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August 11th, 2016
Teach Your Child to Listen: Part 2
posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom
Teach Your Child to Listen
We are returning today to my interview with Amy McCready, as she shares gems in parenting to teach your child to listen better. Here’s Amy with more!
Communication Style is Everything
The other reason kids tend to fight us with power struggles is in large part due to our communication style. I mentioned the whole ordering, directing, and correcting thing. If parents can do less bossing around and more inviting cooperation, they’ll see a huge difference.
Instead of saying, “I need you to clean up the kitchen or unload the dishwasher,” say something like, “You know what? I am slammed with all of this work that I have to do to get ready for my class tomorrow. If there’s anything that you can do to help out in the kitchen, I’d really appreciate that.”
It’s a subtle change. It’s an inviting cooperation. Speaking to them with respect, as opposed to demanding they do it. The minute we demand, we’re going to get pushed back.
What If I Haven’t Taught Them to Listen Well When They Were Young?
First off, it’s never too late to start! It’s never too early or it’s never too late. You can start any time. What happens is that we need to change the perceptions that our kids have. If they’re used to us constantly ordering, directing, and correcting, and bossing them around, that’s their perception of us. The more that we invite cooperation, eventually it’s going to start to work.
The When Then Strategy
Now, of course, that’s not the only tool and sometimes you need other tools to make that happen. For instance, an all-time favorite for parents is called the when then. When then- Let’s use that dishwasher example. One strategy is you could invite cooperation and hopefully they’ll go ahead and do that. If you think it’s going to be a little bit of a power struggle, you could use a when then. That means structuring the yucky stuff that they don’t want to do before a more desirable part of their day.
If you know they’re planning to go out with their friends, you can say, “When the dishwasher is unloaded, then you can go and join your friends. When your room is clean, then we’ll leave for soccer.” These are things that were normally going to happen anything. They were going to normally go out with their friends or normally would leave for soccer practice, but we just require that the yucky stuff get done. It doesn’t have to turn into a power struggle. You just say, “When your room is clean, then we’ll leave for soccer.” Then you walk away.
Kids have this hardwired need for attention. They have an attention basket and every single day it has to be filled with plenty of positive attention. If not, well then, we pay for it because it’s the whining and the clinging, and they’re not listening, and it’s just- It can be a nightmare.
Mind, body, and soul time is spending one-on-one time with your child.–that’s one parent and one child. The reason it’s so important is when you have one-on-one, your child doesn’t have to fight for your attention with a sibling or anybody else. He has you all to himself.
It can be as little as ten minutes, twice a day, maybe once in the morning, once after school, or before bed. That ten-minute dose of undivided time and attention when you are truly present in mind, body, and soul, you’re ignoring the Blackberry, you’re not thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner, you are totally present. That will make a world of difference because you’ve filled up their attention basket, you’ve given them that great sense of, yes, I have mom’s attention.
What parents start to find is those negative behaviors start to fall off the radar screen when they begin doing mind, body, and soul time on a consistent basis. Kids are so much more cooperative when you’re doing mind, body, and soul time. It almost seems like magic it works that well.
A Calm Voice
I used to be the yelling mom because I would just get pushed to the brink and then I would lose it, and I would feel so frustrated and angry with myself. The power of the calm voice is amazing and so I think it’s hard to do. I always recommend to parents, put sticky notes all around their house to remind themselves.
They will find that if they lower the volume of their voice, speak more slowly, that it will just diffuse so many of the power struggles that go on in your house. When you are very aware of using your calm voice in general, but especially when things get a little bit tense or if you need your kids to do something. You can say, “Now can you please get those shoes picked up in the mudroom now,” or you can say, “If you could please get those shoes picked up, that would be a really big help.”
Asking in your calm voice makes all the difference in the world because our kids respond in whatever way we speak to them or whatever attitude we use with them. They respond in kind. You will notice that the intensity of your house will really come down when you use that calm voice. There’s a difference between a healthy discussion. I always say that. Pretty much everything is up for discussion, but I’m open to discussing things with you in a calm and rational way. That doesn’t mean we’re arguing and fighting, and badgering about it. There’s no place for that.
Encouragement can be used all the time. It can be used when you are teaching a new behavior or a new skill, so you would want to encourage their movement in the right direction. “Wow, you’re really making progress. I can see that you’re really working hard on this.” Of course, any time they contribute or help out you want to encourage them by letting them know that that makes a big difference for you.
Encouragement is so important, but it is very different than praise. I talk a lot about that in the book because that’s a very important distinction.
An example would be if I said, “You are so smart.” By saying you are so smart, that puts a label on the child. What ends up happening with praise statements like that is that they become so concerned with protecting their smart label– research shows this very clearly that kids who are praised with being smart are less likely to take on a more challenging task. They’re less likely to push the envelope and go beyond the limits of what they’re perfectly comfortable in doing because they’re so afraid of compromising that smart label.
What we would want to do instead with encouragement is encourage how hard they’re working. Encourage them for trying something new that was really challenging because those are the types of things that are going to help them be successful in life, not just praising them for getting an A on the science test. That’s important, of course, but what we want to encourage is how hard they worked, how much time they spent on their homework, and how they went to help class to get extra help. Those are the things that we want to encourage as opposed to that smart label.
Another example of praise would be, “I’m so proud of you.” We’ve all said that 100 times probably. On the surface it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Whenever I say, “I’m so proud of you,” that is really an external reward. I’m proud of you, so you can feel good about yourself. What we want is for the child to be proud of himself. It’s more encouraging to say, “Wow, you must be really proud of yourself,” because that comes from the inside as opposed to depending on somebody else.
The research is clear that kids who are raised on praise and external rewards tend to need that. They need and demand that external gratification from others whether it be their parents, teachers, or eventually the peer group.
In the book we go through in detail for parents and we give them a long list of encouraging phrases that they can try. At first, those phrases will feel a little funny or a little foreign. The more they use them, they’ll just see a physical difference in their kids, the way their kids beam with pride when they start using those encouraging phrases. It really is powerful and it’s the type of thing that’s going to set them up for long-term success.
(End interview with Amy)
And that is what we want, right? You can listen to the whole interview with Karen here on webtalk radio.: 30 Minute Mom. Here is the book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time, if you’d like to read more from Amy McCready. I hope you enjoyed learning from her today!
Missed Part one of this post? Get Your Child to Listen: Part One