As parents, most of us will ask our kids to get dressed, or brush their teeth, or go get their homework so we can get in the car. As kids, they typically will ignore that first request. We then follow with a few more requests using a really nice calm voice. The kids continue to ignore us. And it’s at that point that we change from nice to screeching, yelling, demanding, and threatening. And it seems to us as parents that’s the only time our children get engaged, when we escalate into the screaming, which is not really what we want to be doing. Most parents I speak with say they would love to be able to stop screaming.
It’s important for parents to understand that first of all most kids are parents deaf. It’s a little bit like the Charlie Brown scenario. What they hear through those first requests is [wah-wah, wah-wah]. All of these requests and reminders train the kids that they don’t really have to move until we escalate. So one of the ways to break that pattern is to start out by giving our kids choices, because they have to answer you.
When you speak to your kids change from a direction to a request or a choice. “John, would you like to brush your teeth now or after this commercial? Mary, would you like to get your homework now or after we finish dinner. Jamie, do you want to brush your teeth now or after we finish reading the book?”
The child is required to then respond in some way. Once you receive a response, you can move the conversation forward. Even if the child replies by saying, “neither”, you have the beginning of a conversation started and you can answer, “I see. When would you be willing to…?” Try it and see if this helps you to stop screaming.