Watching your children grow is a rewarding experience – from witnessing their first steps, to watching them put on their own shoes. But the more their motor skills develop, the more they are going to want to do things on their own, preferably, without any help from you. This also means that you may find yourself inevitably locked in battles with your children over the simplest tasks – like what shoes they should wear or what time they should go to bed each night.
So, instead of marching orders which have a high chance of falling on deaf ears, here are some tried and tested ways you can try, to avoid a power struggle altogether.
Offer Controlled Choices
To get your child to cooperate, offer him two or three options that you are okay with. This way, whatever he chooses is a win for you. When your child feels like he has made his own decision, he is more likely to own it and will follow through. This is because children have a strong need to maintain their autonomy and often throw tantrums when they feel their autonomy is threatened. Giving them limited controlled choices puts the ball right back in their court and makes them feel empowered.
Offering choices may be a good way to avoid a fight but be careful not to offer one that isn’t immediately available. As children aren’t mature enough to control their impulses, this also means that patience isn’t really their strong suit. So enticing them with “ice cream later in the week” or “a favourite toy for Christmas at the end of the year” may actually backfire and put you right back in the middle of the battle you were hoping to avoid.
Avoid Making Empty Threats
As tempting as it is to use threats because they may have worked on some occasions, making empty threats like cancelling a birthday party or a planned family vacation are bound to work against you. The odds are, your children will soon learn that your threats are empty and are less likely to have an impact on them in future.
Control Your Reaction
Children are known to test limits and every time we have a big reaction to something they do that annoys us, we are giving more power to that particular behaviour. So when your child repeatedly does something infuriating, take a deep breath and keep your temper in check. If not, your naturally curious child will be more inclined to continue the annoying behaviour to see just how much of a reaction he can get from you. If you do not respond negatively, he will lose interest and move on.
Give Them Time to Comply
Even adults need time to transition from one task to another. Telling your child to put down what he is doing and move on to another task is a recipe for disaster as children need a lot of time to process change. Instead, tell your child he has 15 minutes before he has to do the task you need him to do. Then remind him again when he has five minutes left on the clock. Your child is more likely to comply because he had been given the time to process the request and gotten the closure he needed from the task he was previously busy with.