Guest post by Miss J – The Child Whisperer – learn more about Miss J HERE
It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of telling our children what to do and how to behave. It’s how many of us were raised by our own parents. But there are ways we can involve our child in decision making and aid them in making better choices, helping to improve their behaviour overall.
Let’s look at 6 ways you can break the cycle and get a better-behaved child at the same time.
- ‘Guiding’ vs ‘Directing’ language
When you say “this is how you do it” or “you can’t watch TV” there is no opportunity for the child to learn how to weigh decisions, think critically, and develop the self-confidence that comes with success. Guiding behaviour employs open-ended language like “do you think that is a good idea?” Questions help the child reflect and learn. Directing is speaking ‘at’ your child. Guiding is speaking ‘to’ them. Here are some examples of how to speak to your child instead of at them.
Let’s take this idea one step further.
- Frame it! Give your child a choice and they will thrive.
Your child will flourish when given an opportunity to make a decision. They’ll learn so much more by experimenting with choices than you choosing for them. The trick is to frame their choices. “Would you like to choose a banana or an apple for dessert?” You’re choosing fruit for them, but simultaneously empowering them by providing control in their decision making. Give them a choice within safe parameters. Cause and effect learning starts as early as in the womb, so let them test their own hypotheses.
- Explain rules and consequences.
Providing your child with rules and consequences makes it easier for them to test and learn.
“If you do A then B will happen”.
Let them try it. Children need to explore cause and affect in order to learn how to make good choices in life. Giving them possible results for their choices and allow them time to think critically about an outcome beforehand. It also allows you to remove the authoritarian voice.
Instead of “You don’t get to use the ipad now”.
Try “Here’s your choices: you can use the ipad after you tidy up and your room will be nice and clean, or if you don’t tidy up, no ipad, and your room will be messy. What would you like to choose?”.
The child can choose a neutral or positive outcome. We abide by laws and regulations in society as healthy adults, so it’s up to us to teach children how to live as contributing members of society.
4. Giving your child a choice raises self-esteem
Nobody wants their life to be dictated. Not even children. Giving choices demonstrates to them that their ideas are valuable and that progress is acknowledged. Feeling valued creates confidence and contributes to perseverance, self-control and success later in life.
5. Project calm, loving assertiveness with your body, facial expression, voice and words.
I cannot emphasize how important body language is in conveying a consistent message. I recommend a firm loving tone as the most effective. It takes practice. When you say “stop. I don’t like when you hit your friends”. Is your body and face matching your words and tone? Are you rolling your eyes? Your child will pick up micro and macro expressions alike. When you need a child to absorb what you are saying, talk to them with the calm, loving kindness you would use with an adult partner. Have your body reflect it. Respect is essential. Children may not be able to articulate it, but they feel it when respect is present during interactions.
6. Your child is an individual. Be flexible and willing to change to meet their different needs.
The probability that you will end up with a child who isn’t exactly the way you expected them to be is high. Reflect on your childhood experiences. What are your expectations for your child? Where do those expectations come from? These are often challenging questions for parents. Your child is a unique human being, just like you. Empathize! Empathize! Empathize! You can give them opportunities to grow in loving support, but you can’t control who they will become. Breathe. That’s the best you can do. Love them every step of the way, hardest when they fall. Children can teach you, just as much as you teach them, and if you’re lucky sometimes more.
How you interact and communicate with your child will help them become a healthy adult. Good practices can make a world of difference.
Jocelyn Jagolino, or ‘Miss J’ has worked with families and children for over 15 years. Her warmth and ability to connect with children earned her the nickname “child whisperer”. She shares her experience through childwhisperer.ca and on Facebook. She has been recognized and awarded in Primary/Junior Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education, Psychology, and Mentoring. Her approach emphasizes behaviour analysis and neurolinguistic programming. She advocates respect for diversity, empathy and discipline without punishment. Find her at www.childwhisperer.ca