Keeping the Peace - What to do When Your Child Isn't Listening
It'll be a couple years before Silas starts to test boundaries but when he does, I have a foolproof way of staving off behavior that isn't up to snuff! When a child starts to bend the rules, it's easy to just say "No!" but it's even easier to find yourself becoming a broken record. Worse is when the final straw comes and now you and your child are in a screaming match. Discipline is never an easy thing to do but for children that are just starting to learn the ways of the world, it's necessary. All children are going to test boundaries, it's gonna happen. The easiest way to deal with these tests are to Remind, Warn, and Enact a Consequence. Usually I never have to get to the consequence part because warnings are such an effective tool to stop poor behavior in its tracks.
REMIND: When your child starts to do something that you don't like, the first rule of thumb is to Remind. So many caregivers will say "You know better!" but kids sometimes don't know better! With all the new rules and regulations they have to follow in life, sometimes they simply didn't remember that they weren't supposed to touch that specific tchotchke on the shelf or maybe they really didn't hear you when you called them inside the first time. Instead of assuming that they knew, remind them of the rules; "Simple reminder that we don't touch that vase because it's very special to me and I don't want it to get broken." or "Simple reminder that I called you inside a minute ago because it's time to eat dinner." Make sure you include a reason as to why their behavior isn't the correct behavior. Just saying to stop without giving a reason why is difficult for kids to understand but they can grasp the concept of something being special and you not wanting it broken or that they have to go in because food is getting cold. Using a calm and collected voice instead of jumping off the deep end from the get-go will usually set the tone in how your child responds.
WARN: This is where you will be tested to keep that calm and collected tone. If your child continues to make the poor decision to not listen, you should enact a warning. Warnings should be given in a firm but calm voice. This isn't the foreboding "I'm warning you!" warning or even a 3 strikes and you're out warning. Warnings should never exceed two - that's right, just two opportunities for your child to change their behavior before you're going to enact a consequence. Warnings should be stated as a first warning and a final warning, both with a confirmation from your child; "This is your first warning to stop touching the vase or you won't be getting dessert tonight. Do you understand?" If the behavior continues; "This is your final warning. If you continue to touch the vase, you will not be getting any dessert tonight. Do you understand?" Making sure that your child understands via a verbal confirmation is a vital point in warnings working. Make sure you have them look at you and respond with a "Yes". It's easy to just shout out a warning but when you make your child respond to you, it might reroute their focus away from that poor behavior. Making sure that you reiterate the behavior you want stopped, as well as the consequence, squashes off any "I didn't know I wasn't supposed to do that!" responses.
ENACT A CONSEQUENCE: This is a big one because there are a lot of caregivers that never actually hold their ground and enact a consequence. Yet, it is SO important because when you actually follow through, future instances where warnings are issued hold weight. If you never enact a consequence, don't be surprised if your child never responds positively to warnings - they know you're not serious so why should they bother to listen to you? A consequence holds even more weight if it's something the child chooses. Have a chat with your kid and ask what they would like the consequence for the day/week/month to be should they not listen. Then present two options from which they can choose from and make sure it's a consequence that they don't want to receive - not getting dessert when they don't like dessert isn't going to be effective. This gives the child a control they might desire and behavior becomes a conversation between caregiver and child instead of just the caregiver barking out orders.
I've had to use the warning system a lot in my career and sometimes I've even had to enact a consequence. Once the warning system is established, it's pretty rare that you'll have to get to the consequence part. Kids will be kids though and they will test boundaries but they also need to be respectful and listen. And as I've told many a child in my lifetime - You do the crime, you gotta do the time.
Have you tried this system out? Was is effective?