Q: I feel like I am constantly repeating myself when trying to get my daughter to do her chores or clear her dishes off the table. So much so that I just give up after a while. But then she doesn’t take my requests seriously. Do you have any tips on how I can get her to do as I ask?
A: From getting kids to get dressed, clean up their toys, or do their homework, it can seem impossible to get kids to obey. We’ve all felt frustrated when our kids resist us, and we’ve probably all used at least some controlling tactics to get compliance.
However, you can never really control a child. You can only control yourself. When you come to really understand this, you can be more effective as a parent, and your child will be more likely to do as you ask.
My son used to ignore every request I made of him. As a result, I would often become very frustrated and throw a bunch of empty threats his way that I wasn’t prepared to carry through. This was ineffective and I would end up just doing whatever I was requesting of him myself.
The problem was that I was very inconsistent with my requests. One minute I’d expect one thing, the next I wouldn’t. I was sending my son a lot of mixed messages. And when he naturally wouldn’t comply, I’d try to control him through empty threats.
Recently I’ve realized that the problem lies not in controlling my son, but in having better control of myself. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be consistent in my parenting. But now I am more consistent in my expectations, and as a result, my son is much more obedient. Of course, there are exceptions to this–for instance if he is really tired, or watched a lot of TV that day. But if he’s having a good day, then he is usually happy to do as I ask.
What I did
I decided on a few rules, chores, and consequences, and posted them on the fridge to remind myself to follow through. The process of upholding expectations starts when an expectation is not met. It starts out soft and gradually leads to carrying out a consequence. It includes four steps:
- Gentle reminder: Remind your child of the rule and invite them to fix their mistake.
- Reminder of the consequence: If they don’t comply, remind them of the consequence. For my son, it is time out for 3 minutes, but for older children, it could be withholding a privilege, like video games or TV time. (For younger children it can be helpful to count out loud to 3 before going on to the next step).
- Carrying out the consequence: If they still haven’t complied, then carry out the consequence. Resistance to the consequence means that the consequence adds to itself. For instance, they lose more privileges, or they are required to stay in time out longer.
- Express love: After enforcing a consequence, give your child a hug and tell them that you still love them.
Things to keep in mind:
- In order to be fair, your child needs to be made aware of the rules, chores, and consequences beforehand.
- It is vitally important to be extremely consistent.
- You should never enforce the consequence in anger, but in calmness and neutrality.
Be intentional about upholding expectations for your child, and be extremely consistent and calm. You will be astounded by the results.
And if that doesn’t work, you might want to try this nuclear option to get your kids to do what you want.