Why does this happen? „The biggest mistake parents make is telling their children what to do as if they were tiny adults,” Russian child Oxana Lisikova explains.
„But this tiny world of theirs is governed by different laws of perception that we need to take into account if we want to make to make ourselves heard,” she adds.
Here are the 10 mistakes that stop us from efficiently communicating what we want to our children:
Mistake no. 1: No eye contact
Kids can only be focused on one task at a time. Because of that, you shouldn’t get mad that your child doesn’t seem to hear you while he’s doing something, like building a tunnel out of chairs. At his age, he just can’t focus on two things at the same time.
Before you start speaking to your child, make sure that you have his attention. Lower yourself to his level, look him in the eye, and maybe even grab his hand. Call him by his name: „Emily, please look at me” or, „Jacob, listen to what I’m saying, please.” When you’re talking to children older than 3 and a half, it may be useful to ask them to repeat what you requested of them.
Mistake no. 2: A request that’s actually made up of a few different requests
„Take your shoes off, wash your hands and come to the table” is, from our point of view, a very simple request. But for a child younger than 3 and a half or 4, it’s a pretty complicated algorithm. Kids this age find it hard to remember how one action comes after the other without missing anything. And because of that, he might just get stuck in the hallway.
On the contrary, when you break complicated requests into a few simpler ones, your child will find it easier to see them through. Ask your child one thing at a time, like taking his shoes off. Only move to your second request after he’s finished with the first one.
Mistake no. 3: Indirect suggestions
Sometimes, parents don’t phrase their requests directly and they use sentences such as: „Do intend to live in this mess forever?” or „Do you like to walk around with those sticky hands?” „Kids take everything literally. This is why it’s so hard for them to understand that this types of questions are actually calls to action,” the psychologist explains.
Remember that your child is currently still learning language. So you need to phrase your requests as literally as possible.
Mistake no. 4: Too many words
„Oliver, how many times have I told you not to jump on the bed? Did you forget how you scraped your nose? Do you want to hurt yourself again? etc”. About this kid of phrasing, psychologist Oxana Lisikova tells us that: „It’s clear that the parent who chooses to express himself this way has reached his limit and would like to stop a dangerous behavior. But the child might get lost in that very long lecture and might simply forget what it was all about.”
It’s pointless to remind your child of past events. And it’s really not necessary to frighten him about what might happen in the future. Children live in the here and now, so trying to change their behavior through long explanations won’t do any good.
The best thing you can do is to keep it short: „It’s dangerous to jump on the reclining chair,” and then turn it all into a fun moment.
You could pick the child up from the chair, spin him around, play airplane, and so on. Or you can refocus his attention towards another jumping game, like who jumps further over a few sheets of paper on the floor. In any case, you need to find him a less dangerous alternative for his excess of energy. In addition, you can alter the scene, by just moving the armchair to another room.
Mistake no. 5: Parents raising their voices
After the parent starts yelling, the child will admit to hearing and understanding everything. But the truth is that he didn’t hear anything at all, because all his attention during those tense moments was focused on avoiding punishment.
Moreover, yelling makes him afraid and uncomfortable. And fear reduces the brain’s ability to think. „Remember how you felt when someone else raised their voice to you, such as a boss,” the psychologist suggests. „You probably know that feeling of being lost, as if you can’t remember things. The same thing happens to your child.”
The best way to keep your emotions in check is to be consistent. When your child will understand that there is no way he will watch TV for more than an hour, he will stop ignoring his parent’s request.
Mistake no. 6: Expecting an immediate change in behavior
American psychologists have discovered after many experiments that children don’t understand words as fast as adults do, but with a delay of a few seconds. One of the reasons for that is that a certain type of attention, the one that allows one person to shift focus from something interesting to something instrumental only forms around the ages of 6 or 7.
That means that a child bellow this age will concentrate easier on something that he finds interesting, but won’t manage to focus on what his parents find important, such as getting dressed and leaving the house.
Give your child some time. For example, you’re at the park and you need to go home, but your child doesn’t want to stop playing. Decide together how many times he can ride the slide before you leave. By rephrasing things in this manner, your request has better chances of getting through to him. Another example: if your child refuses to come to dinner because he’s playing with his toy cars, you can suggest a toy car race: whoever reaches the kitchen faster wins.
Mistake no. 7: Too many repetitions
This will only make the child dependent on your request. „This time, mom hasn’t said that I needed to wash my hands before dinner, so I don’t have to.”
„Kids have excellent visual memory. And because of that, for remembering things that make up your daily routine you can use images, with great success. For example, at the age of 1 and a half to 2 years old, your child is capable of remembering that he must wash his hands in three situations: before meals, after using the potty and after going out. Hang colorful pictures of these moments in the bathroom or in the hallway,” the Russian psychologist suggests.
Mistake no. 8: The request that contains a negation
„Don’t step in the puddle!” „Don’t slam the door!” are examples of that. Your child won’t perceive the „no” in these sentences, and most often, by this phrasing you are only giving him ideas of what to do.
Try offering him an interesting alternative. Such as: „Let’s try to cross the puddle on these stones” or „Could you close the door in a perfectly silent way?”
Mistake no. 9: Nagging
This is a mistake that worried mothers usually commit, because they have all sorts of fears when it comes to their children and the only way to dismantle them is by being overprotective, the psychologist explains. „Don’t step in that,” „Careful with the threshold,” „Stay put, there’s a dog over there” etc. After a while, these continuous suggestions turn into white noise, because the child becomes tired of them.
Just look at how many times per hour you’re nagged your child. Which of the things you said could simply be eliminated? Don’t pester him with everything; instead be there for him when he’s active. Climb the hill with him; go see what’s in the bush together, look at the dog together. He will copy your behavior, which will keep him safe.
Mistake no. 10: Not listening to your child
„There are times when mother and child spend a whole day together, but it’s hard to say that they were really in the same place,” Oxana Lisikova adds. For example, the child wants to tell his mother something very important, from his point of view, about a stone he’s found in the sand.
But his mom is preoccupied with her conversation with a friend: „Just wait a second!”
Or, on his way to the store, the child tells a story, but mom just nods her head absentmindedly, deep in her own thoughts.
Don’t forget that a child learns everything from his parents, including how to communicate. „It’s not important how much time you spend with your child, but what you do with that time,” the psychologist explains. „Try, for an hour or two at least, to become part of the child’s game, and to focus only on communicating with him.”
Most likely, he will soon be „fed up” with so much attention, and will want to also play on his own, allowing you plenty of time for that conversation with your friend or for reflecting on things. But a child that gets used to spending all his time with his mother, without receiving any attention, will soon become used to asking for attention in other ways.