As a child psychologist one of the most common questions parents ask me is “How do I my kids to do what I need them to do?”
Here are five tips for helping them comply without having to nag:
- Assume kids want to do anything BUT what you’re asking. This is how they’re wired, to be focused on their own agenda, and not on yours. Once you realize this is normal, you won’t feel so frustrated when they’re only interested in their own things. This is more a brain wiring issue than “being self-centered.” It’s normal for them to be this way.
- Talk to them with respect. Don’t shout your commands from another room. Take the time to go to them and make physical contact if they can tolerate it. A touch on the shoulder or back, just to be sure you’re connecting, is very useful in getting a child’s attention. This will save a lot of time as you lead them to the task. Also, touch is very affirming, which is powerful in helping children get out of themselves in order to relate to others’ needs.
- Bring your children toward you by trusting them. Say, “I trust you to do your bedtime routine tonight. I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes with that book you picked out.”
- Stay focused on them until the task is done. They have radar for your attention, so keep it honed for the period between when you ask and when the task is complete. Again, this saves so much time on the back end.
- Give your heartfelt appreciation for effort and for completion. “When you respond to my request, I feel so respected and at peace, because you show me that you really are able to work together as a team. Thank you!” “When you finish what you’ve started, I feel quite impressed because you’re sticking with it until the very end, which is such a grown-up thing to do!”
Remember, giving your attention to the behaviors you want is the quickest way to grow those behaviors. It’s also a lot more rewarding for you, which will keep you “in the game.” Watch minutes get shaved off your normal routines, once cooperation is the norm!