“How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Haven’t I already explained this to you a hundred times?”
“When are you ever going to listen to me?”
Sound familiar? Maybe it’s the battle over a clean bedroom or completing homework or staying out too late on a school night. The use of these statements is often an attempt to inform a child of frustration and motivate them into finally behaving according to your expectations.
But let’s face it, how many times have you heard a child say, “You know what? The 10th time you said that really helped me see the wisdom of your ways. I’m on it.”
If you find yourself doing a lot of talking and not getting the desired behavior you are looking for, perhaps the issue is not a knowledge issue. Most kids are not motivated to do something just because they are provided with an impeccable, rationale, value-laden argument.
Most issues are either knowledge/skill issues, or heart issues.
Knowledge issues exist when children need more knowledge or skills in order to do something well. Making a checklist of a clean room is an example of a strategy when the issue is knowledge. Heart issues are, well, a matter of the heart. The issue is how much someone cares and is motivated to do something well.
Here are 3 ways to increase the value of your words by talking less.
Explaining is a knowledge strategy. Once we’ve explained a time or two, the issue is no longer knowledge, it’s about the heart. Using a non-threatening tone, inform of the consequence that will happen should the expectation not be met, and then walk away.
Reminding teaches children they don’t have to follow-through the first time, they’ll only think we are serious if we bring it up again. So instead of reminding your child that food is not allowed in the living room, provide a reasonable consequence if they choose to disobey (i.e. loss of snack time).
Asking for clarification or respectful negotiation is one thing, but when a child wants to argue about your expectation, then it’s time to stop talking and end the conversation. Your rational points will not be understood in an emotionally elevated moment like an argument. And, when you argue with your child, you reinforce that arguing is an acceptable response to your instruction and expectation. Instead, you can revisit the conversation after your child has fulfilled the instruction or expectation and when listening and mutual respect is present.