3 Suggestions for Getting Things Done with Less Tension
Getting things done around the house and yard is part of every parent’s agenda. We need to deal with food, clothes, cleaning, homework, hygiene, … and the list goes on and on. But is it possible to get jobs done without creating tension and frustration? We say yes, but it may take changing the way you currently operate. Here are three suggestions to improve your children’s responsiveness.
Suggestion #1: Recognize the Cues You Use to Tell Your Children It’s Time to Obey
The way you interact with your child is often just as important as what you say. You can change a diaper gently or in a rough way. You can put a child to bed as an item on your to-do list or with loving care. When it’s time for your teenager to take out the trash, you can talk pleasantly or harshly. The difference is more than just words. The actions you use and the tone of your voice also communicate a message
These cues reveal something to your children about your Action Point. The Action Point is the point when you stop talking and start acting, or the point when the children know you mean business. “I always mean what I say,” you may think. But children know the difference between the first time you give an instruction, and the last time, just before you do something about their lack of responsiveness
One dad said, “I know now that my Action Point has to do with my intensity. Somehow my children learned that when my voice gets loud, they better get moving. I didn’t even realize it until I began to watch when my kids actually responded. I started experimenting and saw that if I increased my volume the first time, they listened. I was shocked. I’m not sure I want my intensity to be the signal, but I now understand what my kids have known all along: I’m giving them cues to know when I’m serious.
Suggestion #2: Avoid Using Anger to Motivate Your Kids to Action
For many parents, anger is the indicator of the Action Point. When Dad or Mom gets angry, then kids get moving. A raised voice or angry look communicates that a parent’s discipline is imminent. Anger, however, can be a destructive indicator, causing more damage than good to the relationship. The trade-off isn’t worth it. You may get obedience by yelling at your kids, but you lose the closeness that’s possible in your family.
Sometimes a mother will say to us, “You don’t understand my kids. They won’t respond unless I get angry.” We believe she’s right, but her children respond that way because she has trained them to. Her kids wait until they see her anger before responding.
Allowing anger to motivate your Action Point is a short-term solution. It says, “I want to solve this problem right now, and I don’t care how it will affect our relationship.” The parent who uses anger is a bit like the foolish woman in Proverbs 14:1: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” It takes intentional work to move away from anger to more productive cues, but you will achieve better results, your children will be become more responsive, and you will preserve your relationship.
Suggestion #3: Explain Your New Action Point to Your Children
Explain the new plan to your children. You don’t want to surprise and confuse them; you want to train them. An Action Point determines the rules of the game for parent and child. If you try to change an Action Point without explanation, your children may feel hurt and resentful.
Although you have never clarified it before, you have taught your children to respond the way they do. If you’re going to change the rules, talk to your children about what you’re doing. They will learn to respond to your new Action Point as well as to the instructions of other people. One single mom had a meeting with her two boys, ages nine and eleven. “Boys,” she said, “I see a pattern in our relationship that needs to change.
“I think that I’ve taught you to respond slowly when I give you an instruction. I now know that God expects you to respond quickly. From now on, I’m going to tell you only once to do something. If you don’t respond, I’m going to act with some kind of discipline. This may be a difficult pattern to change for all of us, but it’s very important for you to develop the character quality of obedience.”
Change takes time, but determining that you, as a parent, want to change is the first step. Your children will learn to respond to your new Action Point and you will see the cooperation and responsiveness increase over time.
This tip comes from the book Home Improvement: The Parenting Book You Can Read To Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. It’s now available as an audio book as well as an ebook and paperback.