Fear not, this isn’t a personal journal entry…it’s a recap of a great talk I attended last weekend by PEP (Parent Encouragement Program)’s Education Coordinator, Patti Cancellier.  The topic, “Why Don’t My Kids Listen to Me,” could pack any room, and we all seem to have the same issues (repeated and ignored requests, “selective hearing disorder,” and the vast number of technology distractions that win our kids’ attention every time).

So, what can we, as parents, can do to turn up our volume…without actually turning up our volume, since screaming communicates desperation?

Cancellier noted that our society is much more democratic today.  “Kids are like little scientists,” she said.  “They try something, and if it works, they store it in their toolbox (for future use).”  Those tools include ignoring, whining, etc.  Parents, on the other hand, are so busy, she says, that we tend to resort to the same tactics over and over.  She showed us scenarios where a parent starts with warnings, threats, bribes, screaming, and then the contrast – calm, patient, choices.

I love the concept of giving the child a choice – what Cancellier terms “a guided choice,” where either option is acceptable, but you’re giving the kid a feeling of empowerment; therefore, increasing compliance.  Here are a handful of Cancellier’s tools:

Speak at the child’s level – eye to eye – whenever possible

Give a limited choice, not free choice – “Do you want to be your own homework boss, or do you want me to?”

Work first, then play – Use “when/then” statements rather than threatening.  “When you empty the dishwasher, then you can go out to play.”

She warns against wishy washy limits (train kids there’s plenty of room to bend/break the rules) and repeated requests (train kids to ignore).

It was a great morning, and Cancellier’s ideas were a great refresher course for what she refers to as “democratic parenting” – encouraging, firm, friendly.

PEP is starting their winter classes, and if you live in the D.C./MD/VA area, here’s a link to check out the fabulous programs they offer local parents.