Imagine…. Your morning is rushed, and your toddler just won’t get dressed!!
Cue role play:
Parent: Get dressed
Parent: Get your clothes
Child: Runs around the house, playing with everything except getting dressed
Parent: Frantically grabs clean looking clothing, and begins to enter into a power struggle with child to get dressed.
In Positive Discipline Parenting classes, we discuss what “my child doesn’t listen” means. Is it that they do not listen? Or is there another factor causing the struggle? Often, from my experience as a parent and parent educator, there is typically another reason.
Dr. Jane Nelson suggests that children will listen when they feel they are being heard. Say what? Did I just read that sentence correctly? This quote and mention took me a long time to understand, and truthfully I am still working towards fully understanding it. However, I am able to share some insight into this parenting tool.
Often when parents come to a class and share that their children do not listen, what they really mean is their children do not obey. These are difficult words to hear and probably to identify with which is okay! Let’s dig a little deeper for more understanding. When I started my Positive Parenting Journey, I became mindful on how many times I would simply tell my children what to do, how to do it, and the best outcome. I became aware of what this type of interaction usually lead towards… any guesses? Yes!! It lead to a power-struggle in which I would often lose to a human who barely reached my knee caps. When I started to look into my part of the dyad and my participation and began to consistently use Positive Discipline tools, my parenting adventure became easier and easier. I began to notice that we were able to bring back fun in our daily life!
The beautiful part of Positive Discipline Parenting is that there are many tools that parents can choose from when dealing with challenging behaviours. This means there are many tools that can be effective in similar situations! And what works for you, your child and the situation may be different than what works for another family experiencing a similar challenging behaviour. There is no specific formula to follow, as each family has their own strengths! And what is even more fantastic, at least to me, is that these tools work over a life time and in all situations. The tools can work with a toddler, preschooler, teenager and even with your colleagues! We explore a minimum of 50 tools each parenting class, and I am always amazed at which ones work for various families. There is a great deal of interactive and engaging learning that occurs in our classes in which parents are able to connect, share, and learn from each other.
Let’s explore a couple Positive Discipline tools that can be used to gain cooperation, mutual respect and active listening (on both sides).
- Asking vs Telling
In this tool parents gain the experience of being told to do a handful of house hold chores such as “picking up toys”, “go to bed”, “brush your teeth”. After seeing reactions based on how one is thinking, feeling and decision making, another round of this activity occurs. Parents then experience being asked to do a particular chore and some examples include, “time to clean up and I will help. Would you like to start with the trains or lego?”, “How can you make your teeth sparkling white?”
Asking a child for participation helps with their sense of belonging and significance. These help a child feel like part of the family and decision making process. Plus, it allows autonomy over parts of their life.
- Providing Choices
Providing choices helps to promote cooperation and caring. This tool would be used to promote the kind AND firm parenting style. As a parent, we are able to firmly decide what we can live with and then provide our children with the opportunity to decide – this is the kind aspect.
For simplicity let’s use a basic chore/expectation of clearing the dishes off the table after a meal. This can be introduced into a family’s routine at a very young age.
The choices can be something similar to, “Do you want to carry your plate or cup first? You decide”.
Another challenging behaviour that I hear often in my classes is putting away jackets, shoes, backpacks and so on after arriving home after a long day.
A choice, could be something along the lines of, “The front hall needs to be clean. Which are you going to pick up first backpack or water bottle?” Or “Oops, shoes or jacket first, you decide”. Sometimes providing choices is a way of reminding the child what the agreement was.
Much love in your parenting journey!