It had been a trying weekend. Husband and I often found ourselves admonishing Kate, and then cringing inside as we realized “OMG, I sound just like my mother!” So when I was scrolling through my face.book feed later that night, my eye was drawn to an article 20 Useful phrases to Use When your Child isn’t Listening. The author begins:
I replaced my judgmental, negative, threatening tone with a neutral, problem solving, empathetic, encouraging one, and my little girl's behavior improved dramatically. The lesson was clear for me. Talk to mini-humans the way you'd like to be talked to and things will go a lot smoother.
I was immediately intrigued. I’d love to see Kate’s behavior improve dramatically and have a much smoother process. Added bonus if I don’t sound like my mother!
As I started to read, I found that most of her suggestions made sense and I could see myself adopting them. For example:
1.What do you need to remember?"
Take a break from: "Be careful."
I had heard this suggestion somewhere else. “Be careful” is just too vague. Be specific about their actions or explain the consequences of doing something that they shouldn’t. Got it.
2. Please talk softly."
Take a break from: "Stop yelling!" or "Be Quiet!"
A more positive tone. Makes sense. Also follows saying “Please do ___________” rather than “Don’t do this!” So far I’m following with you.
Then I started to deviate a bit..
Let's add that toy you want to your birthday list."
Take a break from: "We can't afford that" or "No, I said NO TOYS!"
Example: "I am not willing to buy that, would you like me to put it on your birthday wish list?"
Her explanation; If we're being honest, we often CAN afford the $5 lego at checkout, we're just not willing to purchase it. But then we buy a $5 almond milk latte from Starbucks. Instead of blaming our finances and creating feelings of scarcity, own your limit, then offer ideas to help them learn how to get it (birthday, earning money, etc.)
I feel that we should teach our kids there are limits and they should know that they are not going to get every item they want. Saying you’ll add it to the birthday list, isn’t saying ‘no’. You’re really hoping your kid is going to forget about it, but you could be setting up unrealistic expectations for a very long birthday list. Another parenting blog had a suggestion to have the discussion before you get to Tar.get and explain that you will not be buying any toys from Bullseye’s playground, so you avoid the tantrum in the store.
This is going to counter my point; but I have to admit you never know when you give into buying an item and it turns out to be really useful. After having our talk ahead of time, Kate didn’t protest when we went past Bullseye’s playground, but then she spotted a small plastic case in the make up aisle that she just had to have. It decided to buy it as it was on clearance. That afternoon, she pretended it was her suitcase. She packed it herself with a pair of jammies and a tooth brush. Took a plane ride from her room to the kitchen, then changed into her jammies as she was an overnight guest. An afternoon of self entertainment for only $4.99, but I am digressing.
Here is where she lost me.
Do you want to leave now or in ten minutes?"
Take a break from: "Time to go…now!"
Example: "Do you guys wanna leave now or play for ten more minutes, then leave?
Her rationale: “ Kids love to be in charge of their own destiny, especially power kids! This takes a tad bit of proactivity, but it works like a charm! Give them a choice & they'll respond much better when you say "Okay, 10 minutes is up, time to go."”
Pausing for a moment to get to my main objection to this suggestion. I feel the notion of giving kids choices works only in theory. Yes, it works on Husbands. You’re choosing tile to update the backslash in your kitchen. You find two designs that you like and present him with the choice between the two. Ultimately, you get a design you like and he feels like he was involved in the decision process. Win-win. Yet for kids, the decision process is an opportunity to make things more complicated. I used to give Kate options for picking her clothes (sometimes presenting it as a choice between ‘freakin A or frecking B’) and she would reject both choices and try to pick something for herself. We had to stop using the expensive ‘dinner winner’ maze plates as it was an ordeal just to have her select a plate before we even entered the disaster zone known as meal time.
Firstly, what kid is not going to go for the option of playing for ten more minutes and we know what follows from there. Ten minutes turns into twenty… More so, what if you need to leave now and you don’t have ten minutes to spare? It feels like you’re venturing into letting the kids make their own rules. Call me old fashion, but I think the parents should make the rules and the kids should know that the parents make the rules and that they need to follow those rules.
She had one more suggestion about getting ready to leave the house.
We are on cheetah time today and need to move fast!"
Take a break from: "Hurry Up!" or "We are going to be late!"
Example: "We're on racehorse time today! Let's see how fast we can move!"
So I tried this with Kate one morning, explaining that cheetahs are among the fastest animals, so we needed to move fast like cheetahs. Kate responded “I’m a baby cheetah, so baby cheetahs move slow.” I had to concede that yes, baby cheetahs probably do not move as fast as adult cheetahs. It was a fail.
I think when I was 6 or 7, I was stalling getting ready for school one morning and my Dad yelled, “Get your ass in the car now!” There was no ambiguity. No choices. No discussion about animal speed. I knew I was in trouble because my Dad used the word ass, and I knew that if I didn’t get my ass in gear, there would be big trouble. The next morning I made sure I was on time.
So maybe our parents had it right after all. Obviously, we all turned out okay. Now when I hear myself sounding like my mother, instead of cringing, I’ll take it as a sign that I’m doing something right.