Slow down! Stop rushing, and above all, stop rushing your children! Take the word “hurry” and hide it. It’s a word children don’t understand anyhow and won’t obey even if they were to understand it. What children hear when you say “hurry” is that you’re going to leave them. They are frightened by that idea and instead of doing what you want, they may become paralyzed with anxiety or fear and many times end up actually slowing down and becoming somewhat befuddled!
So, instead of frantically calling out to your children and telling or asking them to hurry, you can plan ahead and create strategies that have better chances of working. Here is a suggestion you might try.
First, in a calm manner and at a time when you are not going anywhere, when there is no pending problem, tell your child that you have a problem and need his help in solving it. ( I am not certain how versed you are with this kind of dialogue, so I am going to give you examples of the words to say.) Say, “ Gee, I’ve got a problem and I need your help. Are you available now to hear my problem and help me problem solve?” Probably your child will say, “Sure.” But if he doesn’t, then you say, “When would be a good time for me to talk to you about my problem?” He says, “In about 30 minutes.” You return in 30 minutes. Then you say, “I’m feeling really upset because each morning when it’s time to go to school I find myself yelling at you to hurry so I won’t be late for work. I don’t want to yell at you, I feel terrible when I do that, but I get so nervous that I’m going to be late for work, that I just lose it and start yelling. I want to be on time for work, and I don’t want to yell at you any more. Can you think of a plan we could create that would help me get to the car in a more peaceful manner, that would still allow me to get to work on time and not yell at you in the process?”
Your child could say almost anything, so I’ll have to guess! He might say, “I sure hate it when you yell at me. I don’t want to leave the house; I just want to hide somewhere when you do that.” Or he might offer up a solution like, “Maybe you could get up earlier.” When he begins to offer a suggestion, you get out a piece of paper and start writing down any of his suggestions. Hopefully his ideas will also give you new ideas, too. Your idea list might look like this:
1. Mom gets up 15 minutes earlier to have more time.
2. Child gets own alarm clock and uses it to get himself up instead of having Mom wake him.
3. Before Mom starts yelling and goes out the door, Mom gives Child a 5-minute notice (Mom cheerfully says, ‘The car is pulling out in 5 minutes.”), then a 1 minute notice.
4. Child dresses before eating breakfast to make sure he’s ready after he eats.
5. Mom rings a bell when she’s ready to leave instead of calling (yelling) out.
6. Child gives the 5-minute warning to Mom and then the 1-minute warning to her.
7. Child packs lunch the night before.
8. Mom and Child put shoes by the door the night before.
9. Child selects clothes for school the night before and lays them out on his dresser.
… to be continued
Once you’ve exhausted the ideas (remember to write every idea down even if you don’t like it), then you look at them together and you deselect the ones you don’t like. You might say, “I’m not willing to get 15 minutes less sleep. I can’t get up any earlier, so number 1 is no good.” Your child might say, “ I don’t want you to ring a bell when it’s time to go; that’s too much like school! Number 5 is a no go for me.” With that you draw a line through each deselected one. You will end up with perhaps only one that doesn’t have a line in it, and that’s your solution. Or there might be two that you both like. So now you have formulated a plan that you both are willing to try tomorrow morning. This is the first step. It doesn’t mean that your problem is solved because we don’t know if this plan will be followed yet! But we’re hopeful.
Now you say to your child, “Thank you so much for helping me. I feel so relieved. I am feeling like I’ll be able to get to work tomorrow morning on time, and I’m also thinking that I’ll be able to do it without yelling. I’m going to be calm because of the plan you helped me create. Thank you! I really appreciate your help and your great ideas.”
When it’s time for bed, you again reflect on your problem-solving experience, again show your appreciation for his time and efforts, and ask your child if there is anything that needs to be done in preparation for tomorrow morning’s on-time departure. He may say, “Oh, don’t worry, I already put my clothes out for tomorrow!” Or, “I already set my new alarm clock!” Or he might say, “Mom, have you put your shoes out by the front door?”
Probably tomorrow will work. You and your child will get out of the house in a timely manner. When you get in the car with your child, you heave a huge sigh and you say, “Oh, I feel so calm. I am rested and ready to take you to school and me to work. And I’m so grateful for your help. I just love working on problems with you! You had such great ideas!”
On the other hand, in case it didn’t work, you try not to yell and you say, “ I wonder what went wrong today that kept our plan from working?” Your child might say, “ I guess I forgot to put my shoes by the door last night and I didn’t have enough time to find them this morning.” You’d say, “ Well, how could you change that for tomorrow morning?” He says, “I’ll remind myself right after my bath to put my shoes by the door.” You say, “Great idea, I bet that will work. We’ll try again tomorrow. I think we can make it!”
