Is your biggest complaint about parenting that your child just won’t listen and do what you ask?
You’re exhausted from having to cajole him into cooperating. You don’t want to have to resort to yelling and anger before you can get his attention, but it’s often the only option left.
Is he just stubborn and willful?
It would be awesome if your child did as you asked the first time you asked. Instead, you talk and talk until you’re blue in the face before he concedes. Sometimes he acts as if he doesn’t even hear you! How many times has this happened?
Does this sound familiar?
Imagine you see your son go up to his younger brother and snatch a toy away from him.
You walk up to your child and tell him what he needs to do and why.
YOU: You need to share with your brother. Let him play with it for a while. You had it all day yesterday.
SON: But I want to—
YOU: You’ve made your brother upset, and you know how long it takes for him to calm down. Why did you do that? You’re always teasing him or making him cry. I don’t get it. Why can’t you play nicely?
YOU: I don’t want to hear your excuses. Didn’t we talk about this the other day? You need to share. If you don’t learn to share, your friends aren’t going to want to play with you. You wouldn’t like it if someone took your toy away, would you? Imagine if I walked up to you when you were playing your video game and just took it away without asking. How would that feel? I need you to give that back to your brother, please.
SON: (playing with toy)
YOU: Are you listening to me?
SON: (still playing with toy)
YOU: I said, give it back!
You don’t want to yell, but you feel yourself losing your cool.
So why isn’t your child listening to you and doing what you ask? In fact, he’s tuned you out and is ignoring you!
There’s a very good reason for that, and a better way to get his attention.
What approach do you most often take when you want your child to listen and cooperate? Do you:
Rationalize: Figure your child will cooperate if they understand WHY it’s important. Can’t he see his actions make no sense? You want to point out the consequences if he continues doing what he’s doing. He’ll get kicked out of school and have no friends and be broke and homeless when he grows up. Surely, he’ll “see the light” and straighten up. Right?
Talk Like a Therapist: The rationalizing didn’t work. Your child is continuing with his behavior or refusing to do as you ask. Therefore, you resort to speaking to him as if you’re his therapist. You ask him WHY he’s not cooperating. You tell him what you’re seeing in their behavior and surmise how he might be feeling.
Or, you try to get him to see it from your point of view, or put himself in someone else’s shoes.
This approach is not working, either. He’s still ignoring you. Rather than resort to yelling, you may try to…
Plead: You figure that if all else fails, surely you can appeal to his compassion for your suffering? You’re upset, you’re tired, you’re worn out. Can’t he see that? You tell him, Please do this. Please stop doing that. I really need you to do as I ask. Please?
Maybe none of these approaches work anymore. Your child is ignoring you more and cooperating less. Maybe he has started talking back or being defiant. Maybe he acts as if you’re not even in the same room.
He’s tuning you out. Why?
It seems that the more you talk, explain things, plead and yell at your child, the less he pays attention.
This may seem to you like a willful act on his part, but there’s actually something else going on that has nothing to do with your child being spiteful in some way. Your child is tuning you out because of HOW you’re going about requesting something. It can be one or all of these three reasons:
Because you’re talking too much. You’re “coming at them” with your words, trying to convince them that they need to change their behavior. A child can’t process that many words at once, and they don’t normally rationalize their behavior the way you rationalize their behavior.
Your child operates mostly from emotion. He wants what he wants because he FEELS a certain way. All the talking in the world and all the rationalizing won’t change the way he feels. And when you’re talking so much, he doesn’t feel heard or understood. He feels overwhelmed. So he stops listening.
Because he doesn’t know the answer. When you speak like a therapist, asking your child why he did something or asking him to analyze the motivation behind his behavior, it’s confusing to him. Much of the time, he doesn’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing—sometimes we as adults don’t understand our own motivation.
He tunes you out because he doesn’t understand what you’re asking of him, exactly.
Because you’re acting needy. A needy person is not the alpha leader your child needs. When you plead with him or tell him you need him to do something, you’re projecting a weak, submissive energy. Your child can sense that on a subconscious level. When you’re not the strong, alpha leader in control of the situation, he will try to control YOU. He will test you by ignoring you or continuing with his behavior.
He wants you to stop talking so much.
He wants to be heard and understood.
He needs you to be the alpha adult in charge.
He wants you to be the Captain of the Ship.
Your child may not be consciously aware that he needs you to be the adult alpha in charge, but his entire being is screaming out for this type of compassionate assertiveness from you.
The less in control you feel as a parent, the less secure he will feel, which will heighten his anxiety and frustration.
Your child needs you to demonstrate that you’re in charge and you know best. You’re the Captain of the Ship, and you are in command.
Let’s examine that analogy…
As Captain of the Ship, you’re not anxious or in a hurry to get your child to comply. You’re slowing things down instead of trying to quickly gain control of the situation.
Slowing it down means you want to get to the truth of what’s going on with your child before you do anything else.
You’re not overwhelming your child by talking too much or lecturing.
You’re not talking like a therapist and asking him questions he can’t answer.
You’re not yelling or being a dictator.
You’re just seeking to understand and empathize.
With the “3 Yeses” technique, you’re helping him work through the disappointment of not getting the toy right now, instead of rushing in to fix the situation through coercion. You’re not forcing him to stuff down his feelings by coming at him with control, rationalization or pleading.
When your child feels that you get where he’s coming from—even if he concedes that he needs to cooperate with your request—he is more likely to pay attention to you and respect your authority in the future.
That way, you don’t feel like you’re talking to a wall or repeating yourself over and over.
You don’t like repeating yourself and your kids don’t like it when you repeat yourself, either.
In my video program, Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, you’ll learn even more strategies and techniques like this one, all designed to help you parent effectively as the Captain, without resorting to yelling, punishments, or bribery.
You’ll learn how to deal with chronic issues such as:
But you’ll learn a different way to deal with these issues that doesn’t involve putting you and your child in an endless cycle of disappointment, anger, and bargaining.
You’ll learn how to empathize with him, AND your child will quickly learn that there’s no way out of a chore. Therefore, your child will be even more cooperative as time goes by.
And you’ll feel better about yourself as a parent because you’re not yelling all the time!
Enjoy Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes for an entire week with no risk!Learn These Techniques Today
When your child is upset, you can use these techniques to help your child move toward acceptance (of what they need to do or not do) faster. They’ll know that you understand their point of view, which will get them out of denial and resistance of whatever it is you’re asking of them.
If you help your child see that you’re on their side, that you understand them, it will trickle over and affect everything in their life.
I’ve seen this be very powerful. Children are so responsive when you parent them in this way.
It solidifies attachment and that deep, loving, intimate connection you have with your children because they really feel they’re known by you.
Your child can relax.
He feels safe, seen, encouraged, loved, and enjoyed.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what you really want for him?
P.S. What about when a situation gets out of hand, your new approach isn’t working and your child gets stuck in whining? That’s when I recommend doing a special distraction and interruption to change the state of emotion in the moment, which you can hear all about in Session 4 of my program here.