Your DIrector parenting role is to teach your children to become responsible and capable by learning important life skills, such as cleaning up after themselves, using respectful language, getting along with others, etc.
I encourage discussing these important values with your children often (while keeping in mind that they may not embrace your values right away).
In some cases, children will be resistant to accepting and embracing your values, and more importantly, your directions.
Shifting Your Language
If you are having difficulty getting your kids to respond to your directions, in my experience, the most likely culprit is that your approach is either too commanding, too pleasing or a combination of both.
A minor shift in your language may be all you need to increase your odds of your child finally following your direction.
The drawback to the “too commanding” approach: using provoking statements like, “I want you to...”, “You need to…” or “You’re supposed to…” is that often, this language will inspire defiance in a strong-willed child.
Whereas using “weakening” words (e.g., please, OK, would you?, etc.) as an attempt to soften potential emotional outbursts, or because you want to be nice to your child, are typically just as ineffective.
You can be respectful without pleasing your kids at the same time.
A directive is not a joint problem to discuss. Politeness is best expressed by your caring tone of voice and respectful demeanor.
Pleasing words, while well-intentioned, appear to your child to be requests that can easily be ignored.
But the problem is, that you are not seeking the child’s approval.
Rather, your goal is to get their acknowledgement and agreement. To know that they’ve heard you and that they will cooperate with you.
What To Do/What Not To Do
Here are just a few examples of giving directives that can be weakened due to passive or softened phrases like, “OK”, “please”, or “would you?”
- “You need to turn off the T.V. now. OK? “
- “Would you please put your toys away? “
- “I want you to eat your dinner before you have dessert. OK? “
- “Please clean the bathroom before you go to your friend’s house.”
- “You can be on the computer for 30 minutes, OK?”
Be aware that children respond best to effective directives when they feel emotionally connected to you.
Make sure you are spending time listening to your kids and playing with them.
If you find after a short while of avoiding this language, and employing a Director Parenting role, that they are having a hard time responding to you, re-evaluate your time spent at effective listening to them.
Being an effective listener to your children is an important communication skill, through which you create change by employing connection and influence, not control.
Just The Facts, Ma’am
The most effective strategy to direct children is by using the “just the facts” approach.
This approach may not seem “nice” to the casual observer, but is truly respectful and caring (which is more important and effective).
You are not asking, pleading, or trying to please in order to get your needs met.
You are simply stating the expectation in a calm and direct manor. This eliminates arguing and your children using tantrums to manipulate you.
Avoid getting mad at your kids if they complain. That’s their job.
Your Director role is to set up structure so they can successfully learn the life skills you are trying to teach them.
Give your directions with total confidence that your respectful and reasonable directive will be done.
Remember that when you change how you interact with your kids, you will bring out a more positive response from them.
You will be amazed at how cooperative your kids will be when you speak with respectful authority to them.
Here are examples of the “just the facts” approach:
- “It’s time to turn off the T.V. “
- “Toys need to be put away now.”
- “After you clean the bathroom, then you can go to your friends’ house. “
- “You can be on the computer for 30 minutes. Do you understand?”
- “It’s time to feed the dog.”
Do not yell or sound irritated that you have to repeat the directive. Also, do not respond with “How many times do I have to tell you?!”
If they complain and ask why, or try to argue, do not engage.
Parents get trapped into thinking they need to answer “why” whenever it is asked.
Pro-tip: Your kids already know why.
So just calmly and respectfully shorten your directions while repeating the expectation.
Confidence Is Key
If you’re giving directions with confidence, not commanding or pleasing, then three times should be enough at first.
Soon, repeating only once will be sufficient. This approach is particularly effective with teenagers who love to argue. Saying fewer words is better than trying to explaining yourself.
- “T.V off”.
- “Toys away.”
- “Dinner first then dessert.”
- “Bathroom cleaned then friends.”
- “30 minutes, only.”
Everyone will feel happier when you are not nagging your kids and they know you will not be swayed by them.
Whew! What a relief!
The language you use is crucial. Learn about words that create power struggles by reading my article Stop Parent-Child Power Struggles by Stopping These Words
©2015 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.