When my daughter was young, I knew she had a mind of her own. She wasn’t going to do things to please me. I know that some parents use the “this would help me” approach to getting kids to follow directions. It may work when some kids are young yet it will quickly fade as they mature and put their own needs first.
A common challenge I had with my daughter, as many of you probably do, was to have her bring over her dishes. I remember reading in a parenting book one strategy where you charged your kid money each time you acted like “their maid” and cleaned up after them.
I thought I could give this a try. Jen was around 6 at this time and was receiving an allowance so she had some spending money. I told her, “Jen, every time you leave your dish on the table and I need to pick it up, I’ll charge you 5 cents maid service.”
What would your child’s response be to this declaration of payment for maid service?
My daughter immediately burst out crying saying, “I’ll never have any money!” All she envisioned was money disappearing. This “threat” did not encourage her to take her dishes over. This strategy was simply a punishment.
So, I didn’t do this and I learned that using strategies that felt like punishment to her would not encourage cooperation.
Instead, I started using a discipline approach that I’ll call the “One Word” strategy. I would say to her “dishes” that would trigger her to bring them over. Sometimes I had to say it more than once and I was ok with that. I didn’t say, “Please bring over the dishes” because that makes it a request, not a directive.
I also didn’t say, “How many times do I have to tell you” or any of the myriad ways parents try to humiliate children into feeling bad in hopes they will obey.
I taught a dad this strategy and he’s having great success saying to his kids, “Dishes”, “Dog”, or “Trash”. This doesn’t work with very young kids because they don’t have a mature enough prefrontal cortex to connect one word with all the meanings behind that word. For example, “dishes” means, I expect you to take your dishes over now, not later.
This Director Role “One Word” strategy feels respectful to children so I hope you try it even if you have to repeat yourself two or three times at first without getting upset. They will learn to respond more quickly with time.
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