A question I get asked a lot is “How do I get my children to listen to simple instructions?” Luckily there are some strategies that you can implement to make sure that what you are saying to your children is heard, understood and carried out far more frequently, making for a far less stressed out Mummy.
This is something that was highlighted by the paediatric consultant and speech and language specialist as one of the strategies to implement when my son received his autism diagnosis. It is one of the many strategies that made so much sense. These strategies, I realised, would benefit not just children with autism, but all children. Read on or watch the video below to learn more.
It’s all about telling children what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.
Sounds simple right? Can it really make that much difference? Yes, it can
Or rather, don’t.
I don’t want you to think about an elephant. I don’t want you to think about a huge elephant with an enormous trunk and huge feet. Don’t think about which shade of grey it is, don’t think about it at all. I don’t want to think of that elephant filling the room that you are now in. Just stop it.
You’re still thinking about an elephant, aren’t you?
It’s because I told you what not to think about. Your brain heard all about the massive elephant and ignores the “don’t”.
Let’s take another example
This time, let’s think of something a little more relevant to your children, something that you may actually want them to do, or not to do. Let’s take an example of not wanting them to spill their drink.
Here’s what NOT to say
Don’t spill that drink, it’s going to go all over the floor, stop, you’re about to spill it!
What do you think your child is going to think about? What are they picturing? They are picturing spilling it everywhere. I’m not suggesting that they will then purposely chuck it everywhere (although this is possible too), but subconsciously, that is what they are thinking about so that is what is more likely to happen.
Now let’s try it another way
Keep the drink in the cup.
The command is simple. There is no complex language and we are asking the child to focus on what we DO want them to do, not what we do not. The fact is, upon hearing this, the mind conjures up the right images and that is what is more likely to happen – the drink is more likely to stay in the cup.
I’m not suggesting it’s a magic fix
Now, I’m fully aware that eliminating all “don’t”s and another negative language from your vocabulary will be nearly impossible, (we’re human after all, even us Mums). Nor am I suggesting that by changing your wording that your children will suddenly become obedient little cherubs overnight.
What I am saying is this
By consciously choosing to word your requests and commands to your children by focusing on what you do want them to do rather than what you do not want them to do, you are more likely to achieve the favourable outcome that you desire.
Now here’s my challenge to you
Give it a go. Try it for 7 days. Draw a star on your hand or stick a post-it on the fridge or do whatever will remind you that this is how you are making requests to your children now. Use plain simple language, say it with a smile and quite simply tell them what you would like them TO do. Make a conscious effort to only use this positive language. It will be hard work to think every time before you speak at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
At the end of the 7 days reflect back;
- Did you stick to the challenge?
- How did your children react to the new language?
This may seem like hard work at times, but the more practised you become, the easier it will be. More importantly, the more your children hear these requests and are able to visualise what you do want them to do, the better they will become at following your requests.