Children will repeat a behaviour if it gives them something that they want. A few years ago I tried to bribe my nine year old son to stop biting his nails. I told him that if he stopped biting his nails for a month I would buy him a particular toy. He immediately stopped biting his nails for a whole month. I couldn’t believe it because this had been an ongoing battle for many years. But the thought of getting a new toy was all it needed to motivate my son to change this habit.
The sad thing for me was as soon as I bought my son the toy, he bit all his nails straight back again! I was absolutely devastated however didn’t have the knowledge I now have to know how to handle the situation. What I should have done was made it clear to him right from the beginning that he would have to keep his nails looking good in order to keep the toy. Next time I would make my expectations very clear at the beginning.
As parents we need to figure out what behaviour we want to encourage and then figure out how we can encourage it. Then just go ahead and do it. It really is easier than you think. My Mum and Dad often come to stay with our family and my Dad is always giving my children little bits of money as incentives to do the right thing. He walks around the house trying to catch each one of kids doing the right thing and then he pounces on them with the money, letting them know that their behaviour was outstanding. The kids really love it when their “Poppy” does that for them. It makes them feel special.
Even animals will repeat behaviour for a good consequence such as a treat. A guy I clean for has a puppy and she always used to bark whenever I did the vacuuming. That is until I started carrying treats in my pocket for her. Whenever I saw her sitting quietly while the vacuum was on I would reward her with a doggy treat. Now I can vacuum the whole house without the dog barking. The dog is happy because she gets her treats and I am happy because I get to vacuum in peace.
So, figure out what behaviour you wish to encourage in your child and set about catching them doing it right today. Good luck.
A strong willed child is interesting to deal with but as a parent, I love a challenge. I have one of these precious darlings in my family at present. So, I feel for you parents. But there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel – I can assure you.
A great example is how I handle my daughter at bath time. I never say to her, “Becky, it’s time for your bath” as I have learnt that this can instantly cause a power struggle. Not the fact that I want her to have a bath, but the fact that I want her to do something right now.
Instead I go for the option of giving her a choice in the matter. So I would say, “Rebekah, you need to have a bath. Would you like it now or would you like it in ten minutes?” The answer is always “in ten minutes”.
But the secret here is that you are happy with both outcomes. She feels like she is getting a choice in the matter and everyone is happy.
Often if I know that something is coming up soon, I will also give her warnings. Say we were at a friend’s house and I wanted to leave, I would always give her warning. First I would tell her that she has ten minutes left to play. Then I would remind her at five minutes, again at three minutes and yet again at one minute. This way she can begin to wrap up her game ready to go home. I find that if children get an appropriate warning that something is about to happen, they transition into it much easier.
It is important not to enter into power struggles with your children so we as parents need to do whatever it takes to help our kids. Remember, the goal of parenting is to help our kids become happy, healthy and confident in the outside world. And if that means giving them choices then you should do it.
I’m not saying that I give my girl choices all the time. I use this method mainly when Becky is already in a non-compliant mood.
I also try not to give Becky many direct commands as this gives her opportunity to say “no”. When I want her to do some dishes for me I might say to her, “I need a willing helper to do some dishes. Anyone want to volunteer?” This way my kids have an opportunity to willingly help rather than have it demanded of them. This works particularly well in my family as there are four kids and often they want to be seen as the best volunteer.
Another tactic I sometimes use is to try to make Rebekah suggest what I want her to do anyway. An example would be if I wanted to go shopping with her at K Mart I might get out a catalogue and say out loud, “I wonder what is for sale at K Mart today?” It may sound like you are playing a game but you need to do whatever will get your child on your side and not feeling like you are against you all the time.
When you do have disagreements, the most important thing to do is to let your child know that you are listening to them. When they are unhappy they need to
know that you understand why they are feeling the way they are, even if you don’t agree with their feelings.
These tips will pay great dividends with your strong willed child. Good luck!
How can I get my child to listen to me? I hear you say. This is an ongoing problem for many parents. I can sympathise with you as it isn’t easy. Sometimes as parents we need to have the wisdom of Solomon.
My 12 year old son finds it terribly difficult to listen to me. If I want him to do something, I have to go up to him and put my hand on his shoulder and say to him, “Sammy, look at me with your eyes”. It’s as if no-one is home inside of him sometimes. He truly doesn’t hear me. Therefore I don’t expect him to answer me if I am not in front of him. Many would disagree with this but that is the way I choose to deal with him.
Sam is an individual and as such needs to be treated differently than my other three kids. He is mildly ADHD and I need to allow for that, even though I don’t let it become an excuse. With this child, I choose to focus on other more important things in his life.
I have a 14 year old who is not ADHD and I know is capable of more than his other brothers. Therefore I hold him to a much higher standard. This is my choice. I have always told my children that they are individuals and as such I will treat them as individuals.
This year Sam is playing soccer but my other three are not. That is my choice. He has a flair for soccer and practices harder and is more passionate than the others about the game so I decided to give him that opportunity. It beats me how Sam can always be concentrating when the ball is near him but when I say something to him he just doesn’t hear me. But that’s the way he is, so I use different strategies for him.
With my other children, I expect them to respond quickly when I ask them to do something. Sometimes I still have to get down to Rebekah’s level (she is nine years old). If she was playing a game and I needed her attention I would tend to go to her to make sure I had her attention.
We need to model listening to our kids and this one thing you can be very sure of: if you don’t listen to your kids they will not listen to you. You have no right to expect your child to listen to you if don’t listen to them in return. Remember, being a parent is not about dictatorship rather it is a two way communication between parent and child, whereby your child has the right to request choices and privileges from you.
I hope this helps parents just a little. Listen to your child and they will listen to you in return.