I am just plain worn out over getting my six-year old to do the simplest things like brushing her teeth or putting on her shoes. Why can’t she just say, “Okay, Mom” and get with the program? Why does she have to put up a fight about every single thing I ask her to do?
I get it. And so do the millions of parents who can relate to your question. While it’s true that in some families, kids go along with the plan without fuss and fanfare, most of us know all too well the tension that comes from having to pull, push or drag a child through the necessary tasks of daily life.
Most children feel like the majority of our conversations with them are focused on getting them to do something they don’t want to do. They see us coming, list in hand (literally or figuratively) and brace themselves to resist as long as possible. Typically, whatever it is we want them to do is much less enjoyable than what they’re already doing.
Kids are wired to resist coercion. They simply do not like being bossed around. The way that we can override that instinct is to fortify the connection we have with them. In other words, outside of attachment, children are actually supposed to be resistant. It’s what keeps them safe from the inappropriate influence of strangers.
Don’t be needy: The worst way to deliver a request is to begin it with, “I need you to…“ It weakens you, and places too much power with your daughter to either fulfill your need, or deny it.
“Eyes on me”: Before you deliver an instruction to your daughter, say, “Eyes on me” so you know she’s listening. Have her repeat what you asked. And keep your requests minimal and brief.
Use a big, fat period: Don’t end a request with, “Okay?” as in, “It’s time to brush your teeth, okay?” Speak decisively and with authority so she gets the message that you’re not signing up for a round of negotiations.
Catch her being helpful: Acknowledge those times when she does do what you ask, even if they’re few and far between. The more she feels appreciated for when she does cooperate, the more she’ll be inclined to do it again.
If you’d like additional support, please join me for the upcoming Parenting Without Power Struggles Six Week Intensive!