Mum confession: My little boy would never listen to me – until I tried something new
I never wanted to be a shouty mum.
I'm sure that is the case for most of us, in fairness.
As in; when I was pregnant, and dreaming of what family life would look like, I pictured so many things. The cuddles, the adorable nurseries I would decorate, the Christmas mornings, the jumping through leaves in the park in matching wellies – you know, those rose tinted dreams all parents-to-be have. Before they are actually parents, that is – and reality always somehow never quite resembles the reverie...
I never imagined the food drama, for instance – the absolute aversion to green things. Same goes for the constant sibling bickering. And the unshrinkable mountain of laundry. And the non listening when I ask them to do things.
Seriously, that last one was starting to feel like my Everest. Like the thing that would finally break me and turn me into a shouty, desperate, tear-her-hair-out exhausted mum – and then some.
My eight-year-old girl isn't so bad. As in; she listens when I talk, and although she might need a little reminding to get things done (TV off, shoes on, teeth brushed etc.) generally, she will take note of what I am saying and do what I ask. So far, anyway.
My little boy, however, was up until recently a very different story.
As in – I could ask, tell, warn, beg, demand, you name it, until I was blue in the face, but so often, he would simply just act as if he had not heard me – or could not care less what I was telling him – and just simply not respond to my asking him something at all.
Frusterating? You bet.
As a parent, there are few things more frustrating than being ignored by your child, and often I could feel myself getting infuriated with his lack of response or acknowledge of me talking to him.
However, I recently confided this in a childcare professional friend – one who I admire so, so much for her patience and calmness and wise ways, and she managed to totally see things differently. And hence approach my little boy differently – the next time I found myself in a situation where he would not listen to me.
Encourage him to listen, she told me. And validate his feelings.
The reason being, my childcare professional friend informed me, is that the figuring out the reason behind my little boy's lack of response would probably go a long way in getting him to listen to me. And the trick, she said, was to protect my relationship with him – even though I felt on the verge of loosing my cool with him.
Practising my newfound wisdom
A couple of days later I got to test my newfound knowledge when in a friend's house and my little boy was busy building something out of their box og Lego.
I politely informed him that we really had to leave soon, because his sister had ballet and she could not be late for it.
I was met with silence. In fact, he never even bothered to look up from what he was doing to meet my gaze.
Breathe in, breathe out. I gave him a couple of more minutes. "Honey, we really need to go now, it's not fair if your sister is late just because you won't come to the car..."
Nothing. Not even a "almost done, mummy."
I could feel myself getting angry. Why was it so flipping hard for him to listen to me??
But then I remembered my friend's words: Encourage him to listen, validate his feelings.
Because, she had told me, whatever our child is doing at the moment may not look important to us, but it is certainly important to them. If we ask them to leave somewhere or start homework when they're working on the last Lego tower, well, let's face it, it is every bit as annoying to them as someone interrupting us when we're preparing for a work meeting or trying to get out the office door at 5 pm on the dot.
So I tried a time warning. I went over to him on the floor, crouched down beside him and looked him in the eye, saying: "I know you're working hard on this castle, but in five minutes, we really need to leave to catch ballet – and I know it's not your training, but Nahla loves it and she'll be sad if she has to miss it."
And guys – I actually nearly died with surprise, but it worked.
The next time, five minutes later, I told him it was time to go – he came. No drama, no ignoring, no shouting. He just got up and came over to me and asked for help to put his shoes on.
And the best bit? I have since tested this trick over and over again, the time warning, the getting down on his level so I know he sees me and really gets the message – and it works. It really, really works. And not just for those moments when I want hims to listen, but overall in our dauly life too – he listens to me. Maybe it is because he feels more seen. Maybe it is just that he is getting older every day and more likely not to do the igorning thing. Or maybe, most likely, it is a combination of all three.
Personally, I think it is because with the pre warning, he knows what to expect now. And knowing what I want from him, makes him more likely to comply. Power struggles never really work, certainly not in my house, but this way, this respecting and informing method, it really has changed things around for us – no shouty mummy needed!
Tell us – have you got any parenting tricks you just want to share with our Herfamily.ie mums? Let us know int he comments or tweet us at @herfamilydotie