Getting a young child to listen and obey is a common complaint of many parents. It’s hard and can test the nerves of the best parent. We get the frustration and sense of hopelessness. So take a few minutes and imagine yourself at your worse parenting moment. How does it look? Are you screaming? Do you want to run and cry? Hey, you get no judgment here. Any of us who have parented have those moments.
Some children are easy to parent, listen well, and obey parental commands. Then some kids are high-spirited. It’s just their nature, and while they desire to please their parents by following instructions, it doesn’t come naturally. They might have more energy than what is typical, or they are simply harder to please and therefore, manage. It’s no one’s fault, but learning the secrets to getting them to obey you is important.
First, challenging children requires a bit more individual time. We suggest taking five minutes out of your already busy day and devote it to playing with your kid. You’re probably thinking you already play with your child so why is this five-minute thing so important? It’s important because unlike a regular play, this play time will involve you allowing your child to be in charge and you’ll follow their lead. Please try hard not to ask your child questions or give them commands during this five minutes. Instead, say things like, –“I like the way you’re playing so nicely with your toys.” Saying stuff like this helps your child to understand the behavior that you approve of. If your child is destructive with toys, praising how gently they play with the toys will contribute to increasing that positive action. Praise the behavior you’d like to see more of–“I love how you listen when we play.” You can also say things like– “You are building a bridge with your blocks.” ” I see you using the blue crayon to color.” This will help your child to know that you are paying attention to them. Some kids require more attention than others, and this is a great way of letting them know that nothing else matters during this playtime.
Again, don’t ask questions—“What are you doing?”. “Can I have that doll?”. Let them be in charge during this five minutes. It will be hard in the beginning because as adults, we’re accustomed to asking questions.
If your child engages in negative behaviors while you all are playing, ignore them. Turn away and start playing with something else. Why? This is a tried and true behavior modification technique. Any attention given to negative behavior will increase it. If you consistently ignore unwanted behaviors, they will eventually diminish. Once your child is behaving appropriately, turn your attention back to them and re-engage in the play. As soon as you’re able, find a behavior to praise. Here’s a word of caution–sometimes when trying to change undesirable behaviors, they get worse before they get better. Sometimes it’s a control issue or merely an attempt to see if the parent will give in. Do not. Be consistent.
The only time you’ll want to end this particular play time is if your child becomes overly aggressive or destructive. Do not tolerate this behavior and terminate the fun by saying–“Playtime is over for tonight. Perhaps you won’t throw your toys.”
Next tip–give appropriate commands! If you want your child to obey, you have to give them appropriate commands. I’m sure you’ve said many times- I ask him to sit down, he does for a minute and then he’s back to jumping on the sofa. How many times do I have to say, clean up before my kid picks up her toys? Exacerbating, right? So if they won’t listen when you’ve reached your highest point of frustration, when will they listen? They’ll obey when you stop telling them what not to do and what to do instead.
Here’s a simple explanation—Instead of saying–sit down, try saying, put your butt on the chair. Saying things this way present a clear, concise way of telling them what you want rather than what you don’t want. Here’s another example–Instead of saying–clean up your toys, say this–Please put the crayons in the box. Put your books on the shelf. Put your legos in the bin. See how these commands are distinct and state your expectations? You’re probably thinking–yeah right; it’s that simple? In many instances it is.
What about the children for whom this doesn’t work? Those are the kids who could probably benefit from play therapy with a professional therapist. At CCD we do parent coaching using specialized play therapy techniques that work for the most challenging behaviors. We teach parents how to interact with their child to decrease acting out behaviors, aggression, mood swings and defiance. We see kids who are put out of day care, schools and have alienated their friends. More importantly, we teach parents skills that work. You should enjoy your parent-child relationship. Sometimes violent behaviors and emotional melt-downs interfere with the fun.
Call us if you or someone you know could benefit from parenting coaching. Parent coaching works quickly and has long lasting benefits.