That’s usually the unexpressed dream most parents have. I know you have it, because I had the same dream! Even with all I know about parenting, I still wanted my kids to listen the first time. I wanted them to self-regulate, be compliant, sweet, respectful, creative, intelligent, be a visionary, a world leader, and save the world, have I gone too far?
I did want my kids to listen. But more than listen, I wanted my kids to know right from wrong, and to self-regulate so they wouldn’t make so many mistakes. And I wanted them to stop making me yell at them. (I’ll address the yelling at the end.)
After many years of parenting, teaching, and continued learning, I think it’s best to stick with what’s real about listening and cooperating, instead of asking for magic!
There is a “tech” term in the psychology called locus of control. Dictionary.com defines it as, “A theoretical construct designed to assess a person’s perceived control over his or her own behavior. The classification internal locus of control indicates that the person feels in control of events; external locus of control indicates that others are perceived to have that control.”
In the parenting world “locus of control means, do my parents control my behavior through punishment, or am I required to be responsible for my actions. In order for a child to self-regulate, which is a key component for listening, a parent needs be willing to let a child learn from the experiences of his/her choices. Let me explain.
When a parent uses punishment, a child comes to understand, my parent is in charge of whether or not I behave. The child realizes if my parent doesn’t catch me, then I don’t have to behave. However, if a child learns by experiencing the results of his/her actions, she comes to understand, I control whether or not I behave. If I don’t want to have to clean up a mess, or apologize because of something I said, then I better not behave that way.
I’m not going to lie; this was hard for me to do! In my heart of hearts I wanted to protect my kids from ever-feeling-pain. But the more I learned about life, family, kids and parenting, the more I realized this wasn’t about me and my discomfort, it was about raising responsible, respectful kids. I realized that I had to shift from punishment, external locus of control, to letting them learn from the consequences of their actions, internal locus of control. And it was well worth it.
How do you make the shift from punishing and/or rescuing your kids from their mistakes to allowing them to learn from the results of their actions? Begin by changing your thinking.
Stop thinking of mistakes as being a “bad” thing, and start thinking about mistakes being a necessary thing, because mistakes help create self-regulation.
You’ll need to remind yourself that letting your child fail a test, letting her pay for a broken window by doing extra chores, or having him write an apology note to the class for being a class clown, helps create self-regulation and teaches that all people have to live with the consequences of their actions.
You, the parent, get to be loving, empathetic, supportive, instructive and connected, and isn’t that the kind of parent you want to be? I think it is.
Here’s an example. Notice the shift in words I suggest—that’s key.
Your child says, “I hate you”
Old way: You react and say, “Don’t you ever say that to me, young lady! Go to your room!”
New Way: “Was that nice? Is that allowed in this house? What do you need to do now?”
Notice, I didn’t suggest telling her to apologize to you. She’s got to think for herself and decide what she’s supposed to do, and then do it. That creates self-regulation.
Responding versus reacting to an “I hate you” allows you to be calm, to teach and to stay connected. It requires that your child stop, think, and repair the damage she created with her words. If she doesn’t know what she should do, or is too emotional to think, then say, “Let’s talk about it, so you’ll know what to do next time.”
I think that form of discipline is pretty magical, and it’s plain and simple. What do you think?
BTW, I said I’d address, “Why do You Make Me Yell?” That’s our new free report and my gift to you. Go to the home page at http://www.proactiveparenting.net click “Free Solutions” on the nav. bar. This report addresses why children repeatedly test the rules, what’s behind a disrespectful attitude, and how to be firm without reacting. Get your free report today!
One last thing: Another place magic occurs, is in the comments! Ask me your questions. Tell what you think about teaching your kids this way. Go ahead, I’m listening and willing to respond!