“My child just won’t listen to me!” Does anyone relate to this statement? I remember the moments of frustration with my own children in their younger years — when I clearly stated an instruction and I was either ignored or it began a battle full of negative emotions. It can feel exhausting and defeating.
While these frustrating moments will certainly occur as you raise your child and help them learn to respond positively to instruction, the negative patterns do not need to be your normal. I have found a few helpful tools along the parenting journey that have helped to create calm and happy compliance which makes for a content home!
The potential scenarios for a “battle” with your child occur throughout your whole day: bed time, dinner time, getting ready for a school day, screen time, clean up time… and the list goes on. Much of the frustration occurs during transitional moments in your child’s day when we are asking them to stop one activity and move to another. If you consider your child’s day, you will soon realize they are given a lot of instruction and have little control about the timing or activity of their day. Some children’s temperaments are more able to handle transitions, disappointment and follow adult instruction; however, all children at some point face situations or emotions that they need help navigating.
Some tips for success:
- Set clear expectations using few words and ensure mom and dad present a united front.
- Avoid asking a question if “no” is not an acceptable answer. For instance, “It’s nearly time to go to bed. Will you help mommy clean up the toys?” This sentence gives your child the option to say “no”. State the direction clearly “It’s nearly time for bed. We are going to clean up now. Shall we put the blue blocks or red blocks away first?”
- Whenever possible give plenty of lead up time before asking your child to change activity. A useful tool might be an alarm on your phone that you and your child set for two minutes. “When the alarm sounds it is time to clean up.” This is often helpful as it limits the emotional struggle between you and child. It is now the alarm that says it is time to change activity, not just you.
- If your child refuses to comply or begins to get upset, or angry it is important that you remain calm. This is probably the most important advice that I will give you. Maintain a calm demeanor, and regular voice volume. This is something that I struggled with, as I tended to respond to my child’s negative emotions with similar negative emotions and it escalated the issue. You can download your calm to your child and breathe with them taking slow deep breaths to regain composure and in turn help them to be able to access the higher functioning of the brain where your child can make positive choices.
- Refrain from negotiating with your child or changing your directive to save the emotional melt down. While it might seem easier at the time it doesn’t help them to learn how to manage their emotions positively or learn to respond to instruction with compliance. This is a needed skill throughout their lives.
- If your child begins to melt down, start by taking the time to acknowledge their emotions. “I see you are feeling disappointed that it’s time to clean up. You were hoping to play longer” Putting words to their tears and frustration helps them to understand what their body is experiencing.
- Give your child two positive choices to follow the direction given. For example, “Would you like to hop to bed or jump to bed?” “Would you like to put your right shoe on first or your left shoe?” “would you like to turn the game off on mommy’s phone or shall I do it?”
Sometimes your child is just too tired and it’s not going to go well. You can draw a line under those moments and try again another time. However, consistently implementing the strategies above gives you and your child tools for more frequent success.
Do not feel inadequate or defeated. Raising young children is exhausting work and sometimes feels thankless. Be Encouraged. You are doing a great job! You really are. God has given you your child to raise and along with that gift He offers His grace.
At TPK we are glad to support your parenting journey. Please reach out if you have any questions or just a need to come by our office and get some encouragement and a cup of tea. We are here for you!