As behavior professionals, it’s the most frequent inquiry: “How do I get my child to listen?”
While there are many variables when it comes to compliance, I would like to focus on three simple, easy, tips that can increase compliance and your peace of mind. They might seem very simple, but in the every day grind we tend to forget these details and they are incredibly beneficial to increase compliance, decrease all that whining and repeating yourself over and over with the same instruction.
1. Telling vs Asking:
I believe this is one of the most common problems that I see when communicating. Lots of parents use, “Can you pick up your toys?”, “Can you come over here?”, when in reality what they really mean is “pick up your toys”, “come here, please.” Why is the wording so important? The first example is a question. It is suggesting that your child can answer yes or no. The second one is an instruction. There’s nothing wrong with either however, it is important to use these in the right context. If what you are saying involves a choice, then use “can you …?”, or do you..?” (Do you want to go to the playground?”, “can you give me a high 5?”). On the other hand, if what you are saying involves no choice, then simply say the instruction (“pick up your toys,” “do your homework please”) and yes, you can say please when providing an instruction.
2. Follow Through:
It sounds easy enough, but this simple concept makes a world of a difference. Get your child used to the fact that “your word is golden” when you say you will do something, do it. Wether it’s a prize, a promise or a consequence (and of course, make sure that your promise is something you can actually make good on. No empty promises) Have in mind to do it for the small things as well. If you say “clean up your toys,” make sure they do what you asked for them to do. Don’t just forget that you asked them to do the task. Don’t do it for them, either. Make sure to follow through with the instructions you have given. I know, many times it’s easier to just do the task yourself rather than spending time making sure your kid picked up all of his room, but over time you’ll realize that your kids will follow instructions more quickly because they have learned that you mean what you say.
3. Mind the Order of Activities:
“Eat your vegetables and then you can eat dessert.” Do you remember this? I know that I do. Our parents and grandparents had it right. First the work, then the fun stuff. How likely would you have been to eat your broccoli if you had had your dessert first? Not likely, right?
You can apply this same principle to many other instances in daily life. Make sure to plan the fun/preferred activities AFTER the less fun or non preferred activities. This little change alone increases the likelihood that your kid will complete those activities that they might not prefer so much, because they have the motivation to engage in the more fun activity that will follow.
Sure, all of these strategies take up more time at first, and maybe you don’t have much free time right now. However, when done properly, they can increase compliance with your kids and free up time to do fun activities, spend quality time and try new things together as a family.