If you have little ones, then you probably know how it feels to have your buttons pushed. Well, I’ve got some solutions to help you get your kiddos to listen better & cooperate more… all without relying on fear, force, bribery or rewards.
Sounds pretty good, right?
We’ve All Been There
Even with the best intentions, power surge stages of life (like the toddler, tween & teen years) can drive us to become parents we never wanted to be. We go from the peaceful, connected parents we dreamed of being to parents who…
- Parents who are driven to threaten, punish, yell, scare, or force more than we’d like to admit.
- Parents who don’t focus on the good because pointing out the flaws is easier.
- Parents who resort to bribing & rewarding for everything from going potty to leaving the playground when asked.
Now trust me, most parents have been through a season where these things became part of their day-to-day. Even me! (Podcast episode #1 of The Fresh Start Family Show talks all about that!).
It was draining, sucked the joy from my days as a mother & created bitterness & exhaustion. No parent deserves to feel this way, which is why I’m here to bring you some good news. There is a better way to parent, and you can bring it into this new decade with you!
I have dedicated my life’s work to passing on what I’ve learned ”¦ and to helping parents learn to LOVE parenthood & LOVE raising their kids by doing things a little differently! (Join Wendy’s FREE 5-day Positive Parenting Mini-Course HERE)
It really is possible to influence our kids to behave well and respect our leadership in ways that are healthy, kind, firm & gentle ”¦ and the long term results are INCREDIBLE.
8 Strategies for Finding True Power in Parenting
These 8 strategies are meant to help you find true power in parenting and they will have you redirecting your kids up and out of misbehavior like a #boss in no time.
- Be direct about what you want and ask for it
- Seek to understand, rather than blame
- Make empathy your parenting default and use it often
- Be patient (even when it feels impossible!)
- Make use of gentle touch and kind eye contact
- Really listen
- Use a neutral, considerate tone
- Implement fresh starts
When your child pushes your buttons, says no, won’t cooperate, talks back to you or refuses to eat anything besides pb&j”¦ consider trying out one of these 8 strategies.
I promise they work WELL. I have personally used these strategies over the last decade to influence my children with integrity. From experience, I can say this worked to get my kids to see things my way & get on board with what I ask them to do.
It has been nearly a decade since our family started practicing positive parenting in our home, and we now have incredibly strong relationships with our children that are based on trust, respect, healthy boundaries, firm kindness & an unbreakable bond of unconditional love. This is my wish for you ALL as you head into the new decade.
Sound good? Alright, let’s get learning!
1.) Be Direct About What You Want and Ask for It
Quick activity for you! Just trust me on this one. Close your eyes & do NOT picture an enormous 1000 lb pink hippopotamus. Do it now for 5 seconds.
Ok honestly, what did you picture & fixate on? Yes, of course, an enormous 1000 lb pink hippopotamus!
This same thing happens when we scream at our kids. Their little brains focus on exactly what we DON’T want them to do, whether that’s being rough with a sibling or pulling the dog’s tail.
Instead of screaming your usual phrase, switch it up & ask for what you want:
- Do NOT play with your food vs. Please put your food in your mouth & we can play with legos after dinner
- Don’t pull the dog’s tail vs. Can you show me how you pet the dog gently?
- Do not talk to me with that tone vs. I’d love for you to use a respectful, kind tone with me and I’ll do the same with you.
2.) Seek to Understand Rather Than to Blame
It is easy to jump to conclusions about our misbehaving kiddos. You might find yourself thinking things like:
- You are purposely trying to push my buttons
- You are acting entitled and don’t appreciate what you have
- You are being mean to your brother for no reason
- You just think you can do whatever you want. (spoiled brat)
Any of those sound familiar?
I am guessing they probably do, as this is how our culture has taught us to think about misbehavior. You might even have it engrained in you that a bad child = a bad parent. Positive Parenting curriculum teaches us to view it a different way & to embrace a NEW paradigm that includes this mindset:
A misbehaving child = a child that is communicating = an empowered parent who can help their child get their needs met respectfully & teach important life lessons with integrity.
Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs teaches us that misbehavior is simply communication. Your child may be misbehaving because they don’t YET have the maturity to communicate their need in a healthy respectful way.
When parents slow down to seek to understand what’s going on (instead of assuming negative intent in their child), kids respond a lot better. Then, instead of getting angry with one another we can teach them how to communicate better.
Learning about the 4 Categories of Misbehavior, as defined by Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs, is a great place to start. This is something we talk extensively about in our Fresh Start Family Bonfire membership program.
3.) Make Empathy Your Parenting Default and Use it Often
Empathy is like a superpower”¦ it’s not very easy to muster up but when you do, it can do great things for your relationships and lead to important problem-solving.
Here is an example:
Think of the last time you had a disagreement with a custom service representative.
Option #1: The representative you’re disagreeing with firmly holds their ground, arguing their point to its death & never pausing for a second to consider how you’re feeling or hear your side out. You both leave the conversation feeling like you haven’t gotten anywhere.
Option #2: You’re not seeing eye to eye but they slow down to listen. They say “I can totally see why you feel upset about this situation, help me to understand more how you’re feeling.” ”¦ you instantly feel heard & are able to start working out the problem with them, right?
Since parenting is so relational, dealing with our kids in times of upset, flows much easier when we exercise our empathy muscles & let them know we’re listening & can see why they’re struggling.