The ideas that you need to plant in your head are that children want to be cooperative, that children want to be asked for their assistance in solving problems, that children never do well when they are yelled at, criticized, belittled, or punished, and that children become who they think you think they are! Just because you’re bigger than they are doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Enlist your child’s cooperation in a kind way, with a loving voice, a smile on your face, and compassion in you heart. Good things will come for all of you.
At the beginning of each school year, we teachers always like to formulate classroom “rules” because they seem to help establish classroom boundaries. Parents usually like rules, too, for the same reasons. Children, however, are usually averse to rules because they don’t like grown ups bossing them around, and rules seem to give adults the authority to call the shots. While children may listen to the rules and nod their heads, that behavior does not indicate a willingness to cooperate with the adults and live by the rules.
So how can we adults set boundaries, establish limits so that our children learn to control their behaviors and act appropriately without our having to yell at them or punish them? Is this possible?
The good news is yes, we can create situations in which our children willingly cooperate with us because they want to be a significant part of our family. As family members who count, children feel loved, feel respected, feel valued, feel powerful, and feel like they belong. In other words their needs are met, and when their needs are met they behave. So now let’s create that loving family atmosphere that will bring out the best in our children and in ourselves!
First of all, we have to get some ideas into our heads that will help us. We must remember that children don’t want to be bossed around even if they are rewarded for their good behavior. Rewards only work when children want them to work and threats are the same. Next, we must remember that children follow rules they help create. So we’ve got to figure out a way for our children to help make the rules and yet still have rules created that do what we need them to do, set the boundaries. Here’s how you do this.
Plan a family meeting, a time when everyone in the family sits in the living room and talks to each other. You begin by saying something like this: “Thank you so much for coming to our family meeting. I love it when we’re all together like this! Now, I have some problems and I really need your help. Let me tell you what’s bothering me and you see if you are willing to help me solve these problems. I’m having a terrible time functioning without any rules in this house. I was thinking that if there were some rules that we all agreed to live by, our lives together would be much better. How do you feel about this? Do you think some rules would help us, and are you willing to help think of some we might need?”
– – to be continued
House Rules – part 2
Here you wait to see if your children are willing to do this and you listen to their response. Probably they will say, “Sure, Mom, we think we need some rules and we’re willing to help make some. How many rules do you want?”
“Oh, not more than five. I can’t remember too many!” you respond. “The thing I’m having the most trouble with is the noise inside the house. Our voices are sometimes so loud that I can’t really think clearly. I was wondering what we could do about that. Does this bother anyone else?”
Again, listen to your child and respond from there. So one child says, “Right, I hate it when anyone yells at me. I think it would be good to have a rule that says ‘no yelling in the house’”, to which you say, “Great idea! I feel better already.” But at that moment you remind yourself that your goal is to establish simple rules that are stated in a positive way. An example of this would be “Speak to each other with inside voices.” Then you say out loud, “I don’t want to feel like the rule is bossing me around; how about if we say the rule in a way that sounds like we’re being asked rather than bossed? How about “Speak to each other with a normal voice inside the house.” Then most likely the children will agree with this wording. In fact, they will probably like the way this meeting is going. It will feel to them like their feelings are being considered. But we haven’t gained consensus yet, so we ask everyone there, “So, do you like this rule? Do you agree with it for our family?” If there is consensus, you don’t need to vote on these rules. Consensus can be given in your meeting just by nodding a head or saying, “yeah.”
Depending on how the meeting is going, you can stop after one rule and do more later. You don’t want to wear your children out so that they won’t want to meet with you again! But before you stop you say, “Thanks for helping me. You have such great ideas and I really like hearing them. I feel so much better now. But I’m just wondering what we’re going to do if someone breaks this rule, if someone in our family screams at another family member. What do you think we should do then? I know it probably won’t happen since we’ve done such a great job of making a rule, but I just need to know that part, too.”
Listen again to your children and what they suggest. If they offer a punishment for not following the family rules you say, “Oh, I don’t want anyone punished because they don’t follow our family rules. I’d rather everyone learn to help each other. That’s what our rules are for. So if one of us forgets a rule, how could we help them out? Could we remind them if they forget? Could we give a hand signal to let them know they forgot the rule? What ideas do you have?”
Again, listen and respond thoughtfully. So let’s imagine that someone said if a family member forgets and yells at one of us inside the house, the person who got yelled at goes to the person who yelled and simply says one word as a reminder, and that word is “snitzle.” Oh, it could be any word, even a silly word like snitzle! Why? Well, so no one feels blamed or wronged. Give a little laughter into the mix!
Now the meeting is almost over and you say, “Well, we certainly accomplished a lot today. I for one am feeling wonderful. I love our family! I have a special treat to end our meeting. I baked chocolate chip cookies (or have popcorn or whatever sounds like something special to you), let’s go into the kitchen and have some milk and cookies!”
Remember, children don’t have to feel bad to behave better! Kids do better when they feel better and so do you!
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher