David Castillo Dominici/PhotoSpin
Caught in the Repeat Cycle
How many parents ask themselves this question on a daily -- or, more likely -- moment-to-moment basis?
A typical “repeat myself” scenario may look something like this:
Mom asks son to get his shoes on. Son continues to play video game.
Mom repeats the request. Child protests, “Just a few more minutes.”
Mom reinforces instructions a little louder and adds, “Now!”
Child keeps playing. Mom yells, and takes controller away and points to the door. Child still doesn’t go directly to his shoes.
Yep, I have one of those children who is hard to direct and to get to focus on what needs to be done.
Unfortunately, I, too, am caught in this cycle that is actually teaching my child not to listen.
“By repeating the request, you are directly teaching them to tune [you] out. The child is learning that when you start talking you are going to say it two or three more times so they wait.” (3)
By not acting immediately to reinforce the instruction after the first time it’s given, children actually get the extra time at the activity they wanted. They know all they have to do is wait you out.
Children actually view repeated requests for them to stop it differently than parents do. Parents see each “Stop it” as a continuation of the first instruction. Children, however, see each requested “Stop it” as a single, random instruction. (2)
Tips to Break the Repeat Cycle: Move into Action Early, Give Yourself More Time
1) Move your action point to the beginning instead of the end.
Don’t wait until you bellow your child’s full name before doing something. “The way to teach a child to listen the first time you say something is to show them, consistently, that you’ll take action the minute they don’t listen.” (2)
2) Children will be children.
“Accept that at least initially, you may have to move into action and help them to listen. You may have to help them at first because together you’ve created the pattern of tuning out.” (3)
3) Avoid rushing by adding more time.