Monday, June 13, 2011

Mommy Monday: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I am very guilty of telling my children to "wait a minute" or "hold on." How come I always feel that my time is more important than their time? Most importantly, how can I change and become a better parent?

I found this article through facebook- you can find it HERE

When Your Child Won't Listen - Actions speak louder than words... but how?

"I call out to my kids but they never listen."

The frustration on this parent's face was clear. We were part-way through a workshop last week when the issue arose.

As we spoke about the challenge this parent was facing I asked, "When your children want your attention, what do you normally say or do?"

There was silence, then the lightbulb moment occurred. Eyes were wide, mouths dropped open.

"I say I'll be there in a minute, or hang on just a sec."

"I usually just tell them to be patient" volunteered another parent.

"I get annoyed at them for interrupting and being inconvenient" was another response (paraphrased).

Heads were nodding around the room as mums and dads recognised the truth that when they, as parents, wanted their child's attention and presence, that their children were doing exactly what they had been taught to do by their parents.

While the parents were making demands for action 'NOW!', the children were not being taught by what was said. Instead, they were being taught by what they observed every time they, as children, requested something of their parents.

It's an old cliche, but it applies more to parenting than anything: Actions speak louder than words (and I'm not talking about punitive consequences, I'm talking about our example).

Our children look at what we do, and they do it.

"NO SHOUTING IN THIS HOUSE" will not teach our children to use quiet voices.

"Stop hitting your sister when you're angry" is not a command that will be followed by our children if it is accompanied by a parent slapping a child for hitting (or biting, or anything else physical).

Beyond example, are there any other ways that we can encourage our children to listen?

Here are a few additional pointers:
  1. Be reasonable in requests. Is what you are asking really necessary? Does it really have to be done right now in the way you want it done? Is there room for flexibility?
  2. Try not to interrupt your children too much. They may be only "playing", but play is some of the most important work they can do. They may be in the middle of their favourite tv show. Wait until the ads. Show the same respect you expect of them toward you.
  3. Don't demand everything NOW! Instead, get their attention, explain what you are after, and set a mutually agreeable time table. It might be today, it might be within an hour, or it might be in the next 5 minutes. But don't demand it now unless it needs to be done now.
  4. Use gentle reminders. Instead of being upset, making a commotion, and inviting resistance, simply say the person's name and one or two words about what is required. For example, "Josh, your lunchbox."
  5. Get your child's attention, and speak softer and softer. The irony is that when we shout, people switch off. It's offensive. But when we speak softly... they strain to take in every word we say. Your message will get across with focused soft speaking.
When your children won't listen, what ideas work best for you? How do you get their attention while still maintaining a peaceful and positive environment?

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