We all sometimes wish we had a way to change our child’s behavior with a simple push of a button on a remote control. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just make sure things never got out of control and our child was always acting exactly the way we expect? Unfortunately, things don’t really work that way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can get your child to listen and behave properly without resorting to punishment.
The most important thing to consider when it comes to reacting to your misbehaving child is that, once you are angry, it is already too late to think of what to do. So, always think ahead and consider as many outcomes as possible so you can have an effective response in every scenario without having to make angry decisions. Making pre-committed choices of what you will do when you become angry with your child gives you a significant advantage in the situation. Research suggests that decisions made under the influence of anger are rarely right.
The fact that you are reading this article shows that you understand this on some level so we will not dwell on this point for too long. Instead, I would like to present some positive techniques for getting your child to behave, and that way you will have a prepared response for when anger sets in.
1. Choices, choices, choices…
Whenever you give your kid a simple command without offering any choice, you are opening yourself up to an infuriating ‘no’ which ultimately leads to a power struggle. Instead, empower your kid with a choice, thereby giving them the illusion of control. Obviously, you will make sure that both choices are acceptable for you, otherwise, you’re putting yourself into a world of trouble when you go back on your word and your child starts to view you as unreliable.
Simplicity is the name of the game here. Don’t overthink it. Basically, instead of saying ‘You must finish your food!’, go with something like ‘Do you want to eat your peas or your broccoli first?’. It sounds too good to be true, but trust me, it works.
This technique is first on the list for a few reasons; it’s simple and easy to try, it’s surprisingly effective and it has a twofold benefit – it fosters independence, yet still keeps you firmly in the driver’s seat. Your kid will love their newfound ‘autonomy’, and you will love that it works.
2. Say ‘no’ less
Kids are curious, and they should be. Curiosity is the precursor to all human innovation, so you should try not to stifle that in your child. That doesn’t mean letting them crawl around in the trash, or check out the knife drawer when they’re still a toddler. What it does mean is creating an environment where you will not be forced to constantly look at what they are doing so you can scream ‘NO!’ into their ear every second.
Obviously, something like placing dangerous tools out of reach while your kid is still not old enough to use them is the best place to start, but it doesn’t end there. When your child grows older, you should try to focus on saying ‘yes’ more and creating a more agreeable environment, so that when you do refuse something, they will be more inclined to listen. For example, when your teen wants to start driving, instead of flat-out refusing because you fear for their safety you can say “Sure, we’ll just have to figure out some rules about using the car and some sanctions if those rules are broken.” If these rules are straightforward and fair, your teen will be much more inclined to follow them and drive safely.
So, try to remember to use positive wording and create rules your child agrees with. Again, preparation and predicting future outcomes is key, so give it some thought. Kids are smart, and if there’s a loophole, they’ll find it.
3. Just ignore them
Yes, you read that correctly. The crazy article on the internet just suggested you should neglect your child. Except, that’s not really what we’re suggesting at all. Think of it like this: you can’t win every battle, and even if you can, it’s just exhausting. So pick your battles wisely. Pretending not to notice certain minor problems is a technique that can help your sanity in the long run, even though you should try to use it sparingly.
If your child is doing something that they’re not strictly supposed to, but it’s harmless and makes them happy, you can turn a blind eye to it for now and make it more difficult for them to engage in that activity at a later time. Just move those magazines to an out-of-reach shelf or something.
Being full-time police can be very draining, so give your kid and yourself a break from time to time. Let your kids be kids, and enjoy some breathing room. As long as you use this strategy carefully, and not too often, you can create a more relaxed atmosphere in your home that both you and your children can enjoy.
Obviously, this technique works best for kids seeking negative attention. If you ignore their bad behavior, you take the fun away from it and make them less likely to engage in such behavior again.
Basically, if you’re to take away one thing from this article, it is that you can’t be a perfect parent, but you can try to plan for the future and make decisions ahead of time to avoid angry decision-making.
This doesn’t mean having a perfect response for everything. We all know kids are more than capable of surprising you with behavior you never could have predicted. However, by learning more about these positive techniques, you can improve your chances of picking the right reaction to any curveball your kid might throw, and that’s all any of us can hope for.