We've all been there! You find yourself having to yell at the top of your lungs to get your children to listen and do as they're told! Phew, wee! All that frustration coursing through your veins!
Whether you're parenting a headstrong child or you find that every single time you have to be authoritative with your children they push back and test the boundaries, then we have three easy-to-follow strategies you can use to get your child to listen!
When you need your child to listen or comply with instructions it's important that you do so in a space where your child can listen and see you physically. Get down to their level, give them a pat on the shoulder, make eye contact. Now, let's start with an example, say you're running late and you need your children to put on their shoes and get out the door. Of course, they're kicking up a fuss wanting 5 more minutes of playtime. Go up to your child, get down to their level, and before you say anything. The key is to not use words that will trigger a denial or a tantrum. Words like "I need you to", "Stop", "you cannot..". Say things like "hey, I think it's time to put these toys away!, we're going to [...], let's get your shoes and socks on, which pair would you like to wear?" A simple positive and deflect to get your child out of the door without a fuss!
2. No Judgement, No Shame, and No Guilt
Your child will have some very big emotions. Often parents do not want to deal with these big emotions, they will say things that are quite invalidating to what the child is feeling. For example, a parent might say "Go to your room!" or "Stop crying". When you respond rather than react to your child's emotional outbursts you hold space for your child to express the emotions they feel, their ideas, and feelings about the situation without any criticism, shame, or guilt. This is important as their brains are still developing and their learning how to regulate their emotional states. Meeting their outbursts with an explosive reaction of your own is truly unproductive. As you develop this practice, you will teach your child important social and emotional skills by being firm, respectful, and clearly set expectations for their behaviour.
Another strategy that we often present to parents is labeling. When your child is meeting you with defiance or constantly testing the boundaries with you, there could be underlying challenges in how they are expressing themselves. We encourage parents to empathise with their children. If you see your child getting upset with having to put away their toys to get ready for school you can say things like " I see that you're upset. I know how much you like playing with your toys". Identify what your child is feeling and factually state what they're doing in a matter-of-fact way. When you do this, you make your child feel seen and heard, incidentally are great ingredients for cooperation!
Finally, once you have your child's full attention, you've responded rather than reacting and empathized with them, it's time to restate what you want them to do! Keep your language positive and re-direct! You can say things like "Alright, let's drop these toys in the box and wash our hands!" "Say see you later! It's time for some yummy dinner!"
How can Play Therapy help?
The key is to be consistent with your approach to your child. If this is something you should discuss with all the primary caregivers of your child then do so. Play therapy is helpful with emotionally regulating children and you are instrumental to your child’s development. A Play therapist does not only work with your child; they work with you too. They teach you skills to help you respond to your child in a way that enhances your relationship with them. Think of it as a tool to help your child feel more accepted and be able to express their feelings in safe and appropriate ways with you. Reach out to us today and learn how to create a positive and open dialogue between you, the parent, and your child, for a happy and healthy home.