I see a lot of people joke about how their kids have magical selective hearing; that when it comes to making a request, (“Please stop the video games for a few minutes to help straighten up”), the children don’t listen until mom loses her cool and starts yelling.
I think we all know that yelling is not the optimum way to get things done. We all hated it when we were subject to it, and we hate it when we do it to other people.
The thing is, it seems to come so naturally when we’re feeling unheard or ignored, out of control, and taken for granted. Not only do we want to literally make our children hear us, but we want to communicate “Look at how much you’ve upset me. You should feel bad about this.”
We really want to see some understanding from our kids that they’ve hurt us, and that they feel bad about it.
So after saying “Clean up your dishes.” 5 or 6 times with barely a “yeah okay” muttered in response, we’re frustrated and hurt, and just want them to HEAR us.
But believe it or not, this approach is not only actively working against your goal of them cooperating with what you’ve asked, it’s also building up more and more resentment, not only from you, but from them as well.
Let me explain why, and maybe help you find a better way to approach your kids. Having more tools in your tool belt than just “freak-out mode” is a good way to actually remain in control of your responses, rather than just white-knuckling through your frustrations.
To be straightforward with you, much of the reason our kids “don’t listen” until we begin yelling is because we’ve trained them in this cycle ourselves. We’ve shown them time and time again that they can wait and enjoy their video games just a few moments longer, until things get “really serious” (mom starts yelling). This is reinforced by the many times we choose to “let it go”.
If sometimes when they resist, they’re able to successfully avoid what you’ve asked of them, and at other times, you get fed up with the avoidance and finally begin yelling, what you’re setting up is a lottery for them that is all too easy to play.
“Maybe if I sit here long enough, mom will just let it go. Or maybe she’ll start yelling. We’ll see when we get there.”
This is obviously not the type of scenario we want, but it’s the cycle so many of us find ourselves in.
So how do we exit this cycle, and begin having more positive interactions with our kids?
The answer is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The truth is, we have to slow down and connect.
If you were looking for something to help you snap your fingers and have magically compliant children, I’m sorry to disappoint you…
But this way of dealing with anyone (and your children especially), is THE way to build strong, caring relationships, full of helping hands and respectful responses.
Instead of asking 5 times while becoming increasingly agitated, recognize the resistance (or sometimes just excited distraction) immediately, and speak directly to it.
Without rushing from room to room hoping they see your stress and take pity on you, without passive aggressive comments that deep down you hope get a reaction, and make them feel sorry for not getting up and helping without being asked, without coming in already angry…
Breathe (calm yourself),
connect (don’t just interrupt with a demand),
and ask for their help (or whatever it is that you need them to do.)
If you need to wait patiently, wait patiently. If you need to give assistance to help speed things up because you’re on a schedule, give assistance.
The goal here is to reframe the way you approach these situations from “demand > frustration > yelling”, to “connect > pause > help”.
If we can start practicing connection, and begin changing our mindset to one of genuine desire to teach mindfulness, helpfulness, and impulse control, not simply demanding a desired behavior and becoming resentful when it doesn’t happen, we are well on our way to having more peaceful, respectful, and helpful homes.
This may sound like a big ask. To be sure, we all need help with the practicals, and keeping the “why” behind our gentle parenting in the front of our minds.
If you would like that kind of help, please come join our Facebook group; Tending Lambs Community Group, for fellowship and encouragement from other Christian gentle parents.
Until next time,