So it's probably no surprise that we're fans of the show Super Nanny. I found an article on the show's official site that really captured our current communication/discipline processes and gave us a few new ideas.
By writing this post I don't mean to imply that we believe we have it all figured out. These are a few things that have worked for eM and me. If you find them of value then please help yourself.
I've added a few thoughts and, as always, I'm interested in others' ideas so please feel free to comment.
I believe tone of voice is an extremely powerful tool. I consciously choose a playful, higher octave as often as I can with the kids. My pitch is lowered for DEFCON 2 when the discussion is about something serious. If I observe that they're not listening and I need to get their attention, we move to DEFCON 3 and tone and intonation change again.
How to communicateTo get your child to listen, think carefully about exactly how you communicate. Subtle differences in words, tone and body language may affect whether your child tunes in or out!
Tone of voiceHow you say something is as important, if not more important, as what you say. Use an upbeat, encouraging, positive tone as much as possible. And when indicating limits, sound definite and confident. Any hint of uncertainty and you’re more likely to be ignored and debated.
- To indicate disapproval, use a firmer, lower, authoritative tone, but don’t shout.
- Avoid nagging. Ask once nicely, once firmly and then take action. If you typically repeat yourself several times before you take action, your child will learn to ignore your initial requests.
For my DEFCON 4 technique, I've found that either briefly raising my voice or getting close to them and speaking softly gets their immediate attention and compliance. Once they comply, my tone changes back to normal. I've been able to effectively manage their behavior with this technique which also means fewer timeouts and crying fits for them.
A note about nagging: it's very easy to slip into a routine of frequently repeating requests to them. I've found that the key is to be self-aware enough to recognize this in yourself (or in your spouse). Fall back on the fundamental technique of asking once, warning once and then, if you still don't have compliance, move to timeout. You'll find this gives your future warnings weight and you will break the nagging cycle. The hardest part is recognizing that you are, in fact, nagging.
For what it's worth, eM and I have added every single one of the nine techniques listed above to our parenting tool bag and have had great success with all of them.
- Communicate from close by. Don’t shout through from the next room.
- Always get down to your child’s height and make eye contact. An adult towering above a child can be intimidating.
- Use clear commands and keep requests brief and to the point. Limit yourself to a few important words (e.g. “8 o’clock. Bedtime”).
- Avoid accusing (“you never listen!”), criticizing (“you’re so lazy”), or threatening (“if you don’t hurry up, then I’ll leave without you”).
- Avoid phrasing which implies that cooperation is an option! “Shall we...?” “Could you...” gives your child a get out clause (i.e. “No!”). Instead, make requests clear, short and specific: “Bedtime now.”
How to encourage cooperationFor some children “no” can be the default position when they are asked to do things. Below are some tips to encourage your child’s cooperation.
- Make a statement of fact that describes the problem rather than accusing or criticizing. “There’s paint on the table,” or “I can see wrappers on the floor.”
- Give information. “Clothes on the floor don’t dry very quickly,” or “Leaving lights on wastes electricity.”
- Describe how you feel. “I don’t like hearing whining,” or “It bothers when I see clothes on the floor.”
- Reduce resistance by offering a choice about when or how something is done. “Would you like your hair done before or after breakfast?” or “Do you want to skip to the car like a pony or bound like a dog?”
- Avoid lectures, use one word. “Shoes!” or “Pajamas!”.
- Use the “when ... then” technique to focus your child on what needs to get done. “When you’ve brushed your teeth, then I’ll read you a story,” or “When pick up all your toys, then you can watch TV.”
- Praise and reward cooperation. Praise all signs of cooperation with warmth and enthusiasm.
- Use a reward chart to motivate your child for daily tasks such as getting up, brushing teeth or getting dressed.
- Use the involvement technique to encourage helpful behavior through positive attention.
One of my favorites is the involvement technique. I involve D and J in all of my projects around the house, with the obvious exception of those that are dangerous. I have found that this lends even more weight to the involvement technique when you need to apply it to a "chore" like picking up toys.
In addition to all the great advice from the article I'd also add that we use "please" and "thank you" to requests whenever possible so that J and D model our behavior.