Before you can even see your kids, you hear them. The neighbors hear them. Everyone hears them. And from their cries of delight, you know the scene won’t be pretty. In the midst of every toy in the house strewn about, sippy cups hidden in crevices you didn’t even know existed, and cheerios raining down like a hurricane, they are jumping and playing and full of giggles.
Now, your first instinct is to (fill in the blank here). Now be honest with me for a minute- how well has that actually worked in the past? Yes, I know that your blank was to yell at them to “cease and desist immediately or else.”
How is that working for you? Does it work only if it’s a full moon? Does it work only if you hold your mouth the right way? Not really. For some reason, yelling at kids to stop almost seems to egg them on even MORE!
So, the next time you’re tempted to tell the kids to, “STOP!” try this instead:
Tell them what TO DO.
Let me give you an example:
You walk in the room and they’re jumping on the couch cushions. Some of the cushions are still on the couch (though they are just barely hanging on) and others are in the floor. They’re bouncing back and forth on their indoor trampoline with glee.
So you walk in and say:
“Johnny, stop jumping. It’s time to put the cushions back on the couch now.”
Now, I know that you’re shaking your head at me. But it’s important to notice in these examples there are some important elements (whether or not this example works in your house, the elements are important for you to take note of).
- There isn’t a question. Never use a question when you’re telling kids to do something, when they really don’t have an option. Saying, “Will you please pick up the toys now?” gives them wiggle room to say no or to do it later. That’s not what mommy needs. Mommy needs the toys picked up now, so let’s make that come across.
- There’s a command to “stop.” Lead with what you need your child to do. If you are giving a “stop” direction, then only tell them once. If you keep giving reminders and friendly requests to stop, your child will soon learn to ignore you and will wait until they can tell you are ready to enforce a consequence.
- Tell them what to do. Often, when we see kids jumping on the furniture, we say, “Don’t jump on the furniture.” So then they start hopping on it or running around the room or something else equally disruptive. What we want them to do is to sit, or clean, or run outside. So tell them what to do. Don’t leave them with a blank to fill-in. They’ll fill it in alright, but with something you’re not exactly thrilled for them to do.
So, I know what’s probably going through your head right now, “There’s no way that’s going to work.” But try it out. You will see results- especially when you only ask them to stop once before enforcing a logical consequence like quiet time or time out. If you don’t believe me, then try it out on your husband first. It works on grown-ups (and men), too!