Community Psychiatric Centers
Monroeville, Greensburg, Monessen, and Wilkinsburg Pittsburgh

November 7, 2013

How to get kids to listen: Action, not Re-Action

As parents, we expect kids to follow directions when told to do so; and often we have expectation that the response will be immediate. Much to our despair, it’s not, and likely shall never be. That’s the important point; kids are not automatons (or at least mine aren’t – I suspect yours aren’t either).

I tell parents during workshops that we don’t expect a table or chair to move if we tell it to; so why do we expect our kids, who have their own agendas, wants, and distractions, to immediately follow our commands with a sense of urgency? In fact, we might have better luck with that wooden table.

So, should we simply give-up? Okay. Well, maybe not. Instead, how about changing our expectations and, in doing so, lower our blood pressure. Recognize that, often, kids need that ‘softer and closer’ approach (see former blog on the subject) and close proximity if not gently taking their arm and getting them started on the task. Offering to help them begin the chore also helps.

Backing-up our direction with firm consequences always helps, with accompanying soft-spoken reminders of both rewards and consequences that can be earned with compliance.

However, to our avail, we as parents tend to rely on pestering with an ever-increasing volume. This approach is the least favorable and results in the most frustration and bad-feelings for all involved. Remember that emotion and words are your enemy, while a softer and closer approach, and clear expectations and consequences, are your friend. Try it, you’ll like it. Now, go get softer and closer with your kids.

Dr. John Carosso

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