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Home Family Parenting Advice Getting kids to listen — Good Parenting

Getting kids to listen — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

What’s the best way to get my children to listen to me? They pay no attention when I tell them to clean up their toys, make their beds, leave the playground with me, wash up for dinner, dry behind the ears, you name it. I hate to go grocery shopping. I tell them they’re not supposed to touch anything, but we end up at the counter with all kinds of stuff I didn’t intend to buy. I know they have perfectly good hearing.

Tired of Screaming

Don’t miss last week’s column Moving day with a 3-year-old — Good Parenting

Dear ToS,

Screaming is not a good way to gain cooperation. Plus, it might alarm the other grocery shoppers. The best way to be sure your child has heard you is with follow through on your part. For example, “Sweety, we’re only going to buy two boxes of cereal — here are your choices.” Then follow through with the choosing and counting and move on.

One technique to apply to as many situations as possible is to limit the amount of supervision of children you are responsible for to the demands of the task at hand. In other words, you may do fine shopping with one of your children at a time. Maybe you can add another if he or she is very helpful (a school-age child who can read from the prepared shopping list), or at least not too unhelpful (an infant asleep in her Snugli).

But if you can’t swing child care so you can shop “unobstructed” by children’s unending needs for attention and supervision, try to limit your shopping objective to a very few items until a time you can better focus on getting everything you need.

Use good parenting to follow through with other requests you make of the children. If you ask a child to make his or her bed, stay long enough to get them started or coach them through to the end if they can’t be successful on their own yet. This is time invested in creating independent and responsible children.

Clean up time similarly needs more parental help if the children are young, tired or have too many toys. Support the objective of getting all the toys in place by staying positive, guiding and modeling. Give specific short-term direction: “let’s march all the animals to their box.” You can take over a segment of the job to demonstrate that clean up actually can be an enjoyable task: “I’ll put the puzzle pieces in the frames that you dig out from under the couch.” Create an age appropriate challenge such as, “Can you carry four blocks at a time to the bin?”

Likewise, to get a child to stop doing what you don’t want him or her to do, your request needs some teeth in it. Make what you don’t want him to do impossible to do. Remove an object. Remove the child. And plan how you might make a more permanent improvement to prevent the recurrence of this conflict. See my past column about using Behavior Modification as an intentional strategy to help your child be successful with appropriate behavior.

Try to remember to only ask of children what you truly expect them to do, then follow through with whatever support they need to be successful.

Dr. Debbie

Note: Effective Discipline for Preschoolers series will run Mondays, July 14-28 from 6:30-8:30 pm. For registration, please call: Chesapeake Children’s Museum at 410-990-1993.

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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