May 17, 2010
Encourage your child to listen the first time you ask...The "Think Through"
We were delighted to hear from many parents that they were using the tips from last months column by Noel Janis-Norton, creator of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, to get their children to do what they were asked the first time. If you missed last month’s column, take a minute to read it now so you’ll be primed for her next strategy!
Macaroni Kid Readers: How do I get my kids to listen the first time? I can’t stand it when they talk back or just ignore me! I don’t want to have to keep repeating myself and finally yelling.
Noël Janis-Norton: You’re not alone. Parents always tell me that lack of lack of listening and cooperation is the most frustrating aspect of parenting. It makes them lose patience—nag, repeat, bribe and negotiate. But the good news is that getting first time listeners is easier than you think, and that’s what the program I’ve developed, which is called Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, achieves. As I shared last month, the first thing we need to do as parents is to begin communicating in a way that motivates our kids to want to listen and cooperate with us, and you can achieve that by using Descriptive Praise.
The other critical thing we need to think about is “How we make it easier for our children to cooperate the first time and harder for them to ignore us or argue?”. We’ve all tried repeating, reminding, bargaining and pleading, and it isn’t very effective at helping our children to become first time listeners. It may work sometimes, but I want to give you a tool that works 90% of the time.
A strategy I developed, called a think-through, is the key to achieving this goal. Think-throughs help our children remember and follow our rules and routines. A think-through maximizes the likelihood of your child cooperating by jogging his memory about your expectations or rules, but it is NOT a reminder.
Here’s what’s different about a think-through. When we tell our children what we want them to do, we are hoping that they will take it seriously and think about what we’re saying and remember it. Unfortunately, to kids it just sounds like another lecture and they tune us out—blah, blah, blah. But with a think-through, the child is the one saying what he has to do, and that has a positive impact on his memory. It is a highly effective technique for any habit that you want to change.
Here’s how to do a think-through. Instead of waiting until your child does something wrong, you’ll need to be proactive and address the issue earlier in the day.
1. Choose a neutral time. This is very important. Never do a think-through right after something has gone wrong. It won’t work. A neutral time means a time when neither you nor your child is in a hurry and neither of you is annoyed about anything.
2. Do think-throughs with each child separately, even if the same rule applies to more than one child. This will enable each child to concentrate on you rather than on each other.
3. Ask your child some questions about the rule or the expectation.
4. Spend no more than a minute on the think-through. In 60 seconds, you can ask and get answers to between 4 and 8 questions.
Here is an example of how a think-through might go if your issue is that you want your child to be a first time listener:
Parent: I’m going to ask you a few questions, dear… I can see you’re looking at me. That shows you’re being respectful and paying attention. (that’s descriptive praise) Here’s my first question. When Daddy or I ask you to do something, what should you do?
Child: Ummm…. Do it?
Parent: That’s right. You have to do what we ask or tell you to do. And when do you have to do it?
Child: When you tell me?
Parent: That’s exactly right. You have to do it as soon as we ask. And you probably don’t always feel like cooperating. Sometimes you might not want to put your toys away when we tell you. But what do you have to do?
Child: Put them away.
Parent: You knew the right answer and you answered my question straight away. (more Descriptive Praise)
Now that took even less than a minute. And here is something you may not believe. If you are willing to do several think-throughs like this every day, pretty soon your child will become a first time listener without making a fuss, 90% of the time.
The reason this is so effective has to do with how the brain works. When we say something, we automatically visualize whatever it is that we’re talking about. So when a child says “I have to do what you ask me to do the first time”, then she automatically sees a picture of herself cooperating. This works for all types of things we want for our children. Start practicing think-throughs, and you’ll be surprised by the results. Wouldn’t family life be calmer, easier and happier if you didn’t have to repeat, remind, nag or negotiate?
Another terrific result of doing think-throughs is that you have more and more things to Descriptively Praise because your children and doing more and more things right! These two core skills of calmer, easier, happier parenting can quickly begin to transform family life.
Now you’re likely to have questions since I can only share the very basics of this powerful parenting tool in a short column. My goal is that you’ll exit this column with enough information to give this strategy a try. If you want to learn more, my Skills CD, Preparing for Success, Simple Strategies that Prevent Behavior Problems shares many proactive strategies, including think-throughs that you can use right away to improve cooperation and reduce resistance. It also answers all the questions parents typically ask about how to put these strategies into practice, gives many practical examples and shares success stories from parents.
And as important as think-throughs and Descriptive Praise are, they are not the only parenting strategies you’ll need to get your child into the habit of cooperating the first time. Next month I’m going to share a simple six-step method that’s called “Never Ask Twice”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Until then, take the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting challenge and start using think-throughs to help your child remember and do what you ask. You’ll see positive results faster than you can believe.
For weekly parenting tips, follow Noel on Twitter @calmerparenting
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