This is every mom, every time, while trying to get kids to behave: “Stop it. Stop it. STTTTOOOOOOPPPPP IIIIIT!” Enough already. Here’s how to make them listen the firsttime we say something, instead of repeating ourselves and then screaming like a madwoman.
1. Get their FULL attention Kids can get really absorbed in what they’re doing, so chances they don’t even realize you’re talking to them! If you want them to remember (and do!) what you say, try this:
Sit in front of them
Ask them to stop what they're doing
Look in their eyes
Say their name and what you want them to do
Ask them if they understand and get them to repeat what you said
2. Keep it short and concrete. The more you say, they less they hear. So skip the whole lecture and side comments, and say exactly what you want and by when.
Your usual spiel: "You’re eating too slow! You’re late for school. Hurry up and get ready now. Haaay, the traffic will be soooo bad… This is the third time you’ll be late this week, and now I’ll be late for work too. Why aren’t you done eating yet? Hurry up!”
Try this instead: “Finish your food now and go upstairs for your bath.”
3. Break it into tasks. Vague instructions give your kids more time to dilly dally, and it can even be confusing. To a young kid, “clean up your room” can mean taking all the toys from the floor and dumping them on the bed. “Well, you said to put them where nobody would step on them…”
Break it down into tasks. “Put the toys in the box, the books in the shelves, and your jacket on the hanger.” So you don’t have to say this every day, print out a checklist and hang on the door. Use pictures or icons for younger kids.
4. Deflect debate. First, don’t say, “Can you please…” because that invites replies like: “No, Later, Okay (and not really doing it).” But since kids need to feel they have a choice, offer options on how they’ll do it. “Time to take a bath. What bath toy do you want to bring with you?”
5.Let the timer do the talking. Admit it: You hate it too when your boss interrupts you with random meetings. You save yourself a lot of reminding and arguing when you give a routine and use a timer that’s set to give him a few minutes warning to tie up whatever he’s doing and move to the next.
6. Plan—and use rubber bands. Anticipate situations where they could misbehave and remind them of the rules beforehand. About to eat at a restaurant? Before you walk through the door, run through what you want them to do, like "use the indoor voice and stay in your chair."
Then use the rubber band trick. Give them three rubber bands to wear on their wrist. Each time they break a rule, transfer one to the other wrist. Once they’ve used up all the bands (the equivalent of three warnings) they face a consequence.
7. Whisper. Shouting and nagging don’t work and can be embarrassing in public. Call them over, and then whisper in their ear. It gets their full attention, and if they’re acting up, it’s a discreet way of getting them to calm down. Compare “Stop running around!” to whispering, “Sit here and count to 20 until you’re ready to play quietly.”
8. Follow through. I noticed that when my husband said something, they followed right away. “Why do they listen to you?” I complained. His answer: “Because they remember what happened when they didn’t listen.”
Uhm, yes. He doesn’t spank or yell at the kids, but he sticks through consequences. Once, when the kids were fighting at a fastfood restaurant while we waited for our movie schedule, he said: “If you don’t stop now we’re going home.” They didn’t stop. And yes, we went home—even if we already paid P1000 for tickets.
The lesson is don’t give a threat that you’re not willing to follow through, or you lose all credibility.
9. Master the Mom voice. I learned this trick from a career seminar of all places: a high-pitched voice shows anxiety and stress, and is so unpleasant that the brain tends to tune it out. If you want to make a point and assert authority, use a low voice and speak slowly.
It works at meetings, and it works with my kids too. The minute I lower my voice and give that face they know I’m dead serious. But I usually reserve this trick when it’s something very important. Doesn’t quite have the same gravitas when you’re saying, “Finish your hotdogs.”