Active listening is a tool for helping young children cope with their emotions. They tend to get frustrated a lot, especially if they can’t express themselves well enough verbally. When you repeat back to them what you think they might be feeling, it helps to relieve some of their tension. It also makes them feel respected and comforted. It can diffuse many potential temper tantrums.
Stick to agreements. When you follow through on your promises, good or bad, your child learns to trust and respect you. So when you promise to go for a walk after she picks up her toys, make sure you have your walking shoes handy. When you say you will leave the library if she doesn’t stop running around, be prepared to leave straight away. No need to make a fuss about it – the more matter of fact, the better. This helps your child feel more secure, because it creates a consistent and predictable environment.
Choose Your Battles
Before you get involved in anything your child is doing – especially to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ – ask yourself if it really matters. By keeping instructions, requests and negative feedback to a minimum, you create less opportunity for conflict and bad feelings. Rules are important, but use them only when it’s really important.
Whining: Be Strong
Kids don’t want to be annoying. By giving in when they’re whinging for something, we train them to do it more – even if we don’t mean to. ‘No’ means ‘no’, not maybe, so don’t say it unless you mean it. If you say ‘no’ and then give in, children will be whine even more the next time, hoping to get lucky again.
Make Your Child Feel Important
Children love it when they can contribute to the family. Start introducing some simple chores or things that she can do to play her own important part in helping the household. This will make her feel important and she’ll take pride in helping out. If you can give your child lots of practice doing a chore, she will get better at it and will keep trying harder. Safe chores help children feel responsible, build their self-esteem and help you out too.
Children Do As You Do
Your child watches you to get clues on how to behave in the world. You’re her role model, so use your own behaviour to guide her. What you do is often much more important than what you say. If you want your child to say ‘please’, say it yourself. If you don’t want your child to raise her voice, speak quietly and gently yourself.
Show Your Child How You Feel
Tell him honestly how his behaviour affects you. This will help him see his her own feelings in yours, like a mirror. This is called empathy. By the age of three, children can show real empathy. So you might say, ‘I’m getting upset because there is so much noise I can’t talk on the phone’. When you start the sentence with ‘I’, it gives your child the chance to see things from your perspective.
Catch Her Being ‘Good’
This simply means that when your child is behaving in a way you like, you can give her some positive feedback. For example, ‘Wow, you are playing so nicely. I really like the way you are keeping all the blocks on the table’. This works better than waiting for the blocks to come crashing to the floor before you take notice and bark, ‘Hey, stop that’. Try to say six positive comments (praise and encouragement) for every negative comment (criticisms and reprimands). The 6-1 ratio keeps things in balance. Remember that if children have a choice only between no attention or negative attention, they will seek out negative attention.
Get Down To Your Child’s Level
Kneeling or squatting down next to children is a very powerful tool for communicating positively with them. Getting close allows you to tune in to what they might be feeling or thinking. It also helps them focus on what you are saying or asking for. If you are close to your child and have his attention, there is no need to make him look at you.