Get Your Kids to Listen the First Time

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The headline alone grabbed me, and many thanks to Kirk Martin at Celebrate Calm, for letting us republish highlights from a recent newsletter.  He’s got some fabulous tips on how to get kids to tune in.  How many of you get immediate compliance for requests?  Or, how many of you have a case of “selective hearing disorder” when you ask your kids to do something?  Here are Martin’s tips:

Stop calling your kids “sweetie” and “baby.”

This is tough for modern parents, but you must become comfortable with your kids being unhappy with you at times. No, I’m not talking about when you’re screaming or a parent is abusive or callous. I mean when you do the right thing for the long term growth of the child, but they don’t like how it feels in the moment.

You refer to your kids as “sweetie” and “baby.” Stop doing that. It sounds like weakness to them, like you are bribing them or hoping they’ll react kindly to you since you are calling them a sweet name. They know inside that you fear that being tough with them will produce a meltdown. But these are strong-willed kids who are 3 going on 33. So speak to them like adults. Otherwise, it sounds a little condescending to them.
You’ll say, “Sweetie, Mommy doesn’t think it’s a good idea to jump on the sofa.” And even your 4-year-old is going to look you dead in the eyes, “Really? I do. What are you going to do about it?” And it will scare you! I want your tone with these kids to be firm, direct and matter-of-fact. “”Hey, that’s not working for me. No. Love your energy, so come stir the soup for me.” Practice and master a very firm, matter-of-fact tone. Very few words. By the way, don’t refer to yourself as “mommy.” It’s Mom. Treat them like grown-ups and watch how they respond to you. Save your sweetness for when they do something well! Just try it.

Q: My teenagers have all the answers and anything I say is just stupid. When I ask them to complete a task, they act like I just requested they donate their kidneys. 
Your teens don’t respect you and may have seen their father treat you that way. You must break that pattern. Here’s what my teenager would hear from me:  “If you think I am going to lift a finger for you after you have done nothing for me, you are crazy.” I may add in some saltier language to get their attention, but no way am I cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and running them around if they cannot show me simple respect. Apologize for sending the message that you are a doormat. Enough. Side note: if this is a pattern in your life, if your father or husband and kids have treated you with disrespect, you must break this pattern inside YOU.

Q: My son won’t follow rules on video game time and always tells me, “It’s my DS, I can play it as long as I want.”
Why your child still has a DS I cannot understand. Listen, you know I am patient and calm. I give kids tools to succeed. I understand their frustration. But as soon as those words come out of my child’s mouth–whether they are 2, 9, 14 or 22–there is immediate action taken. No lecture, no yelling. Just one simple act. That DS becomes mine. Your child is challenging you. He does not respect you. Lecturing and yelling and reasoning does not work. He knows you are afraid of him and has called your bluff. You blinked. Next time, simply smile and walk away. I wouldn’t attempt to wrestle it from him in the moment because that escalates things. I may even wait until the weekend so I can have the whole weekend set aside for one enormous meltdown. But as soon as that child leaves for school on Friday morning, that DS becomes mine.

When he comes home from school, this is my language: “I want to apologize for allowing you to think that you run the home and get to tell me what to do, son. By my actions for the first nine years of your life, I have lead you to believe that you get to tell me what to do. That ends now. Your DS is now my property. Here is how you can earn it back within the next two weeks: you can apologize for using that tone with me. You can be responsible for chores around the house. You can go outside and walk the dogs with me. When your attitude changes, then consequences will change.” Your child should not have that DS in his possession so he can “always” tell you that. One time, Mom. One time.

Editor’s NoteLOVE IT!  It’s so funny, because after reading and writing about hundreds if not thousands of tips from experts all around the globe, discipline seems to boil down to something that isn’t a new technique:  logical consequence.  It always seems so obvious as an outsider, but often harder to implement in the heat of the moment.  That seems to be what Kirk is describing here.  I love the “calm” he puts into the equation.  Not always easy, but something that’s gotta cool things down more than screaming.

Expert bio:  Celebrate Calm Founder Kirk Martin and his son, Casey, have helped over 300,000 parents, teachers and students learn how to control their emotions and attitudes. Their strategies are concrete, practical and work in everyday situations whether your child is a toddler or teenager. USA Today, Parade Magazine and countless TV and Radio shows have relied on Kirk’s expertise to stop defiance, power struggles and sibling fights. Short video.

 

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