Do you ever wonder how to get your child to listen to you, do what they’re asked and still retain their natural spontaneity and inquisitive nature? Would you like them to confide in you, respect your family boundaries and make good choices throughout their life?
These 10 tips will help you develop a mutually trusting, happy, loving family relationship – starting right now!
1. Have faith
Your child is born with 7 million years of human evolution inside them. They will naturally develop to become a happy, caring and independent adult. All you have to do is show them lots of love and be patient with their efforts. Sit back and watch before rushing in to ‘help’ them solve problems. Offer them opportunities to be involved with your family life. Show them how to do things and then watch how they put their best efforts in to be successful.
2. Allow them time to do things at their own pace
Children are capable of doing all kinds of wonderful things – but their world is much slower-paced than our adult world. They have a special, absorbent mind that takes in everything they experience including language, movement, feelings and sensorial impressions. With all this going on, it’s no wonder they often think and act slowly! Adults filter out most of what we experience but children do not. Demonstrate things using exaggerated slowness and you’ll see how your child focuses their attention on you, and is keen to have their turn afterwards. Leave more time than you need before you go out, so they can get ready at their natural pace.
3. Believe what you are saying and they will listen to you
Your child knows when you are being serious or when you’re playing around by your facial expression, body language and tone of voice. If you want them to listen to you and do as you ask, don’t be hesitant or doubt yourself. You can be firm and still be kind. Practise having a neutral facial expression (no smiling) and a calm, low voice. Look them directly in the eye and gently say what you want them to do. Have faith that they will listen, and they usually will!
4. Be consistent, speak clearly and choose your words carefully
The human brain is programmed to make secure connections when things are repeated. If you have gentle, firm, consistent limits your child will respond positively to them. If you keep changing your mind about whether things are ok one day but not the next, their brain can’t make strong connections and this results in negative behaviour. Ask yourself if you’re being fair? When you’re faced with unwanted behaviour, you could say “No, we don’t do that” or “This behaviour is not acceptable”. Be honest and give boundaries clearly, then move on to another activity and don’t dwell on their unwanted behaviour. It’s in the past and it must stay there.
5. Give them a choice between two options to avoid arguments
Children love to make choices. You can solve many arguments by giving your child two options that would be acceptable to you. For example, “Would you like to put your shoes on by yourself or shall I help you?” or “Are you going to wear the blue or red socks today?”. Sometimes you may find yourself in a yes / no battle of wills. You can redirect their thoughts with a choice because they really love to think, and they’ll feel responsible and respected. Interestingly, the more small choices you give your child when they’re young, the better they’ll be at making important choices as an adult.
6. Model the behaviour you want them to imitate
You are the guide for your children’s development – they absorb and imitate everything you do. If you speak calmly, so will they. If you shout and smack, they will either copy this or retreat inside themselves. Show that you can stay calm in challenging situations. If you want them not to hit others, give them encouragement e.g. “Use your words – what are you trying to say?” Try your utmost to control your frustration when they are testing limits. Limit-testing is developmentally important and when you stick to limits you’ll see how happy they are afterwards!
7. Prepare them beforehand – tell them how you expect them to behave
As long as you explain in advance, you can tell your children how you expect them to behave in any situation and expect them to do as they’ve been told. This is really helpful if they will need to be extra quiet in a library, eat meals quicker, or get ready to come home without a fuss after a playdate.
8. Include them in purposeful, practical activities within the home each day
If you involve your child with household tasks while they are young they’ll be happy to continue as they get older. Purposeful, practical daily activities like cleaning, cooking and tidying lets even the smallest toddler feel useful, helpful and capable. They develop independence, coordination, confidence, and all-round good character!
9. Limit screen time, especially for 0-6 year olds
TV and DVDs massively limit children’s natural creativity and concentration. Images move so fast that the brain can’t keep up and so it goes into a slow mode – similar to sleeping. If you want your child to develop concentration and creative thinking, then you need to ban or significantly limit screen time – you’ll be amazed by the changes in their attitude and imagination.
10. Spend quality time together every day – away from the TV and iPad
Set aside some time every day to do something with your children that they like doing. How about making something beautiful, cooking, reading, going for walks, playing sports, board games or cards, dancing, gardening or looking through old photos?
I often mentor families to create a positive, supportive family environment so that children feel heard and valued. If this sounds like something you’d like for your family I’ll be happy to help. Contact me to find out more.