Telling a Child What to Do and How to Behave will Often Backfire on You

The most effective way to get someone to do something, especially children, it to model the desired behavior. Nobody likes to be lectured to or be constantly told what to do. Lecturing will quickly send children in the opposite direction.

Model healthy interactions with your spouse and other adults. Always speak lovingly and respectfully.

Save shouting for safety only.

To teach your children manners say it for them rather than asking them to use the “Magic Word”. As you serve say, “Thank you Mama!” When your child demands service say, “May I have some juice please Papa?”

Or, try using non-verbal signals. Decide with your children what the hand signal will be when they have asked for service inappropriately. Use the hand signal, such as touching your lips with your index finger, every time they demand service.

Maria Montessori has shown us that modeling appropriate behavior is particularly critical during a child’s first six year of life, because children enter the Absorbent Mind developmental phase. A child’s mind acts like a sponge, integrating everything accurately, nonjudmentally, uncritically and effortlessly.

During the approximate ages of 2 1/5 to five years, children enter the Sensitive Period for Social Development phase. A child explores and absorbs group and social behavior. Due to this sensitivity, a child needs to have modeled acceptable social behavior at home and in a positive school setting.

The late guru, Rudolph Dreikurs, teaches us to teach and model mutual respect. Be kind and firm at the same time. Kind to show respect for your child, firm to show respect for yourself and the needs of the situation. This is difficult!

Ask, Tell, Respond, Act:

Ask first: “Please put your activity away.” Back off and wait. If needed:

Tell once: “This goes right here.” Hand her the toy and pat the shelf.

Respond: “OK Mama, I’m putting it away!.” (Say if for her.) If needed:

Act: “Let’s do it together!” Do it with joy! (Even if she doesn’t help.)

Teach and model that mistakes are great opportunities to learn:

Clean up your messes:

1. Own your part: “Wow, I just made a mistake!”

2. Apologize: “I apologize for_____. (Be specific)”

3. Commit: “The next time I will do _____ instead.”

4. Amends: “To make it up to you I will do _____ for/with you.”

When you want to make your child do something you are in a power struggle. Say “Oops, I’m trying to get my way, I’m going to go do something to help myself feel better.”

Children express what we repress. When your child acts up, look inside yourself first. Clean up your act, resolve your feelings, mend fences.

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