Nanny secrets: How to speak so kids listen

Author: Canadian Living


Nanny secrets: How to speak so kids listen

The key to getting kids to behave well is to be clear about what you want them to do. To communicate clearly with children, it's essential to do the following:

1. Be specific
"I don't want you watching too many DVDs tonight" is one of those vague open-ended statements that really say very little. How many are "too many"? When does "tonight" start? And just how firm is your rather wishy-washy "I don't want"? Much better is a specific "You may watch only one DVD after dinner tonight." The child hearing that statement knows exactly where you stand. It's a statement that leaves little room for confusion, delay, or discussion.

2. Don't plead or beg
Begging and pleading are not effective ways to communicate with your child. They send the message that you are not in control; instead, your child is. "Please darling, can you listen to Mommy and put on your shoes this time?" is a perfect setup for your child to think it is entirely up to him whether he puts on his shoes or not, and even if he chooses to put them on this time, he needn't next time. It also tells your child that he really doesn't have to take you all that seriously.

3. Give real choice, never false ones
Pretending that kids have a choice when they don't is not only unfair, it also leads to uncooperative behaviour and avoidable conflict. Asking a child "would you like to have a bath" or "do you want to put on your coat" gives him an opportunity to say no -- an opportunity that most kids will seize. And that puts you in a fairly weak position, as you must now deal with a child who needs to be convinced to have a bath or put on his coat.

Real choices, on the other hand, are a wonderful way to foster independence: "Would you like to go to the park or play at home this morning?" "Would you like a glass of milk or a glass of water?" Questions like this let young kids be assertive in a safe and productive way, and give them practice in making decisions for themselves.

4. Make sure they're listening
Some kids listen well, while others get distracted by their own daydreams or plans. When five-year-old Teddy was in my care, I would have to make eye contact with him, tell him what I wanted him to do, and then ask him to repeat it back to me before I could be certain he had heard me. Even then, it sometimes took two repetitions before he actually listened. Teddy is a teenager now, and sometimes he still doesn't hear me unless I communicate important information to him the same way.

5. Focus on the behaviour, not the child -- and be positive
It's not the child who's "naughty", it's the behaviour -- and it's essential to keep that distinction when you communicate your displeasure to a child. He's not a bad boy because he drew on the wall. Rather, drawing on the walls is not allowed; it is unacceptable behaviour, and he shouldn't do it. Personally negative comments are even worse, and they never lead to good behaviour. Being told "you act like a baby" or being adversely compared to a sibling or other model of good behaviour is humiliating, not helpful, and can be very damaging to self-esteem.

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Excerpted from Nanny Wisdom: Our Secrets for Raising Healthy, Happy Children From Newborns to Preschoolers by Justine Walsh and Kim Nicholson. Copyright 2005 by Justine Walsh and Kim Nicholson. Excerpted by permission of Stewart, Tabori and Chang. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



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Nanny secrets: How to speak so kids listen