!”
Say: “Please be gentle to that puppy”
People respond better to positive forms of communication, and children are no different. Instead of barking out commands such as “Stop running!” or “Don’t touch that”, reshape your words into positive instructions that convey what you really want your child to follow, in contrast to what you don’t want them to do. For example, “Walk, please”, or “Keep your hands to your side please”, will help your child understand what you want straightaway, without straining your relationship.
Keep your instructions simple
Instead of: “Go tidy your room now.”
Say: “Put all your toys back into the cabinet”, and follow up with “make your bed” after.
Kids generally find it hard to tackle a string of commands, so help them follow through by only giving them one instruction at a time to focus on.
Make it fun!
Instead of: “Hurry up, we’re going to be late.”
Say: “Let’s move on cheetah mode now!”
With play being children’s main mode of learning, connecting and communicating, better engage your kids (and encourage them to carry tasks out) by making your requests fun.
Give them a choice
Instead of: “We’re leaving now!”
Say: “Do you want to go home now, or play for 10 more minutes, then leave?”
Kids love to feel like they’re in control, so it’s unsurprising that parents’ demands for them to do something will usually be met with resistance. The trick is to offer them a choice, and have each option end with your intended result.
Let them in on the plan
Instead of: “Stop watching TV and get ready to leave for school.”
Say: “After you’ve brushed your teeth and gotten ready for school, you can watch TV while I get ready for work. That way, we’ll both be on time.”
We all have that mental checklist in place to ensure everything runs smoothly. Letting your kid know the plan in advance will help prep them and minimise any disruptions. And in the abovementioned scenario, having your kid run on autopilot knocks the task of making sure they’re getting ready off your shoulders, while keeping them happy. It’s a win-win situation!
Stop yelling and compromise
Instead of: “Stop playing with your toys and go do your home work!”
Say: “You can have half an hour of playtime after you’ve finished your homework, so you can play without anything bothering you.”
Scoring your child’s attention to through yelling will only lead to them learning how to tune you out as they grow older. Take charge by laying out the situation and offering them a compromise, making it clear that you’re firm on it.
State your expectations and follow through
Instead of: “I’ve told you three times to put your toys away, go do it now!”
Say: “I want you to put your toys away before bedtime. Any toys left out will be kept away for the week.”
It’s no fun being the “bad” parent, but your child has to learn the consequence of acting out. Instead of flaring up when they aren’t listening, calmly state your expectations, and the consequences if they don’t comply, and follow through with it. Be firm – giving out empty threats will only lead your child to think that they can get away with it the next time.
Use positive reinforcement instead of bribery
Instead of: “I’ll give you a piece of candy if you eat your veggies.”
Say: “I’m proud of you for trying to eat your veggies” or “I’ll be so happy if you try this piece of broccoli!”
Bribing your child is an easy way to ensure compliance, but having them expecting a treat just to listen to simple instructions really isn’t worth it. Opt for positive reinforcement instead – your child will thrive on it.