One of many excellent tips I’ve picked up from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s book, “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk“, is that of engaging a child’s cooperation by giving them information they can choose to act upon. I’ve been fascintated and really quite amazed at how well this works.
One example is when my son was outside throwing a stick around right by a window. Instead of the instinctive “Stop doing that” I tried “If the stick hits the window, the window could break”. He stopped, thought for a moment, then said “I’ll throw it over here” and moved into an open space. (Of course, many parents would simply say they can’t throw the stick at all, but I’ll save that for another post!) Since then there have been numerous similar examples. “The fridge door is open” instead of “Shut the fridge door” (he’s already had the lecture about letting the cold air out etc), “We can’t leave until you’re in your car seat”, and so on.
The beauty of this subtle approach is not just that it usually gets the child to do what you want, but they do it without feeling bossed around, but feeling that they have made a choice; to do the right thing based on the information they have been given. Surely this has to be better for a child’s developing sense of autonomy and positive self image.
Think about the number of times your child is told what to do every day, day in day out, and how little choice they really have over what happens to them each day. Anything you can do to alleviate this is bound to be welcomed.
I also like this approach as it is a great example of an attitude towards children and parenting that moves away from that of power and submission; that the only lesson children need to learn is to do as they’re told, and that instead, respects the child, and taps into their basic instinct and desire to please, casting the parent in the role of teacher, not dictator.