Tip for Handling it When Kids Don’t Do What You Ask

It can be hard to get kids to listen – how do you handle it when kids don't do what you ask?

Diane: So, sometimes when our kids don't do what we ask, we make this assumption that it's a sign of disrespect; that they're just doing it to be snarky. "No, you can't tell me what to do, mom." Or dad.

Elaine: Control or whatever it is. And often that may not be true. There are other things often going on. So the first thing we want you to do is: "don't take the bait."

Diane: Check your own triggers because the reality is that if you're upset because you're thinking, "Oh, this is a sign of disrespect. You should do what I tell you to do."

Elaine: "Because I'm the parent."

Diane: And if you latch into that, you're going to be fighting something instead of solving the challenge.

Elaine: And it's a great distraction for them because now they're focused on your behavior and your reaction instead of the issue you asked him to do in the first place.

Diane: Because what you really want is your child to begin to learn how to follow instructions more successfully as opposed to focusing on the disrespect. Because, that's where the bait lives.

Elaine: So, what are some of the reasons they may not follow your directions? Understanding that will help you begin to communicate with your kid differently.

Diane: So the first one is that you may not actually have their attention. I can't tell you how many times I've yelled up the stairs to get somebody's attention and then by the time I'm done talking, they're like, "Wait – was that mom's voice? Does she want something?" So – how many times do you not even have their attention?

Elaine: I often say, "Say that again. Sorry, I didn't process that." So make it okay to recognize that they have to get your attention and you theirs.

Diane: So the second one is working memory. Sometimes you tell them and they may not actually remember, even by the time they walk across the room.

Elaine: The third is you may not have their buy-in. You've asked them. They've said, "Uh-huh." And you think that means they've said "yes," but they may not have really agreed to or acknowledged that they were going to take ownership of it and do it.

Diane: And the second half of that is specificity. So if you say, "Please take out the trash," in your head you meant now, but they heard "take out the trash" and they're thinking, "Yeah, I'll get to it." And then you have to deal with working memory because they may think "I'm going to wait for it" and then they may not remember. So the point here is, instead of getting focused on the disrespect and taking the bait about that, to take a minute and ask yourself, "What's really going on that's making it hard for my kid to follow directions?"

Elaine: One behavior, one direction at a time.

Bottom Line: Take time to make sure you actually have their attention and they've really heard what you're saying. If there's a miscommunication and your kid doesn't do what you ask, think about what might be going on for them instead of jumping to conclusions.

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