Less is More! 5 Tips to Declutter your Words and Reduce Power Struggles!
“My kids just don’t listen!” is something I commonly hear from my coaching clients. Truth be told, I often feel this way myself!
Does this sound familiar? You find yourself talking to your kids in a lecturey kind of way. You get caught up in delivering continuous directions, reminders, rationales and lectures. Nag, nag, nag, nag.
And often, your kids may come back at you with the eye roll or ignore you with that glazed-over look. Sometimes they may reward you with a redundant, hollow 'uh-huh’ as a response. While other times, sass-talk is their preferred comeback.
No matter your child’s age, if your request doesn’t line up with their agenda, kids may just block out the noise. This delicate dance of parental requests and children failing to follow through can lead to a power struggle of epic proportions, leaving both parties feeling disappointed.
This frustration may have us thinking, “My kids just don’t listen” or “My kids are so difficult!” But is that really true? Children may feel difficult at times, but are they really difficult or are we just missing something? What if we made a shift to look at the situation from a different angle? A perspective that encourages us to approach our children with curiosity, empathy and compassion. A perspective that allows us to get to the root of the issue and remove the power struggle.
How would it feel to change the narrative using a positive framework that offers an opportunity for change and growth? For example, rather than thinking, “My kids just don’t listen,” try, “My kids and I are having a hard time communicating well.” This framework identifies communication as the problem, rather than the children.
A constant stream of telling our kids what to do is not ideal for creating independent thinkers, problem solvers and doers. Keeping communication short and sweet may be more helpful. Think of it like the Minimalist movement - Less is More!
The Minimalist movement is more than decluttering your space á la Marie Kondo. The idea of Minimalism isnot to declutter often, but to restructure your mindset to understand that less is more all the time. It’s about shifting your habits and beliefs around how you approach materials like your furnishings, your clothing, your foods, etc.
How would it feel to approach words in a similar way? Creating a shift in your mindset to declutter your language and let the important words take center stage. Communicating in a way that aligns with your values and supports the kind of people you would like your children to become?
Here are 5 strategies that use Less Words to get More Cooperation!
1 - Walk the Talk!! Your children may not hear everything you say, but they certainly see everything you do! And they are pickin’ up whatever it is you are puttin’ down. Think of it this way - a gardener tends very carefully to a newly planted seedling. For quite some time, it may seem as if nothing is happening until one day a shoot finally pops up! There was very important work happening below the soil that the gardener could not see! Be patient with your kids, model what you value and hope to take shape. Your kids are noticing and forming their roots, too!
2 - Connection is Key A child at play is a child with an agenda! It's tough for children (AND adults!) to stop an activity they are enjoying. Expecting your child to switch gears quickly can be tricky. A sudden pump on the brakes may certainly get some pushback! Take a moment to connect with your child before giving a direction or making a request. Click here for 10 Tips for Connecting with your child.
3 - Ask Questions & Get Curious Open-ended questions can help promote autonomy and strengthen problem-solving skills. By asking questions, the child is invited to become a part of the process. Some questions may look like this:
What will you need to do so you’re ready for practice? How much time should that take? What should you do next? How can I support you? What is your plan?
4 - Foster Independence You can reduce your language and promote independence with the following strategies:
Use a timer - You can use an oven timer, an egg timer, the timer on your phone or even a sand timer for visual learners! I love using timers because it lessens the power struggle by taking the parent out of the equation. Here are a few ways to incorporate a timer into your routine:
Set the timer for a chunk of time to complete an activity (For example, ‘2 minute tidy up’ or 20 minutes to focus on math homework, etc.)
Use the timer as a warning that a transition is about to happen. (I’m setting the timer for 2 minutes and then it will be time for lunch)
*PRO-TIP* Give your kids some control of the timer! Consider allowing your kids to help choose how much time they need, choose the sound/music for the alarm, or be the one who starts/turns off the timer.
Use measurable actions - If you don’t have access to a timer, consider using something physical or visual to measure time. For example:
“Three more pushes on the swing and then it’s time to go.”
“When this show is over, we’ll get ready for the tub”
*PRO-TIP* Allow your child some agency. Let them choose how many pushes on the swing before leaving the park; Let them click the remote control to turn off the tv.
Use a schedule - Create a list or picture schedule for simple routines. Children can quickly learn routines and build their independence as they follow along with a schedule. The best part is parents can use very limited language! Simple statements like, “What’s next?” or “Now what will you do?” may be all the prompting you need!
Make schedules for wake-up routine, bedtime routine, or getting off to school. For older kids - after school/homework routine, getting chores completed, etc.
Creating schedules can be as easy as writing a list, creating drawings by hand, using cutouts from a magazine, or utilizing free websites like Canva to print out images.
*PRO-TIP* Laminate your pictures and use velcro to stick them to a surface. Your kids can remove each step as they move through the schedule.
5 - Allow Your Child Some Space Not everything is an emergency or a ‘must do right now.’ Reduce the power struggle by allowing your child some control when appropriate.
Consider giving your child a ‘needs to be completed by’ time to take the pressure off getting something done immediately.
Ask your child when they would like to complete an activity. (“Would you like to brush your teeth before or after you get dressed?” or “It’s your turn to walk the dog. When will you fit that into your afternoon?”)
If using a schedule, consider allowing your child to create the order of the routine. (You need to brush your teeth, put on pj’s and use the toilet before bedtime. What would you like to do first, second and third?)
Take the frustration out of communication. Less is more! Our kids do listen, we just have to speak less so they can hear.