Listening: Help our Children LISTEN without force
Listening— It's not a behavior we can ignore... and it's not a behavior we can force. So I'm going to go over different goals and strategies that build on each other. If the first one doesn't work, combine it with the second... if that doesn't work combine it with the third and so forth. Start here.
First of all, power comes from CHOICE not FORCE.
What is your goal? I'd like my child to get dressed.
Strategy: Offer two POSITIVE choices that reach that goal.
"You can put on your shirt first or pants first." (Giving them a choice, gives them more power of the situation, they feel in control and will often help them listen without any further strategies.)
Behavior we want: We want them to get dressed right? So reinforce it. Focus on it. PRAISE it. "You chose to get dressed, YOU DID IT."
When we need them to listen... because they are doing something they are NOT supposed to be doing.
The goal remains the same, we want to help them listen, but more importantly we want to help them regulate their body to be able to listen. The context has changed, and so does our strategy.
These are the kids we are telling the same instruction to 50 times in one day. Why is it not getting through to them?!
#1 We are putting all the attention on the behavior we don't like
#2 The problem isn't that they aren't listening, it's they can't regulate their body
Strategy: Come Early, Stay Late
Right when the behavior starts, start the conversation.
Behavior we want:
The big kicker here, is that you are helping them regulate your body, by asking them questions, walking with them, getting them onto a new activity. AND REINFORCEMENT. Comment on every single tiny behavior you like when they are on the new task.
In my toddler situation, this would happen at gymnastics. Being silly, running away from station. "Charlie, stop and look. What do you think I'm going to say?" *Prompt for younger* "That you need to go to your class and listen to your teacher. Right?" "Who are you supposed to listen to... teacher. Where's your teacher...*point*" "Okay let's do it together, and listen to our teacher. Walk through the first few stations. WOW you did candlestick all by yourself. Holy smokes, a bear! You can do the bear walk.
When not listening... causes a natural consequence.
GOAL: Teach child why listening is important NOT to win the power struggle.
Pack your lunch. Didn't pack lunch. Didn't have lunch. OUCH.
Put away your toys. Didn't. Toy broke. OUCH.
Sometimes natural consequences are a GREAT opportunity to teach. But the lesson is not in the action.
Old way: "See what happened! Your toy broke, now you know why I said to clean up!"
What this says: See I'm right, you're wrong. I win.
New way: "Your toy broke. Is that what you wanted to have happen when you didn't clean them up? Wow, how do you feel?" *Validate that feeling* Then create a plan! "What could you change for next time? How can we make sure we clean up next time? Should we right this down? How will you remember?"
What this says: There are outcomes that happen as a choice for not listening and we can make choices for next time that prevent it from happening again.
Behavior we want:
We want them to want to problem solve. Toy broke. They don't need a lecture. They need a reflect, feel the consequence of their choice. FOCUS and PRAISE on how they problem solve for the next time. FOCUS and PRAISE how they actually respond to the same request again.
**Disclaimer** do not use this for dangerous behavior go STRAIGHT to logical consequences, we do not need to wait for our child to be badly injured to teach…
When choosing not to listen needs a consequence.
Start with the two POSITIVE choices. If they refuse to listen. Then it might be time for phase two.
Give them their choice with positive consequence, and their choice with negative consequence with warmth.
"You can get in your car seat nicely and have a toy to hold, or you can fight it and have no toy." (Rationale: If we JUST give a positive consequence, then they will not understand the power of their negative choice. Giving them both the choices with the consequences helps teach them decision making skills and regulation) *fights it* "I can see that you chose to not have a toy by not listening."
Buckle with the dreaded struggle. Breathe through it. Don't yell or get mad, just hold their bodies in and buckle.
Driving away. "You look upset. It's hard to not have your toy. You can handle it. Breathe." That's it. Prompt a little bit of regulation... and then ignore the negative behavior. When they do ANY ounce of positive behavior praise it. "You took a giant breathe!!! That helps your body calm down" "You're calming down."
Before situation arises again. Talk about two positive choices. You can buckle and watch a show. You can buckle and have a toy. OR you can buckle the top first or bottom first. Which one is better for you? Make a plan together for a happy outcome and a positive choice, before moving back to the choices with consequences.
Another example of logical consequence for not listening:
Goal: Clean up toys
(Strategy: Two Positive Choices) Alright, it's time to clean your toys. You can clean the duplos first, or the blocks first. Which is better for you?
I HATE YOU! YOU'RE EVIL. I DON'T EVEN LIKE MY TOYS. (Ignore this behavior, go to the next strategy)
(Strategy: Choices with Consequence)
You can clean your toys up, and pick a new one to rotate into your playroom. OR you can choose to not clean up, and we will have to put them away and only get out one at a time.
I can see you chose to have my put ALL your toys away, by not cleaning up.
You seem disappointed. It's hard. Next time you can choose differently.
Behavior We Want:
Cleans up one toy! CELEBRATE IT. You cleaned up one block.
Next time he cleans a whole basket. CELEBRATE IT.
Prepare, last time we didn't clean up. So we can only get out ONE toy this time. Do you like only playing with one toy? Well, what can we do differently this time so we can get all your fun toys back out?
Every single goal has a strategy and the behavior we want. Whether we are giving a consequence or just giving a choice. We need to ALWAYS, ALWAYS focus on those positive behaviors. Even if they are tiny tiny baby steps in the right direction.
FOCUS on the behavior you WANT.
Lauren Pace, MS | Parenting Coach | Child Behavior Coach | Logan, Utah | WA | Online