There was a week where I felt like every single sentence I said started in one of these ways.
Between the toddler, the almost walking baby and the two older kids I feel like a lot of my job right now is to keep order and maybe even create some real peace!
Having come from a business background it seems simple to give a command with a specific follow up.
“Don’t hit your sister. Let’s practice being kind with our hands.”
It’s really a no-brainer and is both polite and guiding. Except it doesn’t work.
It appears that every time I start a sentence with a negative directive I’m automatically ignored. When the person keeping the peace gets ignored peace becomes harder to keep!
Additionally, when every sentence directed at my kids begins with a negative assumption, I’ve already lost. I spend the day feeling negative, empty and frustrated.
By now the older two know the house rules and the consequences for not following them. Even my 3 year old is well aware of what she can and can’t do. As our kids grow out of the baby stage we need to grow with them. How and what we say to them needs to change.
So I decided to try an experiment with my kids who are 7, 5 and almost 3. What if I dropped the negative assumption and just started with my follow up?
“Norah, let’s practice being gentle with our hands.”
3 things happened…
1. I am more prone to acknowledge the child by name instead of giving a general decree to “quit” “stop” “no”. Because I am thinking about what I’m saying I am also more aware of which child I am speaking to. In turn they become more aware of me.
2. I am automatically assuming a positive position. By giving a command that requires a next step I am assuming that they know the household rules. I am acknowledging that they are part of the family system and that I believe they can handle that role.
3. I am giving the child a choice. Kids are kids and at this stage are exploring their independence. By providing them with a suggestion instead of a negative command, I am challenging them to make a choice. If I believe they know the rules then I believe they know how to follow them. Saying something like “let’s practice being gentle with our hands” gives my daughter the chance to stop her own behavior and redirect herself. She has the opportunity to choose self control and obedience.
The kids seem to like this system and respond to it so much better. They are demonstrating they know the rules and redirecting themselves.When needed, I am also able to administer consequences from a place of true correction and not just frustration. I am also feeling less like a school marm with a ruler and more like a parent training her children.
We want our kids to know the rules and follow them. That means we have to provide opportunities for them to practice the things we have taught them from infancy.
There-in lies the key. This doesn’t work if the boundaries and expectations of the home have not been established and/or understood. If you haven’t done that yet – do it! Figure out what your house rules are, how you expect them to be followed and then make sure your kids understand them.
When your family is all on the same page, spare yourself the grief of saying “No!” “Don’t” and “Stop!” all the time. Skip the command and go straight to the second thing – the follow up.
Give your kids the chance and challenge to be the gracious, obedient people they are growing into!
Often I’m talking to other moms and mention a tip or trick we’ve tried or are trying. I’ve decided to keep a running list here on the blog. I’m hoping on Thursdays to offer a “Mom Tip”! Maybe one of them will inspire something positive in your own home.