Common Questions about Engaging Cooperation

As has been the norm this month, I’m running behind. So here is the post I owe you for Wednesday and I’ll have the one actually meant for today posted a little later this evening. It’s all about discovery boxes/baskets/bowls and even shares a few examples and photos of what we have done in our own home.  So enjoy this article and I hope you’ll take a look at the next one.

Monday we talked about how we can talk to our (and others) children to elicit their cooperation. However, there are a few other things to consider. Part of the reason I love this book is that it starts with the basic information. It gives you all sorts of exercises to put you in the shoes of the child so that you can understand how the way you may communicate can be harmful. Then it goes on to explain how to fix it and gives you exercises to learn the techniques.

However, it is the third part of each chapter that I love the most; the questions and comments section. In each chapter the authors discuss common questions and concerns that they have been asked about when teaching this content as a workshop.  I remember reading the first chapter going…duh this is a no brainer before realizing that sometimes I failed to do exactly what sounded so easy on paper.  Or I would come up with concerns about how much harder it really could be.

As I worked through the first chapter I often thought to myself, well what about this? How can I do this if I don’t understand or know x, y, and z. It all either seemed frustratingly simple or complex until I reached the third section, where the authors addressed all that. So let’s take a look at what they have to say some common concerns on this topic are.

1.Isn’t how you say something as important as what you say?

Well, the simple answer is yes.  The attitude behind what you say is just as important.  Your children pick up on your nonverbal communication just as much as your verbal communication.  Which is just as hard as saying the right thing.  It’s just one more reason why you should take time before dealing with some issues, well, when possible.  We don’t need to make them feel worse. Most of the time they are going to realize they have messed up, even if they didn’t understand why.

2.If attitude is so important, why bother with words?

Sometimes what you don’t say can be just as damaging as what you do say.  Words linger in our minds, the few moments I pushed my parents into anger beyond reason, are the words I remember the most, and the ones that hurt the most to this day.  Not to mention that what you say can be used against you by your children at a later date (just like in a court of law lol.)

3. What’s wrong with Please?

Well nothing really. There is just a time and a place….and I have seen this happen.  You tell a camper please go get this and they don’t take it as seriously. It sets a tone….a more relaxed tone. Think about any time you’ve asked your child to stop doing something using please. If you really think about it, it doesn’t work in a less relaxed usage like this.  You say please stop, they keep jumping on the couch (or whatever the undesirable behavior is). You say it louder and they’re still not stopping. You are just getting more frustrated.

The point is that if you want it done quickly and without nearly as much frustration, you can’t plead, and that is sometimes what please sounds like to a kid.  A load firm “Sofa’s aren’t for jumping on” not only gives them information, but gets the point across far more quickly.

4. Is there a way to explain how sometimes a child responds to what you ask and others you can’t seem to get through?

The author had a simple solution: ask some kids why they don’t always listen.  Here’s a few variations on what they said paraphrased:

“Sometimes when I get home, I’m tired, and I pretend not to hear.”

“Sometimes I’m so busy I don’t hear them ask.”

“Sometimes I’m mad about something that happened and I don’t feel like doing it.”

Some other thoughts to consider:

Does the request make sense based on the child’s age and ability? Does the child feel the request is reasonable? For example, cleaning behind your ears may seem silly to a kid’s mind as no one sees behind your ears.  Can you give them a choice about when to do something? As in do you want to take your bath before or after your favorite show?

Are here physical changes that can be made to the house that could make the task easier for the child? This ties into Montessori. If you want your child to clean, getting a broom that’s easier for them to use might make the task easier or more enjoyable. And finally, could your child feel that all you do is ask them to do things? You can figure this one out by looking back on your day and seeing whether the time you’ve spent together is dominated by tasks or includes some quality time.

5. How do we fix it after years of making mistakes?

The truth is that it just takes time. The people in your life may be suspicious of the change in your behavior. Just like an alcoholic, it takes time to prove that you have changed and that the new actions are what you are going to stick to.

6. What about humor?

If it works then use it, but make sure that the fun doesn’t fizzle out over time. A fun jest can become a nasty criticism over time. I used to find it funny when my father said you’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached, but over time it began to feel like a criticism, especially when he was frustrated at me for losing something.

7. Feeling repetitive?

Sometimes we can use the skills but repeat them too much and it begins to sound like nagging. Instead of repeating the same thing over again, try finding out if you’ve been heard in the first place.  Ask your child to repeat the task you just asked them to perform.

8. How to prevent lack of follow through

Here’s an example of what someone else did:

Dad: Hey can you mow the lawn?

Son: Sure later.

Dad: I’d feel better if I knew when you planned on getting it done.

Son: After my show

Dad: When is it over?

Son: an hour.

Dad: Good. Now I know that you’ll be mowing the lawn in an hour.

Now, even the author admits that there are going to be times when kids don’t listen and that’s fine. It’s frustrating, but we have to expect it.  Our kids have to make mistakes and learn at some point.  We can’t expect this to fix everything, but using this language at least helps. I’ve seen it work, even when I’ve failed to use it myself. And I’ve seen it work when I’ve managed to use it. Just like our kids we’re going to make mistakes as well and we’re going to have to learn, because we’re not perfect either.

However, showing this example will teach them better communication skills. These are skills that will translate into their life, their successes and failures.  How we communicate with them is a part of how they learn. We are the first teachers they will ever have and we are the foundation from which everything else will come.  If we start them with an example of the right expectations and examples, we’re not only helping ourselves avoid frustration with our children. We’re also teaching them skills that will be useful for their whole life.

Blessed Be.

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