“How many times do I have to tell you?”
“I don’t care if he was annoying you! It’s never ok to hit your brother. How many times do I have to tell you?!!”
“Did you brush your teeth before we left? What? You didn’t brush your teeth? How many times do I have to tell you?!”
“Why are all your toys all over the floor? How many times do I have to tell you? When you are done playing with a toy put it away!”
Do you ever hear yourself saying the same things over and over again? Are you frustrated engaging in the same conflict over and over again with your child?

 

You might say: “They know what I am asking them to do. They are just choosing to annoy me!”

 

Ok… Take a really deep breath. In through your nose and slowly out through your mouth and now read on…

 

Children live in the moment and this can be beautiful and frustrating. They think little to the consequence of a decision and have little life experience to draw from. Here are a few ideas to help frustration go down and compliance go up.

 

Connection
Children want to please you. They need to feel connected and loved regardless of their behavior. They need to know the deep security of knowing you know them, you love them and they cannot disappoint you to  the point where it breaks relationship. Positive connection is always the foundation for growth. Play with your child, laugh, listen, run, be in the moment. This relationship is key. Give yourself permission to let loose and enjoy!!

 

Positive Intent
Sometimes our children are defiant and choose to disobey but most often they are distracted with the moment they are in. They are naturally impulsive and have not developed the powers of reason and cause and effect that would lead them to instinctively predict an outcome. If they leave their cup on the edge of the table, it is likely to fall and spill. Consider their motive before responding to the moment. It was impulsive not defiant.

 

Composure
As you see the inevitable result of the water on the floor because your child left the cup too close to the end of the table AGAIN!..You have the power as an adult to practice and model a composed state. Remain calm and emotionally regulated so you can problem solve and not express your “mad” by blaming or yelling. Losing your temper never helps. Take as many deep breaths as you need to, pray and respond from a calm state.

 

Self-reflection questions
Is my request or expectation reasonable?
Did my child really hear me when I gave the instruction?
Is my request age appropriate?
Does my child know what is expected of them? Do they know what I mean when I say, “Clean up” Do they know what that looks like?
Is my child being impulsive, forgetful or defiant? (most often it is the first two)

 

Natural Consequences
One of the best ways to respond to repetitive negative behaviors is to look for the natural consequence. What’s the natural consequence of hitting their brother? Your child needs to stop playing and respond to the needs of his brother. Does the brother need a hug, a tissue, a glass of water and an apology? Maybe your child needs to go and play somewhere else with a different toy that helps them regroup and be ready to play more gently and patiently later.

 

What’s the natural consequence of water on the floor? Your child can get a towel and help clean it up. This is not a punishment but a response to the problem. “It’s ok. We can fix this. Let’s clean this up together.”

 

What’s the natural consequence of not brushing your teeth?  If the refusal is more intentional than forgetting, then maybe they can’t eat any food that could hurt their teeth that day until they get home and can brush their teeth. Maybe you need to set a timer on your phone in the morning to remind your child that it’s time to brush their teeth. Maybe a visual morning schedule would help if it’s posted in the kitchen or near the front door.

 

Reflect and problem solve with your child outside of the heat of the moment
Take the opportunity for the teaching moments without getting mad. You are their number one fan and number one coach. Reflect with them outside of the frustrating moment so you and your child can focus on problem solving and not just managing big emotions. Allow your child to be part of the plan for next time so they take ownership.

 

Ask your child…
What was the instruction?
What did you do or not do?
What could you do differently next time? What other options did you have?
What can mom do to help? (do you need a timer set? A verbal reminder? A verbal intervention when mom sees you getting mad?)

 

Building body and mind muscle memory
Be patient with your child as they gain experience and develop memory and predict patterns and outcomes. They need lots of practice to predict the cause and effect of each situation they are in. They are building body and brain muscle memory.

 

Set them up for success
Provide the needed support for your child so they can be successful at completing the direction.
Remind your child of the expectations of behavior in advance. Put in enough support to help them achieve the expectation. They might need more “rungs on the ladder”. What does this look like for them and for you?

 

Live in the moment
Your children are learning and growing every day and their brains are taking in so much. One of the beautiful joys of being a child is that they live in the very moment they are in and fully embrace it. The frustration of that for parents is that children very often do not recall or even consider the instructions given previously or the implications of forgetting them. Children have a way of teaching us to enjoy life. They are consumed with all the “to be” moments and not the “to do” moments. Consider where you can join your child in a “being” moment. Celebrate the simple joy, the laugh and the snuggle. They don’t stay little for long!!