How to get your child listening without bribing them
We’ve all been there. Your child is not doing what you want (or need) them to do, they’re throwing a fit, and you realllllly just need to get moving. So you tell them “just put your shoes on right now and you can have the iPad in the car.” Boom – their shoes are on and they’re marching their way to the car all on their own. You’re feeling like crap because you know you just bribed your child, you both were screaming at each other, and now you have to give them iPad time when you don’t really want to. No thank you all around, right?!
So, what do you do in this scenario? You narrate. Here’s an example:
“Sally, it’s time to go, put your shoes on”
“I don’t WANT TO”
“I hear you. You don’t want to put your shoes on. It’s okay to feel that way. This is a time when you have to do something you don’t want to do. Do you want my help with it or do it on your own?”
*child doesn’t respond*
“Do you want my help or want to do it on your own?”
*child still doesn’t respond or maybe sits/lays down on the ground*
“Since I’m not hearing you respond I’m going to help you. If you want to do it on your own just say “I can do it.”
*child stays calm & you get their shoes on*
If your child is still crying at this point, you can narrate something like this: “That was really frustrating, wasn’t it? Sometimes I feel really frustrated too. It’s okay to feel frustrated. I’m here to help you.”
Let me break it down for you:
- Used as a last resort
- Results in undesired behavior stopping but with a bad taste in everyone’s mouth
- Situation is driven by the child
- When child figures out how they work, bribes can stem from manipulation & challenge boundaries
- Allows parent to stay in control of the situation
- Helps the child identify the feelings they’re experiencing
- Moves the situation forward
- Results in undesired behavior stopping and with a calmer, more productive feeling
- Boundaries are respected
Tell me more about why this works
Instead of bribing your way through the situation and feeling yucky afterwards, narration takes out the charge. Your preschooler or kindergartener is learning and exploring all areas of their life and their world. Feelings aren’t new to them, but naming those feelings and working through them is. One thing they need from you is help with naming their feelings. Naming their feelings, acknowledging the resistance to what you’re telling them to do and providing them with choices that move things along are a huge help for them. There’s a phrase in the education world “name it to tame it” and this is a perfect example of it. Naming the feeling, the frustration, the resistance often tames the feeling and the charge.
So, the next time you’re ready to yell at your child try naming their feelings, your feelings, and narrating the situation. Send me a DM on Instagram when you use this tool! I’m @kinderwithmackenzie and I’m so excited to hear from you.
You’ve got this, mama.