As parents we really want our children to listen to us and cooperate. Unfortunately, we sometimes expect our children to behave in ways we are not able to behave ourselves! And if we’re not able to model the behavior we want our children to learn, who are we to flinch when they’re simply following our lead?
What does it mean to model the behavior you want to see in your children? It means saying “Please, Thank you, Excuse me, I’m Sorry.” I don’t believe in making children say any of these things because it doesn’t encourage authenticity (see this post byVickie at Demand Euphoria). Children learn these phrases simply by hearing us use them. But there’s more to what we model than social niceties because there is so much more to life than being polite. Modeling the behavior we want to see in our children also means modeling those very behaviors we are so quick to demand from our children. And listening and cooperation are usually pretty high on the list of a parents wish list.
“My child ignores me.”
“My child won’t listen.”
“My child refuses to cooperate.”
“Listen to me when I’m talking to you.”
How we forget to model listening and cooperation
It’s time for Natalia to get dressed, so her mom asks her to pick out some clothes. She responds with, “can you come with me?” Her mom is busy cleaning breakfast dishes, so she says, “no, you can do it yourself.” And for the next 25 minutes while she’s cleaning up she’s also engaged in a power struggle with her child over picking out clothes because she chose not to listen to her child’s needs or cooperate with her request.
And here’s what we can do instead
Natalia asks, “can you come with me?” and her mom responds, “sure! Give me 5 minutes to clean these dishes. Could you bring me your cup and dish?” Together they finish the clean up and head to the bedroom, where Natalia’s mom now has the opportunity to guide Natalia through the dressing process in a playful manner, “hmmm, where can we find those clothes?” The simple choice to listen and cooperate just transformed a 25 minute power struggle into 15 minutes of connection with her child. Plus it modeled the pro-social behaviors of listening and cooperating, while also building a sense of capability within Natalia, who now feels heard, engaged, and honored.
Listening and Cooperation
If we don’t listen to our children when they’re talking to us, they learn not to hear us us when we’re talking to them.
If we don’t cooperate with our children when they request our help or our presence, they will not cooperate with our requests.
Let’s chose to model the behavior we want our children to learn!
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