Ever wonder why it seems your children never hear you? Do you feel like a broken record saying “no” all the time, or “stop”, or even “don’t do ….”? Do you feel like you're just not getting through to them? Well you're right, you're not.
Parents frequently fall into the trap of repeating themselves when attempting to get a child's attention. In desperation they say things louder, more frequently, and more emotionally. Have you noticed that once you start saying no, don’t do that or stop doing that, the child continues to need limits? That is because we are not communicating what the child needs to hear. In my practice as a child mental health specialist and as a parent, I frequently provide the same feedback to parents, so I thought I would share with you!
All the time I hear parents say, “if they would just do what I tell them to!” or “If they would just listen!” However, they are listening. Kids hear everything and they know when they need to respond, just before they are about to be given a consequence. They know the tone, pitch, and words you use that tell them you are about to lose it. So they jump up and comply! Some kids don’t and as a result they keep getting the same consequence over and over to the point that many parents feel “they will never learn.”
The problem is that many parents tell children what NOT to do, when instead we need to tell them WHAT to do.
It is a small change with a BIG IMPACT.
Some Examples: Instead use:
Telling kids what NOT to do Telling kids WHAT to do.
Stop touching that! Hands in your pockets/Hands on your lap
Stop hitting! Hands to yourself/ Be gentle
Stop yelling! Speak quietly/ Whisper please
Repeating child’s name Eyes on me/Come to me
Just remember when you want to stop your child from doing something they shouldn't, be positive, tell them what to do instead of what not to do. Getting their attention first, is key for their ears to be able to listen. As children grow and develop, their multiple sensory systems develop at different rates and at different times. Listening is easier if they are looking at you, as this allows two sensory systems to be working in sync (Visual and Auditory).
We, as parents, often demand prompt attention the moment we request it, getting frustrated with the seemingly delayed response. Parents, let’s think on this, how often do you immediately respond to a directive from someone? Don’t we usually finish the task we are doing and then follow through? It seems obvious that we would respond to a directive in that way, no one likes to be interrupted! Yet we often fail to give a child the same grace time to respond and comply. Instead of getting frustrated immediately after a request, try giving the directive and waiting 10 seconds before you say anything else. Respect their developing brain and give it time to process.
Stop talking! When we are frustrated as adults, we usually want to explain everything, to be HEARD. More than likely, a child will check-out, their brains are unable to process your talking as they are overwhelmed with emotions and using their multiple senses at once is a challenge. Lecturing and "talking it out" when a child is emotional and upset only furthers the discord. Using as few words as possible in the moment of your child’s emotional meltdown will be more likely to get through to them. BE WITH THEM DURING THIS TIME. This is the time to connect with them; there will be opportunities to talk about it later on.
Keep Calm & Parent on!
Although it often feels like your job is to make sure everything gets done in the home and the daily goals are met, remember that your most important job as a parent is to CONNECT with your child, developing and maintaining a relationship with them. Connection can feel like an incredibly difficult task when we ourselves are feeling frustrated or focused on achieving the task at hand. Practice making these small changes to the way you communicate with your child to increase connection and give their young minds more effective directives.
Don’t try to change everything at once, it will be an automatic fail.
Parents are masters at organizing their family’s lives and keeping the household going. We assume that because a child is present in family life, they understand our routines and will comply. This is not the case. In fact, every day our kids are learning how to manage themselves and get along with their daily routine. I remind parents that changing ONE of our daily habits is extremely difficult for us, even as adults. For young minds, it is even more difficult to adjust to a seemingly small change in routine. Changing multiple tasks at once and in sequence, takes TIME. Focus on one change or skill at a time.
As a parent it is so easy to get frustrated and feel like you're not getting through to your child. The small changes I mentioned will make a big difference in how you are connecting with your child.
The Key to PARENTING is CONNECTION in RELATIONSHIP!
A. Try to get their attention before you ask the to do something and give them time!
B. When they are having an emotional meltdown, speak to them with as few words as possible and keep yourself calm too.
C. When it comes to the daily grind, make sure that you're aware that your child needs time to adjust to changes, just like you do!
D. With a few simple changes to how you connect and communicate with your child I think that you will feel like you're finally getting through to them!
Parenting is an ADVENTURE!