Few weeks ago, we were visiting a friend’s house. This is a family with kids, just like ours. Although the meeting went usual, when I was going back home, I did notice something that bothered me. The tone my friend was using to make her kids to do something. She had to really raise her voice, get all serious to get them to eat or cleanup or whatever. Now, what bothered me was that this was a mother I had respect for. By that I mean, she is a mom like me, who sets limits, etc. I was surprised to hear her use that voice but the real shock came to me later when it occurred to me that I use plenty of that voice too. I ask kids to do something; they don’t and there comes the raised voice that somehow kids take seriously and get what I told them done.
I am subscribed to some parental groups on Facebook and one of them constantly talks about how parents can stop yelling and connect more with the kids. It initially surprised me to see how much support was being offered to parents to stop yelling on the kids. Only after visit to my friend’s house I realized that we all do it at some level.
Now, I don’t think we had a really yelling problem at home. Raised voice and serious tone. Definitely. We did that. And frankly speaking, I don’t think there is a complete way out of this yelling business. When I see Achu going to jump on Abhi’s susu on the floor, thinking it’s a water puddle. I yell ‘Achu, stop’. I do. When I see Abhi about to throw the maracas at the glass window and Achu standing in front of it; It was either going to hit Achu or the glass window, I yell. I yell like crazy,’ Abhi don’t throw that’ hoping he would stop. And they do. It is my natural instinct to shout during those kind of times and it is theirs to stop when they hear such sound.
Yet, the whole thing didn’t go well with me. I recently read a comment somewhere where some parent said, “My kids wont listen unless I put them in a timeout”. Someone else replied, “You trained your kids to not listen to you unless you give them a timeout”. Fair point. Isn’t it? It all comes back to us and what we say is okay and not okay. Us telling kids gently and nicely, “please put the books away” doesn’t reach them. What is priority for us is not priority for them. And when I raise my voice and say “PLEASE GET UP NOW AND PUT THE BOOKS AWAY”, they somehow know that is my serious voice; they know that voice is not okay. And that makes them move. I made them so that they wont listen to me when I use my gentle tone.
Sigh! Complicated. Isn’t it? So, what could I do? I read. I did dig-up all these posts and comments and read what the articles said. Gentle and more creative ways to connect with the kids. That was the key. “Connect” with the kid. Although, we had barely any yelling problem compared to the examples that got quoted on these posts/articles, I didn’t want Abhi and Achu to listen to me only when I use THAT tone. Because that probably makes them scared. I hear my parents constantly tell Abhi and Achu that if they don’t eat, bugs are going to come bite them or that I am going to scold them. I tell my parents pretty seriously to not make kids do something by scaring them. I have been against that concept from the beginning and we found a solution that STILL works great for us.
So, the point of this post is not free-gyan. Believe me. I do realize now, almost everyday, that despite of what I am aware of, I slip constantly. Even though I never scare them or yell (unless its dangerous like throwing heavy toys at one another) to get things done, I conveniently go back to my serious tone to get things done. I had ways to avoid raising my voice and I know they worked, and this is reminder for me to go back to what I think is right to do; Not what is convenient.
♦ Connect : Like I said, the key is to connect with the kid before I tell him what to do. I tell Abhi to cleanup, he doesn’t. I ask him something about what he is doing first; Like the fire engine on his shirt or about some spider or dinosaur. He looks up. I have his attention. I continue to talk to him about what interests him and slowly turn the conversation to what I need to be done. Works. although, this works 100% in case of Achu, only works like 50% in Abhi’s case. Still, I will take it. 🙂
♦ Across the room talk DOES NOT work: Kids are really at that age, when I tell them something from the kitchen and they are in the play room, what I tell them doesn’t reach them. Their ears, sure. But mind. Nope. So, I move. I get up from wherever I am sitting, walk across to her, stare at them and tell them what I want to. That worked too. Its far too convenient to be where we are and just keep repeating the same thing, but it’s just going to be noise to them unless I am next to them.
♦ Trying an alternative way: Abhi and Achu had a problem with jumping on our big bed. Now, the bed in the guests’ bedroom, I was fine with them jumping on it. But not ours. Because, ours has footboard which can hurt the kids if they happen to fall on it. For weeks and weeks, I told them to not jump on the bed. I closed the room to them; But still whenever they found time, they would sneak in and jump like there is no tomorrow, while I repeatedly told them not to jump and my heart rate kept shooting up. One day, it occurred to me, that even though it was exactly the same message, I have to tell them in a new way. Instead of telling them what not to do, I had to tell them what they can do; Give them a choice. So, instead of telling them, “Please don’t jump on the bed”, I tried, “You can either sit or lie down on the bed” or “Do you want to sit on the bed or leave the room?”. Worked like a charm. They almost always choose to sit on the bed. Try to jump after few minutes and back to sitting because the other alternative is not good. And now I wonder, why didn’t I think of this before? 🙂 Just as this, telling them skeleton or spider or monkey stories to get them to do what they need to do, works like a charm too.
♦ Not be a broken record: Another main thing I realized was not to sound like a broken record. With Abhi and Achu, when something needs to be done, I tell them a maximum of three times. Third time comes with a warning, still in my normal tone, “I am not going to ask you again”. Now, when I said this, I meant, I will stop asking them and will just ignore them or what needs to be done until they have a moment to think. But, Abhi and Achu somehow understood this as something bad will happen if I am not going to ask them again. I have no idea why they took it that way. But that works too. 🙂 Anyway, my intention here was to not repeat the request more than thrice and find one of the ways above to get the work done. The more we sound like broken record, the more it annoys and people around us and that only makes us take the raised voice. So, I try to avoid getting there in the first place.
♦ Be back to normal like nothing happened: Now, I don’t know how good or bad this does. But if I did tell them seriously, to get something done; And when they get that done, I immediately forget about the raised tone, they not doing something for so long and smile and say thanks. I hope that they will feel that all is well after I smile. I just don’t want them to feel the seriousness anymore.
Sigh. I will say this again. Complicated, I know. Because I don’t have 8 hours of free time before/after which I need to manage kids. I have work, home and kids to manage. Which means, it’s very convenient to go back to that raised tone to get things done than remember to connect and talk. I still do it very often, but just not as much as I would like. I know I need to read more to remind myself and keep the main focus in my head.
Like, I read somewhere, parenting is better done with a glass of wine. True, right? 🙂 So, if you have ways to connect to kids, I am all ears. 🙂