In our house, listening has been a tough one these days.
It's not that Zinnia is still in her "pushing boundaries phase", it's that she's mastered ignoring mom and dad and through our own egotistical frustrations we've thrown our tools out the window.
Nearing 3 years old, I know that Zinnia is at a point in her brain development where she is now using logic and reasoning into her decision making and it's a new ball game from early toddlerhood.
Knowing all that should make me some sort of wizard, able to beat her at her own game, but it's tough when your pregnant and tired all the time.
I find that in many ways, it's also easier for me to look at a situation objectively and walk a client through their list of to-do's, than to point the tools back at myself.
So, I figured, in an effort to help my husband and I through this difficult time, and remind ourselves of the steps needed to get our daughters listening back on track, I thought I'd blog about it. Professional to client.
So for all intents and purposes you, the readers, are my client and I'm going to pretend you've come to me with your almost 3 year old child who is also a professional at ignoring (I hope this works, and helps other parents along the way).
Do not label your child a "bad listener".
It's been proven time and time again that naming and labelling a child actually makes them more likely to fulfill that title.
Rather than labelling your child as a "bad listener" try only pointing out the times they do listen, by calling them a "great listener".
I know, I know, it may make you bite your tongue when it actually took several requests to get them to listen, but this label will be a much better title to fulfill for all parties involved.
So for a few days, try congratulating the listening and bearing through the ignoring and see if things start to change a bit.
Limit your no's and don'ts.
If you are constantly on your child's case about every little thing, you might be setting yourself up to sound like a broken record.
Instead of saying "no this" and "don't that", try letting the small stuff slide. If they can't physically or emotionally hurt or break something or someone with what they're doing, maybe you can let this one go and save your policing for another more valuable time.
The less often you're telling your child not to do something, the more likely they are to notice when you finally do use the "no" or "don't" words. When they're said fewer and further between, they pack more of a punch.
You'll probably even notice your child sort of stop at the sound of a "no" and wear that, "ahh, what? Why not" face. Rather than the aggravating "I have no idea that you just spoke to me face" most parents know and love.
Give choices whenever possible.
This is a true game changer. Rather than calling all the shots, you can give your child the taste of power they so badly crave.
Since most kids are longing to be seen as capable big kids, giving them some choice and say in what they do can go a long way.
What's even better is you've come up with two viable options for them to choose from, so it ultimately doesn't matter which one they go with. This step is a win-win.
I used to give options a lot more and they always worked. How I let this tool slide as much as I have since becoming pregnant is beyond me.
Name the feelings and use their buzz words.
What you see is what you get. Rather than trying to talk your child out of a big emotion or to reason with them why they can't do something, try observing and helping them understand what these feelings are called by letting them know you see them.
This goes a long way for any child in the heat of the moment.
What kids often come to expect their parents to say after the words "no" or "don't" is another rep of 12 "no's" and "don'ts" followed with some explanation they don't care to hear at that exact time.
However, if you tell your child "no" and follow it with a "wow, you look very frustrated, you must've really wanted to ______". They might just start to feel closer to you. Ultimately more understood by you. This, in turn, could calm the fight/flight centres of their brain and bring them down to a level where an explanation can make even the slightest bit of sense to them. Another win-win.
Some children in the heat of the moment need silence and space, some need hugs and loving words. Whatever it may be, tapping into their wants can help you both stay on the same side of things.
Using all these steps regularly is of course ideal, but if trying to remember all 4 steps in the heat of the moment seems impossible to you, than try committing to one or two. It's amazing how fast a tool can become second nature and you find yourself able to add another one to your toolbox.
I'm going to work on using my patience this week and calling that intention into my tired and waddling days. I hope this has encouraged you to feel like you may also be able to get back on track with your little one and help you both communicate and listen more productively.