One of the most challenging tasks moms often face is teaching their children to listen and follow directions. It becomes frustrating for the whole family when you repeatedly give the same directions multiple times. As moms’ we can easily become the nagging machine, which is not only frustrating but exhausting. As crazy as it sounds, the more you nag the more you are encouraging your child to not pay attention..
The trouble is, we tend to think it is all our children’s doing – “making” us repeat ourselves multiple times in order to get them to comply. Here is the catch, if we have fallen into that pattern; we have conditioned our children to expect that mom will repeat herself multiple times before she really means what she is saying. We are the biggest problem in the entire equation.
So instead of continuing the pattern, change your actions – here are some tips to consider to escape the nagging circus.
Get Their Attention
You should always get your child’s attention before giving a direction and especially avoid yelling directions from another room. Few people respond favorably to being hollered at from across the room and I would rather create an environment in my home which would train my kids to respond to a calmer, quieter tone. Instead get close to them and use a pleasant, calm voice and use the word “please”. Since we want our children to use the magic word, doesn’t it make sense that we ought to model it? It is amazing how adding that word into the request can influence follow through.
Don’t Ask – Rather Give Choices
You should avoid phrasing directions as questions. Don’t say, “Would you like to pick up your toys now?” You are asking for non-compliance with a question, your child feels that they are being given an option rather than a direction. Instead, try giving choices instead of just commands whenever possible. Allow your child to decide how or when to follow your directions. With a younger child is can be as simple as asking them if they would like to brush their teeth before or after their bath. It does not mean you are allowing them to take complete control. Be careful, however, not to use words implying that not doing the task is one of the options. Asking, ”Would you mind brushing your teeth?” opens up the door to an argument because your child sees this as a choice of doing it or not doing it. When offering a choice, make it clear that what your child gets to decide is when to do the job, not whether to do it.” Giving your child some say in compliance can often prevent power struggles.
Be Prepared to Enforce
Parents should avoid giving their children a direction unless they are prepared to enforce it. If parents do not enforce their directions, then children learn that their parents don’t mean what they say, a phrase I often use with moms I work with called, “Giving Empty Threats.” You have to follow through if your child decides to not do what is being asked of them. Ahead of time, have a plan for how you’ll respond to noncompliance or defiance. If they refuse to comply, or they dawdle about or begin arguing, make sure you have your next action step prepared.
Be Clear and Specific
Avoid giving vague directions such as “Be good,” or “Be careful.” There may be significant differences between how you and your child interpret vague directions such as “being good” and they are open to misinterpretation. Parents should make their directions clear, specific and easy to understand. Instead of just telling your child to clean out his closet, break the task down into several steps of how that is accomplished. Perhaps create a checklist to use on this task which includes what needs to be done in order to meet your expectation.
Ask your child to repeat your request
This is critical with younger children. Having your youngster to recite rules and instructions out loud can prevent tearful protests of “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t understand” later on. Ask young, easily distracted children to repeat directions back to you. Older kids can repeat them or even better, have them write down the information themselves.
Resist Multiple Requests
As I stated early, if you threaten, lecture, or give repeated warnings after you have given an instruction – this is a tough one to break. Just remember, when you use threats, lectures, and repeated warnings you are training your child to need threats, lectures, and repeated warnings in order to accomplish tasks.
When the task is complete let your child know that you appreciate their compliance. A quick, “Thank you” is something everyone loves to hear.