When teaching children to learn to read, do household chores, finish homework and other related tasks, parents want to be their best friend through the process. The role of parenting however, can often interfere with the hope for household peace. Behavior analyst and special educator Jessica Minahan shares 5 great ways to bypass this potential issue:
“It’s all too common for parents to find that asking their child to perform a daily chore, complete a task, or help a sibling ends in a standoff, with both parties feeling frustrated and resentful. Why does this happen?
Well, it takes more skill than you might think for the child to execute a task – let’s say, doing the dishes after dinner. First she has to stop what she’s doing. Then she has to plan a course of action and engage in something she doesn’t find inherently rewarding – doing dishes doesn’t evoke a pleasant feeling like eating or playing a game would! (That’s why we call them chores.) Not only that, but she has just endured a full day of school requiring her to follow demands, which leaves her with less stamina to do so at home, resulting in whining, arguing, ignoring, and even defiance.
Changing the way you deliver the direction to your child can help. Here are five strategies for you to try at home to make things go more smoothly:
1. Allow time to comply:
Since children’s initial reaction to a demand is somewhat agitated, such as groaning, making a face, or even yelling, it’s helpful to allow them time to decompress. Give her some control over when to do the chore (“Please pack your backpack and put it by the door before you go to bed.”), rather than requiring that she do it immediately (“Pack your backpack now!”).
2. Write it:
Arguing can seem inevitable. But if you don’t wait for a response, your child is less likely to argue. Instead of giving a direction face-to-face, write the direction on a piece of paper, hand it to the child, and walk away quickly. For older children, try e-mailing or texting the request so they’ll get the message when they get home from school.
3. Give the reason before the direction:
When you make a demand, children stop listening. Giving the rationale for the demand before you give the direction can ensure they hear it. For example, “I have to go grocery shopping before the store closes, so please help me clear the table,” as opposed to “Please clear the table because I have to get to the store.” This will help them have the compassionate and reasonable response you’re looking for.
4. Give controlled choice:
Embedding control within every demand reduces frustration. Instead of saying “Pick up your clothes!” say, “Do you want to put your clothes in the hamper or in the washing machine?” Choices can be embedded in many aspects of the task, making it more palatable:
- When (before or after dinner)
- With whom (mom or dad to help you)
- What sequence (what order tasks are done)
- Where (sit on the chair or the couch)
- Materials (do you want to use a brush or a comb)
5. Use praise:
Even though it’s the child’s responsibility to do certain tasks, validating their efforts and expressing appreciation is a helpful way to gain their cooperation.
Children need to follow directions at home everyday, but it doesn’t always have to be a battle. Changing the way directions are delivered, while using a neutral respectful tone of voice can bypass a standoff with your child and reduce stress for everyone.”
If you enjoyed Jessica’s post, you can read more from her in the book, “The Behavior Code”
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