Parenting can often be a battle of wills – a standoff between adversaries that can degenerate into aggression and negative feelings, which if repeated often enough, can tarnish a very important life-long relationship. So how does one constructively handle these difficult situations?
I first learnt about this technique when my first baby was a year old, and it has been one of the most powerful lessons I have ever learnt – with profoundly positive long term benefits for my relationship with both my children!
The first thing to watch is your language! How dripping in judgment is it? Keeping the example of tidying the bedroom in mind, are you using words like “pigsty”, “cesspit” or anything of that ilk??? Shaming your child in this way is very destructive to their self-esteem and your long-term relationship. Try to keep your words neutral by simply sticking to the facts. Rather talk about the clothes and books on the floor.
Avoid blame by owning the problem yourself. Talk about your own response to it. “I don’t like your clothes and books on the floor. I feel much happier when the place is tidy,” is better than saying “You always leave your clothes and books on the floor.”
Ask for what you want respectfully but firmly. “I want you to put the books on the shelf and your clothes in the laundry basket now please. What are you going to start with?”
Reward good behavior like crazy, with lots of praise as well as perks if appropriate. “If your bedroom is nice and tidy you can watch TV / have pudding tonight / go to movies on Saturday.” But don’t underrate how powerful a motivator simple praise is. So make sure you acknowledge to your child how beautiful you think the tidied room looks.
A great rule of thumb: focus on the good and downplay the bad. Try to catch your children out doing things right rather than on their mistakes.