Many parents would say that being a parent is very demanding. But have you ever monitored how many demands you make of your child every day, in an hour or even in one minute? Research shows that parents can give 20-40 commands in a 30 minute period. What must this be like for a child? How confusing must it be for them, when they have probably not carried out one demand when several more are asked of them?
If you think of what it is like for you when children are constantly asking you things, telling you things, two children at a time maybe, your mind starts to crash. You might feel like you can’t think straight any longer. You may become agitated, annoyed and shout out for it to stop. However we often do this to children and very young children and wonder why they have poor behaviour. They are acting out how they feel, they often don’t have the language to tell parents what they feel, and they may not even know what they feel. It is their actions that will tell us if we look closely and observe what is happening for them.
Children need less commands and demands. They need parents to make requests of them, to give them time to think and solve problems. Children often hear the first couple of words you say, they are focused on them and nothing else goes in.
How can you make less demands of your child?
- Speak slowly to children.
- Look them in the eye when you are talking with them.
- Ask them to do one thing and allow them to finish that before asking another.
- Try to become aware of how much talking you do and how much direction you are giving.
- Encourage your child to talk, ask them what needs to get done next. Children know what needs to be done, help them to name it and then support them to take action.
- Make requests of children; respect their right to say no. Support them to learn to negotiate and compromise and then follow through. Children need to learn to say no, and they need to understand why others need them to say yes. If they are to grow up making good decisions, they need to be able to practice this in the home, where they have safety.
- Encourage children to have empathy, to think about what others need. Help them to meet the needs of others in an age appropriate fashion. Very young children will struggle with this but they can learn to share and take turns and tidy up at two years old.
- Allowing your child time to think is so crucial to allowing them make choices, to problem solve and learn coping skills. Tell your child what you need them to achieve and then allow them figure out how this can happen. Support them to learn the skill of thinking it out, rather than thinking for them.
- Make less demands of yourself also. Slow down and take time. I know in a world of hurry it can feel impossible. But really what are we achieving, what are we doing to our health, both physical and mental? What are we teaching our children?
- Look at your child and look at how best they can learn. Work with them and they will work with you.
This week’s ‘10 Ways’ parenting tips is written by Geraldine Kelly, One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services.
For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org