Consistency can change misbehavior

Getting Kids to Listen!

“Listen to me”

“…right now!”

“I’ve already told you three times….”

I bet that if you are reading this as a parent, you have said one or all of these phrases more than once in your children’s lifetime.

Getting children to do as they are told is one of the biggest battles faced by parents. Those cute, innocent babies quickly turn into independent individuals with minds of their own. They test boundaries set for them, test to see if what you say is the actual truth, and yes – they test every shred of patience that we have!

But Wait…

Before we go any further…lets take a minute. Lets be thankful for that behavior. What?! Are you kidding me? Be thankful for the stress and frustration? Yes! Be thankful because this means you are raising a perfectly normal and healthy human being. Congratulations!

Kids who test the limits and their parents are doing just as they developmentally should. This is the time of their lives where ethics, learning right from wrong, and how to interact with others is forming. This time is so critical to their development and must be treated with care if we are to produce responsible and respectful individuals. During this time, children watch what we do, how we solve problems, and how we interact with others. What we do becomes what they do.  

So back to it – your kid isn’t listening. Maybe they are flat out telling you “No”. Perhaps they are tantruming in response to your requests. Another common response is just plain ignoring. I’ve been ignored by my kids. Not cool! None of these responses are.

Here’s the magic fix

Follow through and consistency!

Will this magic happen over night? Nope. It must be learned and used daily. This magic that we are talking about is driven and controlled by you and received by your kids.

If you tell your kids that they can earn a treat for showing positive behavior during a specific time frame and they don’t. What will your response be? It better be: no treat.  Although it is hard to see our children sad and disappointed you are doing the right thing to follow through on the no treat.Why you ask?

Consistently following through on what you say will happen will teach your kids that you mean what you say. Once they figure this out, they will take you more seriously and will increase their listening.

What about when you want your kids to stop what they are doing but they keep doing things their way? We’ve got some extra tips for just these times!  

When children repeat behaviors, they do so because they are not receiving a clear message to stop. This is good news when your child chooses to display positive choices. However, when you are trying to extinguish an inappropriate behavior, you need to be able to communicate the importance of stopping ASAP!

Many people don’t realize that they are sending inconsistent messages to their children. The following messages do not tell children to stop a behavior:
• “I wish you would…”
• “You should…”
• Saying one thing but then allowing the opposite
• Offering a reward after your child refuses to comply (this is bribery)
• Giving warnings, reminders, and repeating your requests
• Ending a request with, “Okay?”

Sending clear messages of what you expect your children to do/how you expect them to behave must be conveyed consistently. Matching your verbal and nonverbal communication is very important in establishing limits for your child.

When clearly communicating with your children, follow these steps to help avoid blaming, scolding, and negative attention (none of those are effective anyway):
1. Use a calm voice. This shows that you are in control of yourself. It also serves as an example to your children of how to handle problems in a calm manner.
2. Speak about your child’s behavior. Simply state that your child is a great person; it is the behavior that needs to change.
3. Tell your child simply and specifically what you expect. “I need you to…”
4. Tell your child the consequences associated with following your request along with the consequences for not following through. (See chapter three to learn about the different types of consequences.)
5. Walk away and give your child some time to make a decision.
6. Always deliver the consequence based on what your child chooses to do.
7. Do all of these things consistently.

Follow these steps each and every time, and you will be amazed at the ways in which your children will show positive behavior choices.

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Barb, LMHC, CPC, Ed.M, CAS  

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