Post Updated: 06/21/2017
I’m learning a new way to talk to my children…(Post updated!)
There are so many times that I struggle to get my children to listen to me. Let me be honest here, when I say ‘listen’ – what I really mean, ‘do as I ask’. All too often parents label it just ‘listening’ when that is not the case at all. We need to get moving in the mornings and get to school on time, or to Grandma’s, or the Doctors, so ‘listening’ really involves getting dressed when asked, putting on shoes, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, etc. You know the deal. It is a never ending cycle of ‘doing’ that seems to devolve into arguments, resistance and eventually… yelling.
I am not proud to admit that I sometimes yell at my kids. It may be because I grew up in a loud household or because I haven’t learned to regulate my own temper and triggers. Whatever the reason and the cause, I yell – and it’s not fair. My girls are small and learning, and they depend on me to show them the way to act and respond to situations, and frankly, yelling is generally not the best approach nor response to most anything.
I have found several amazing blogs that have offered me insight and inspiration on how to control myself, and I even wrote a post not too long ago about some of the tricks I have learned.
Well… I learned a new one.
This particular technique isn’t about controlling my temper or calming myself down. No, this one revolves around the idea of getting my kids to not only listen, but pay attention when I am speaking. I stumbled across this amazing discovery while volunteering in my daughter’s Kindergarten class. Her teacher is fabulous, with a patience level I can’t help but envy and a way of talking to children that both inspires and calms. Yet, like most classes, things can get very, VERY loud. The day I was there, things were out of control, yet somehow, in less than 60 seconds I watched as, one by one, 24 Kindergartners stopped talking and looked at her, each ready to hear what she had to say.
What strange magic is this? What exactly did she do?
She became quieter. Seriously. As the class got louder, she got softer, lowering her voice progressively until she was almost whispering. It was irresistible to the little ones, they couldn’t hear her – but suddenly, they wanted to. She asked them, “If you can hear me, put your hands on your head” or “touch your nose” or even “Stand on one foot.” The instruction was silly, but pointed – she could visually assess who was paying attention and ready to proceed, and address those who were still distracted.
It was simple, it was beautiful – and it was quiet! Inspired, I tried it at home, and to my shock, it worked. Last night the girls were playing dolls on the stairs, blissfully caught in their own world. It was approaching bedtime and I wanted to give them a time warning so it wouldn’t come as an unwelcome surprise when I called a halt to the fun, but no matter how many times I said their names, they wouldn’t acknowledge me. Instead of getting louder like I normally would, I spoke softer, asking them to touch their noses when they could hear me. I said it twice when suddenly there were two sets of vivid blue eyes staring at me with fingers on their noses, attentive and ready. I told them bedtime was in 10 minutes and they both just smiled, said ‘Ok Mommy’ and went back to playing.
How crazy is that? Now, I may not be able to do this every time – I have my own issues to work through, but this little trick just became my ‘go-to’.
What tricks and tools have you discovered to help you? Do you have a special way to encourage your kids to listen? Or to calm yourself? Leave a comment – I would love to hear about it!