Easy Ways to Get Your Child to Behave—and Want To
We've all been there. You tell your toddler it's time to turn off the TV, and he screams, "No!" Then you probably dig in your heels and find yourself in a shouting match.
But as you've already discovered, power struggles don't promote cooperation. They only make each of you angrier -- and teach your child to resist you even more.
The key is to control yourself. Maintaining your composure instead of showing your frustration lets your out-of-control child "borrow" some of your calmness. How can you do this? Label his intense feelings without judging them: "I can see you're really mad now." Then state the unacceptable behavior and give him a better alternative: "Kicking your truck isn't right. You can tell me you're angry without hurting things." If your older child likes to argue, look for something you can agree with: "That's true -- it's more fun to play computer games than it is to do homework."
Remember, it takes two to keep a power struggle going. When my kids were younger, I often found that if I dropped my end of the rope in our tug-of-war (even though it pained me to do so!), they'd eventually stop resisting me, give up the battle, and concentrate instead on their behavior and how they could change it.
Try a little empathy
As busy moms, our expectations are often, naturally, self-centered: We need everyone's cooperation to get out of the house on time; we finally got the baby to nap and want our firstborn to play quietly. But it's important to examine your expectations from your child's point of view -- for instance, she feels pressured when you rush through the morning routine, which prompts her to dawdle. Or everything seems to revolve around the new baby's needs, and your toddler was having fun banging on the piano.
When you notice and accept your child's feelings, it helps her handle the limits placed on her. And it takes only a few extra seconds. Instead of snapping, "We've got to leave right now or your sister's going to be late for school!" you can say, "I know it's hard to get up so early to take your sister to school. If you want, you can come in your pajamas."
And as annoying as it is, learn to tolerate a certain amount of grumbling, as long as it isn't disrespectful. Your child's "I don't want to go to bed!" lets her vent her feelings. She's also trying to distract you; if you answer her, you'll trigger a debate, which is the last thing you want. Either ignore the comment or say something understanding: "I know you wish you could keep playing with your dollhouse, but I'm afraid it's bedtime already."
It also helps to show you've heard what she said and you empathize with her ("You're sad that your friend has gone home. It's been fun having someone come over to play").