Mean what you say and say it clearly and directly:
There are 3 parts to this:
A. Know whether what you are saying is a command, a question, or simply a request, and state it as such.
- Before you verbalize to your child what you want him to do, think about whether what you are about to say is something that’s ok for him to say ‘no’ to. If it’s not, then you know it’s a parental command, not a request or question.
- Once you’ve decided that it’s a command, say it as such, e.g. “Sarah, It’s time to clean your room”, vs. “Can you please clean your room?”
B. Make direct eye contact while giving the parental command whenever possible.
- This ensures that you’ve got your child’s attention, and this alone can really help increase immediate compliance with parental commands.
- This means that you’ve got to stop what you’re doing, pause the TV, ask them to look up from their homework for a second, get down on one knee, whatever it takes, but if the command is important and you want to ensure that they hear it, this is a must.
C. Mean it the FIRST time:
Be prepared with a simple consequence if they don’t follow through the first time you ask, rather than simply raising your voice every time you have to remind them.
I once had a brilliant college professor who told a story in class about what it meant for parents to mean what they say the first time. He told us that when he was about 6 years old, his mom would make him clean his room every single Saturday. So he would wake up early, get some breakfast, and sit in front of the TV to watch his favorite cartoons. Right about the time the 2nd cartoon was starting, his mom would come out and calmly say, “Hey Randy, go clean your room now.” This brilliant young man, at 6 years old, would take 1 finger and put it at his side, continuing to happily watch the cartoon. Then about 10 minutes later, his mom would come out into the room again, and a little bit louder and less calmly, she would say, “Randy, did you hear me? Go clean your room now” and walk back out. He would put 2 fingers next him down on the floor, watching the rest of the show. About 10-15 minutes later, usually right as his cartoon was ending, his well meaning mom would come back in, see that her beloved son is still right in front of the TV after being asked twice to go clean his room, and she would then scream, “RANDY BASHAM!! GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” At this point, he would promptly hop up and run to clean the room.
Randy knew, at 6 years old, that his mom didn’t mean what she said until the 3rd time she said it, and because he knew that, he got to watch an extra 30 minutes of cartoons every Saturday morning. Sound at all familiar?
So that sums up tip 2: mean what you say, and say it clearly and directly. Try it out, and as usual, if you have any questions feel free to email me. If you’re finding success with this, please email me with your story, and let me know if it’s ok for me to put your story on here to encourage other parents.