We’ve all been there. A screaming tantrum at the supermarket. Bickering kids in the backseat. And my personal favourite, the day your lovely child refuses to cooperate with anything (naturally, this is also the day you have the most things to do). How is it possible that after years of daily reminders, attempts at building good habits and forever using our words and modelling how NOT to use our hands, our children still don’t seem to listen to us? Some days, I feel like a scratched CD that keeps repeating the same three chords. If any of this resonates with you, then read on, for you are not alone.
Recently, while listening to an archived episode of one of my favourite podcasts, I came across a nugget of information about how to get your children to listen to what you say and learn to follow the right rules.
Apparently, the technical term for this technique is Value Based Advice (as opposed to Rules Based Behaviour) and the thing to do is to teach the values upon which rules are based.
So, instead of saying “don’t leave the table before everyone is finished”, say “we wait for everyone to finish as a sign of respect,”. Or instead of “don’t hit your brother”, try “everyone has the right to feel safe in our family”.
Expressing myself this way at first felt quite unnatural and needlessly formal but amazingly, it has actually made a difference! Of course, my children are still quite young but I notice that I don’t need to repeat myself quite so many times and that getting over sibling squabbles has gotten much easier for all involved.
The bonus of using this type of language is that eventually, children will learn to assess the validity of rules (in and out of the home) for themselves and be able to discern whether or not an action or situation resonates with their core values. Isn’t that so cool? Let us know if you’ve ever heard of this before or what happens if you decide to try it out!
Illustration from the book Llama Llama Mad At Mama by Anna Dewdney (One of our favourite books ever!)