What happened to his listening ears?
He used to tidy up when the timer beeped, turn off the iPad after the agreed-upon last turn, and get ready for bed without you having to ask twice. But lately… not so much. You’re repeating yourself to the point of hoarseness and borrowing phrases from your parents, which only makes you more annoyed. It sucks being sick and tired of talking to a brick wall.
Learn a new language: childese.
If you want him to listen to you, he needs to understand you. This doesn’t mean dumbing down your vocabulary or using a super annoying high-pitched voice, which we DO NOT recommend. The more you nag, the more he gets used to you nagging, the more he tunes you out, the more frustrated you get, the more you yell, the more his self-esteem takes a hit, the more resentful he is, the more he tunes you out. Sound good?
Here’s how to make yourself crystal clear: speak calmly, give two options so he has some control, let him know the consequence if he doesn’t follow through, and use as few words as possible. If he ignores you and it’s time to lay down the law, switch into silent mode, take a deep breath instead of going ballistic, and consequence away. He’ll definitely notice you turning off the wii when he continues to play after five minutes are up, or donating the toys he “forgot” to put away during tidy-up time. And he’ll definitely pay attention the next time.
To enforce consequences effectively, you need to be:
- Honest. He may believe you the first time you say his monster truck will eat his dinner if he doesn’t hurry, but his trust will fade, along with his respect, when it becomes obvious you lied.
- Practical. The punishment has to fit the crime. If he’s dawdling over dinner kindly let him know you’re setting the timer and if he hasn’t finished before it beeps, no dessert.
- Reasonable. Give him enough time to finish his meal and also recognize he may just not be hungry. If he runs out of time and hasn’t finished he’ll be bummed enough about missing dessert; getting mad at him will only make him feel worse. Let it go and move on so he can too.
- Consistent. Forcing him to hustle one night and then letting him dawdle the next only confuses him. Remember Pavlov’s dog?
Nothing makes him more attentive than when he thinks he’s not supposed to be listening. Softly asking the baby, “Do you think your brother will remember to put Thomas away before going upstairs?” is a surefire way to get er done. This is actually a great way to make him feel super proud when he’s been a superstar too. Praise great behaviour so he doesn’t constantly feel under attack – making a lot of deposits allows for some withdrawals when necessary.
It’ll cut down on how often you have to repeat those daily reminders if you teach him to own his responsibilities using visual cues. He’ll be able to figure out what to do without you having to ask/tell/nag, and also love the satisfaction of checking off completed tasks; who doesn’t? Create charts together – use pictures for a younger crowd. You can take a look at our current jobs chart here (if you want to). It’s posted on the fridge and everyone checks/stickers a task once done. The earlier you make it a habit, the less protest there’ll be – it’s hard for anyone to adapt to being less lazy!
So what if your defiant preschooler comes inside the house, walks past the picture you made together of him hanging up his coat, drops it on the floor, and runs off to play? Resist the urge to hang it up – it only reinforces that ignoring inclination if you do. Leave it there, enjoy some alone time, and when he comes back to ask you to make a snack/read a book/play, calmly reply “I’ll be happy to when you’ve done your job,” while you continue to eat/read/iPad. This is also a handy technique when he defiantly yells ‘No!’ when you ask him to brush his teeth/pee before leaving the house/help you sort the laundry. Sure he’ll grumble, but he’ll also (eventually) recognize what’s expected of him and will even start to feel proud of his newly-discovered self-sufficiency. Not that he’d ever admit it to you.
Tuning out a broken record is a learned behavior, especially since your kid has no idea what a record is. Start talking his talk if you want him to walk your walk and put those cliché parenting sayings to rest. Because we said so.
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