When parents ask me,
How do I get my kids to use the toilet?
How do I get my kids to eat dinner?
How do I get my kids to go to sleep at night?
My first thought is how the heck should I know?
I’m not in the business of teaching parents more ways to control their kids. When you say, “how do I GET my kids to…” you’re entering the control zone. It’s simple to see when you clue in on that million dollar phrase.
Never in my 25 years of motherhood have I ever been able to GET my kids to do something they didn’t want to do. Think about this for a minute. How do you make a child go the bathroom? How do you make a child eat something he refuses to eat? How do you make a child fall asleep? When it comes to these three areas, the child is clearly in control (and they SHOULD be!). Do you want a child who thinks for himself? Decides for himself? Stands up for himself? You see where I’m going here. It’s no different at home.
Now don’t get me wrong. Bribing, coaxing, and rewarding may provide the desired result in the short-term, but the downside is that you can find yourself right back at it only moments later. Do you really want a child who only goes to the bathroom on a toilet when they receive a star? Or hear your praise? Or get an extra dessert at dinner? The quick fix method does nothing to facilitate independence in your children over the long term or solve the real issues at hand in the short term.
Most of the behaviors we experience with our kids are symptoms of an underlying problem.
Any attempt to try and “get the kids” to do what you want only reinforces for the child that, “you can’t make him” and here he asserts his own personal power. So if you are experiencing trouble in these areas, take a moment and think about your relationship with your child.
Are there areas of his life where you could offer him more control?
Is he picking out his clothes? Is he able to decide on certain foods he will eat? Have you incorporated some of his ideas into the bedtime routine? Does he have free time to do what he thinks is fun? Are you inviting him to help out with the real jobs around the house or are you sending him to play with his toys?
Next steps for addressing the control:
The next time you hear yourself thinking, “how am I going to GET Missie to…”, I want you to notice that you’re entering the control zone. Take some time to think about why she’s holding control of these reigns. What other control can you give her? Hint – she can handle more than you think.
And for a few weeks, go ahead and give up on the issue. Give her some space and let your actions show you love her no matter what she chooses. Chances are, she’ll come around to see the benefits. No one wears diapers forever. And kids like to sleep when they’re tired. And yes, they eat some of the veggies eventually.
Hopefully, this helps you look at situation(s) from a different perspective, identify what might be missing for your child and what you can do to help him move forward. Take your time.