For a list of empathy statements, you can use daily with your kids to help them listen better & cooperate more, click HERE to download a free guide & template now!
4.) Be Patient
Yeah, this one feels impossible sometimes”¦ but parents, you’ve got to trust me. Slowing down is good for EVERYONE.
Especially, when you take this tidbit into consideration. Did you know that there have been studies done that show kids under the age of 7 often take up to 17 seconds to process requests & respond?
17 seconds seems like forever, but I’ve had so many parents test this over the years & they come running back to me saying:
“The 17 Second Rule is Magic! I asked my child to put on his shoes ”¦ then walked away for 17 seconds to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water & when I cam back, he was ACTUALLY doing it!“
Of course, this doesn’t work 100% of the time. Remember, we’re raising little humans, not robots, but try it out! I think you’ll be surprised how often it does work. Kids, just like all of us, just HATE to be rushed & pushed & prodded & poked.
It is funny how with a little freedom, they’ll often come around.
5.) Make Use of Gentle Touch and Kind Eye Contact
If your kids are anything like mine, they are basically mini-tornados, spinning around and around all day long, breezing through life & hopping from one fun activity to the next! That’s what makes childhood so great, right?
None the less, kids who are always spinning, jumping, enjoying life to the fullest, can get caught up in their own world.
When we come in with a soft hand on their shoulder, friendly eye contact and a warm smile ”¦. it can really “bring them back down to the earth” and ground them.
I recommend first offering soft-touch & friendly smile. THEN, we can ask them to please get their shoes on, or brush their teeth, or clean up the toys ”¦ whatever we need them to do.
This will skyrocket their rate of cooperation!
This practice is also incredibly life-giving for us parents because it forces us to slow down and look in our kids’ eyes, which is SUCH a beautiful thing.
Have you heard the saying that “windows are eyes to the soul”? I recommend keeping it in mind when parenting. I have found that by taking a moment to really look into our children’s beautiful eyes, my soul settles tremendously. It will help you stay super-connected, which not only feels good but translates to more influence with our kids too!
6.) Really Listen
Is there anything more maddening than when you are in a conversation with someone that clearly is not listening to a thing you are saying (or worse, doesn’t seem to even care)?
This is why our almighty parent mode of “I don’t even care what you have to say, listen to me or else!” often times backfires. Kids just shut down & become even MORE resistant to what we’re asking of them, leading them to drag their feet even slower.
Instead, take a deep breath & really listen to what they have to say.
Try asking them “what’s going on” instead of saying “why are you being so bad?” If we slow down & hold space for our kids, they often will open up & explain why they are acting a certain way. This helps us correctly assess which category of misbehavior they are in, so we can effectively redirect them up & out towards better behavior.
Interrupting, nagging, lecturing, scolding, yelling, intimidating are the things that don’t work without bribery and rewards. These things are essentially the opposite of really listening and will cause your kiddo to pull away from you. If you’ve got a strong-willed power kid like mine, they might push back even HARDER. This is something you definitely want to avoid!
When using these methods, your child is only complying because they’re scared of the outcome or just want you to go away, rather than cooperating because they truly respect you & the rules.
So slow down & practice a pause button the next time your child misbehaves. I promise even just one deep breath & listening intently for a short amount of time will help everyone feel better & make it much easier to move through conflict resolution.
7.) Use a Neutral, Considerate Tone
Controlling our tone is a tricky thing. If we are annoyed or feeling defeated, you better bet our kids are going to feel & respond with the same tone.
Here is a little trick I use. When I’m tempted to respond to my kids with a nasty tone (body language, eye-rolling, teeth gritted while I talk boldly)”¦ I to look at the wall & repeat to myself the color of the wall (in a neutral tone because it would be absurd to use an angry tone when you say “the wall is white”).
THEN ”¦ after you’ve laid out to yourself what a neutral, respectful tone is ”¦. ask your kids for what you want.
- I’d like you to please get in the car
- It’s time to brush our teeth & go to bed
- We need to clean up our toys in order to watch a show
When you talk to your kids in a calm, respectful, neutral tone, they will cooperate better & respond more respectfully.
8.) Implement Fresh Starts
Don’t ever EVER be afraid to start fresh. No matter what kind of morning you’ve had with your kids, YOU have the power & the choice to make the afternoon joyful, peaceful & connected.
So the next time your child melts down at Target & tantrums the whole ride home, or your kiddo has a negative attitude during the entire family photoshoot, or you & your spouse just can NOT get on the same page during bedtime… have the courage to start fresh.
Once relative calm has returned, ask your family to join you & say “I want to try that again because this morning didn’t go as planned. I know we can do this together if we put our hearts & minds together, can we start fresh & try again this afternoon?”
I promise you fresh starts work so well to give everyone a second chance to try again.
Give those a go & enjoy the benefits. I promise your kids will FEEL the difference & respond so much better to your redirection!
Take part in the Fresh Start Family New Year Kickoff challenge & leave behind the feeling of being lost and confused in your parenting journey! This program will help you to end the drama in your home & bring back peace, cooperation, and connection. Best of all, it’ll be a breeze! We’re talking 10-15 min. lessons each day for 5 days. You’ve got this!
Head here to JOIN her FREE 5-Day Positive Parenting Mini-Course!
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