(Stock photo/Nathan Gleave) We need to train our children to hear us the first time we ask them. If we are fair and consistent, they will understand that when we tell them to do something we are serious.
Do We Talk to Our Kids Too Much?
MAY 23, 2008Craig Harris, HappyNews ColumnistDo we talk to our kids too much? Let me ask that another way: do we say too much to our kids? Parenting expert Brenda Bird says yes we do. She says one of the biggest mistakes parents make is yammering on and on to our kids. The problem is, they will eventually tune us out.
I guess the reason this is a problem is we talk to them so often when they are small. That’s a good thing, but if they enter junior high and we are still talking continuous baby talk to them, that’s not so good.
We ask them to do something, and they ignore us. So we ask again. And again. And again. If we find ourselves asking them twelve times to do something, the problem is not them, it’s us. We need to change our method because asking over and over is not working. What happens is they realize we are going to keep asking and the first few times don’t count. Those first few requests are just warm ups, so they ignore us until we get up and threaten them with some creative form of bodily harm. Then, maybe they will respond.
What we need to do is train them to hear us the first time we ask them to pick up their socks or empty water bottles or video game cases. We ask once, making sure they hear us, and if they don’t respond in a reasonable timeframe, there is a consequence; perhaps a loss of privilege, but it needs to be related to the crime so that it makes sense. Not too harsh or too soft. If we tell them they are grounded for a year, they know we are bluffing and our word is not much good. If we are fair and consistent, though, they will understand that when we tell them to do something we are serious.
For this to work, we have to make reasonable requests. If they are watching a TV show, it is only fair to wait until a commercial to make a request. If they are trying to watch something and we are talking to them, they are guaranteed to tune us out. I really don’t blame them! It is inconsiderate when you really think about it. We might say something like, “Don’t start another show until you pick up after yourself.”
We must let them know that we expect them to act when we speak, but we must also keep our requests fair and consistent. If we are talking to them about something they need to do in two weeks, they will tune us out. If we are fussing about something beyond their control, they will tune us out. If we are complaining about something trivial to them, they will tune us out. If we start a sentence with, “When I was your age”, they will tune us out.
And if we think we can change their behavior with many words we may be setting ourselves up for a disappointment. Children tend to do what they see us do. If we leave our shoes in the middle of the living room, that’s what they’ll do too, and nagging won’t change that.
As our children get older it is important to keep the lines of communication open, but nagging and talking to them all the time actually closes the communication. We should choose our words wisely, say them at the right time, and expect results. Our children want to hear from us. They want affirmation and encouragement. I think we can do this without talking too much.
Contact Craig Harris at lcraigharris.blogspot.com