Dear Kid Whisperer,
This might not be a good question because it isn’t about a specific situation with my 15-year-old, but a general problem. I have to remind her over and over about everything: the way she speaks to me, cleaning up her room, you name it. She is generally cooperative after I tell her something a billion times, but I’m just so exhausted from talking. I feel like there must be a better way to get her to act the way I want her to act. -Karen, Orlando, FL
Parents who repeatedly lecture their kids about their behavior have kids who need to be lectured about their behavior.
The reason for this is that lectures encourage those behaviors: the “solution” is a big part of the problem.
Lectures present lots of problems:
- They do not sufficiently express the compassion usually felt by parents for their kids.
- They are usually expressed with a level of anger and/or frustration that closes the kid’s mind off from being able to learn anything.
- They don’t set limits or enforce limits with kids, and instead just use words in order to nag kids into submission. This creates a situation whereby kids are getting lots of attention, and no actual limits.
- They assume stupidity on the part of the kid (“You don’t know this already, so I have to tell you over and over”).
These factors combine to encourage kids to be defiant instead of learning the life lesson the parent wishes to impart about their behavior.
The alternative is a highly effective, easy to use tool for calmly setting limits.
It has three parts:
- The Compassionate Signal
- The Limit
- The Question
Here is how I would deal with your kid, using one of the examples of negative behaviors that have put you into a nagging tailspin.
Kid: You are a moron! I can’t believe you have rules! I declare myself to be an adult and that I am thereby entitled live in a world without rules! Now get me a fruit roll-up!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. (Compassionate Signal) I can talk to you when you are being kind. (The Limit)
Kid: I DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THIS NONSENSE!!! I AM ASSERTING MY RIGHT FOR VERBAL INTEGRITY!!!! YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! I DID JUST MAKE THAT UP!! NOW BOW DOWN TO MY NEWFANGLED NONSENSE TERMINOLOGY!!!
Kid Whisperer: And what did I say? (The Question)
After The Limit is stated, the only verbal response that is uttered is The Question, and if you need it to stay calm, you can use the Compassionate Signal again. Your Compassionate Signal can be any sound or words that make you feel calm, but The Question should always be the same: “And what did I say?” As your kid has been able to control your words and emotions up until this point, the repeated use of The Question is likely to make them very, very angry.
Better them than you.
Using this tool allows us to keep calm, encourages our kids to think, gives minimal attention to any kind of complaining or arguments, and demonstrates love for our kids.