Parents, you're in charge.

Do you find yourself pleading over and over and over again trying to get your child to comply with your requests?

Do you wonder why it seems so hard and so exhausting to get your child to comply with anything?

Well good news is at hand, you can stop exhausting yourself by pleading with your children and start communicating your decisions and directives effectively and efficiently.

The  foundation on which effective communication with children is built is simple.  As the parent it is your job to decide what's appropriate for your child at any given age and your child does not have to necessarily agree! 

If you seek agreement from you child you are (in most cases) expecting a level of understanding which is beyond them. In any case their goals and drivers are very different to yours. Do you think the young child cares if jumping on the sofa will wreck it, or the older child really understands the long term implications of poor nutrition?

 It is up to the adults in the family to decide the values, behaviours and routines appropriate to that family.

What is central to effective implementation is the credibility of the parent. Does the parent really mean what they say and how is this obvious to the child?

Do the parents appear to give the child a choice when really they are giving a directive? Unfortunately that is very often the case.

I often hear parents asking things like "Would you like to hold my hand while we cross the road?" Is that really what the parent means? What happens when the child answers 'no' ?

"Would you like to put your shoes on so we can go to the shops?", "No I don't want to go to the shops"... what next?

As caring, considerate parents we want to give our children some autonomy as they grow, we can do this by giving a limited though real choice which still meets the needs of the adult. "We're going to the shops so which shoes are you going to chose to wear?" "Which hand would you like to hold to cross the road?"

It's important that when you give a directive or impose a limit you follow up. 

For example a young child begins hurling pieces of Duplo around the room. "Please stop throwing the Duplo." Child continues to throw Duplo. So the parent gives the child a choice, "you can  stop throwing the Duplo or the the Duplo goes away for today, you must not throw Duplo.". Child tests parent's resolve by again throwing Duplo. To be effective the parent would give no more warnings or discussions, just pick up the Duplo and put it away. Once it's put away the adult tells the child, "we'll try again tomorrow". 

If you state a limit, stick to it.

Stories, for example. Decide how many you are (happily) prepared to read and state that up front. "You may choose two stories (chapters or such) tonight." "I want three". Here is where it's really important to be clear about your decision. "I understand you want three stories however I am prepared to read two, shall we get started?" If the child begins to focus on the fact they want three and not two again be quite clear... "I'm prepared to read two stories tonight however all this arguing is using up story-time and If we waste any more time arguing there may be only time left for one story, shall we get started"?... again if the child continues arguing it's important you make it clear you mean what you say "I'm sorry you've used up so much story-time arguing now we only have time for one story tonight, shall we get started, which one shall I read?"

If you find yourself asking and asking the same things again and again (or variations thereof) and even saying things like "how many times do I have to tell you not to..." it's time to step back and examine what's really happening.

What happens when your child doesn't comply with a directive? Are there any consequences? Was the directive given in the form of a question, did the child think there was a choice?

If you are mixing choices and directives it's very confusing for the child.

  • As the parent you decide what's acceptable in your home.
  • If you want to have any credibility don't make statements you can't/ won't follow through ("right, no TV for a month!")
  • Give a directive as a directive and ensure there are simple natural (where possible) consequences of non-compliance.
  • Follow through.
  • If you ask a question you must be prepared to accept the answer 'No".
  • Don't press your child to agree with your directives, they don't have to like them they just need to comply.
  • Make your expectations clear.
  • Follow through - that can't be said often enough. 

When you give a directive and the child does not comply state pleasantly and clearly the consequence of non-compliance and follow through. When you do this children soon understands that actions have consequences, there are choices to made and parents mean what they say.