Monday, September 22, 2003

Getting kids to listen

IF YOU’RE exasperated because your child talks back when you ask him to pick up his toys, refuses to get dressed for daycare, or insists on tearing through the supermarket, it’s time to enforce consequences that not only make it clear you mean business but also hold your child responsible for his own choices. To be effective, consequences should be related to what your child did wrong. Here are some ideas for ending common bad behaviours.

Refusing to leave

When Kim Hahn’s sons, aged five and three, ignore her pleas to get out of the pool or leave the playground, she tells them that she won’t bring them back again the next day, and then she holds firm. If they beg to go, she explains: “I’m sorry, but you were not being listeners yesterday, so we won’t be able to go today,” says Kim, of Centennial, Colorado, the United States. “I’ve only had to do this a few times, and now they arebetter at cooperating.”

Fighting in the car

One day Sydney and Autumn Green, five and two, wouldn’t stop poking each other in the car, so their dad, Stephen, of College Station, Texas, pulled over and separated the girls’ car seats. “They didn’t like that one bit,” he says. “Now all I have to do is mention moving their seats, and they shape up right away.”

Taking back

If six-year old Jack Harrington, of Moline, lllinois, was sassy when his mum, Diane, asked him to set the table or clean his room, she invoked a no-talking rule for 15 minutes. Then she had him say at least three nice things to her over the remainder of the day. She used a checklist and stickers to help him keep track of how many he still had left to go.

Acting up in public

When Julie Marchese’s four boy, ages four to seven, misbehave in church, they have to go to their rooms when they get home and stay there for the same amount of time that they bothered other church-goers. “They’re usually really good in church the next week,” says the Chicago mum, who always reminds them of the rule on the way to church.

Slamming the door

Brian and Laurel Going, of Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, were at their wits’ end when their 11-year-old wouldn’t stop slamming her bedroom door, So one day, Brian told Heather that if she didn’t stop, she would lose her door. She got two warnings, and the third time there was no conversation – just the sound of her dad’s hammer tapping out the hinges. The lack of privacy for a week devastated her, and Heather hasn’t slammed her door since.

Avoiding homework

When eight-year-old Megan Eccleston, of Stony Point, New York, plays instead of doing her required half hour of reading each night, she isn’t allowed to play on the weekend – she can’t hang out with friends or jump on the trampoline, for example – until she makes up the time. Her father, John, says: “The lesson is that if she procrastinates, the task will get bigger than it was before and she’ll wish she’d done it when she was supposed to.”


When Suzi Prokell’s two boys, five and seven, won’t stop jumping on the furniture, hitting one another, or running through the house after she’s asked them to settle down, she separates them and gives each one a job to do, such as dusting the living room or folding laundry. She tells them that the penalty for creating chaos is restoring order. “After 15 minutes, they’re more interested in playing nicely together than doing work,” says Suzi, of Aledo, Texas.

Damaging property

Joy Sutherland, of Memphis, told her girls, 11 and eight, not to jump on their dad’s hammock. When they did it anyway and the hammock broke, Joy made them earn enough money to buy a replacement. She made a list of chores and assigned monetary values for each task. “It took them a few weeks to earn the money, but they learned a lesson about respecting other people’s property,” she says.


When Kay Brunais’s two girls, seven and four, ignore her requests to put on their shoes when it’s time to run errands, the Michigan mum leaves them behind with her husband. If that’s not an option, she cancels one of the things her daughters want to do while they’re out, such as stopping for ice-cream, and tells them that their dawdling used up their extra time. “Now they get ready when I ask because they don’t want to miss out,” Kays says.


When Catherine Lamm’s two girls, two and four, whine and gripe about going to bed or using the potty, she says, “Mummy needs a time-out because there’s too much complaining,” and she steps out of the room. “After a few minutes, they usually do what they are supposed to do,” says the Hanover, New Hampshire, mum. “They’re learning that if you whine and complain, people won’t want to be around you.”

Using foul language

To get her five-year-old daughter, Randhi Jo, to stop saying “butthead” and “poop face,” Amy Schroeder of Topeka, Kansas, started requiring her to put a a coin from a purse into a jar when she said a bad word. “Now if my husband or I slip up and swear, she makes us put a coin into the jar.” Amy plans to donate the money to charity.

Begging for toys

Michael Sands, of Los Angeles, realised that giving in to his eight-year-old son’s pleas for cards or videos games was encouraging him to keep up the annoying nagging. So now when Nicholas pesters his dad to buy him stuff or begs for more than his dad has agreed to buy, Michael tells him that his behaviour is inappropriate and leads him out of the store empty-handed. “Nicholas yelled and screamed at first, but now he’s learning to control himself better when we’re in the store,” Michael says.

Leaving a bicycle outside

When David Williams, six, left his bike on the driveway overnight two years ago, after his parents told him not to because it might get wet or stolen, they asked him what he thought the consequence should be. “He said he shouldn’t get to ride his bike, since he didn’t take care of it,” says his mum, Debbie, who lives in Houston. “My husband and I locked it up for a day, and he hasn’t left it out since.

Not doing chores

Five-year-old Ben Seamans loves it when his mum plays trains with him. So when he decides not to take his dishes to the sink or put his dirty clothes into the basket, his mum, Gina, announces: “Well, I guess I’ll have to take care of your work for you, but it will use up a lot of my energy, so I won't have enough left to be able to play trains later,” says the Arvada, Colorado, mother of two. “That usually motivates him to take care of business.”

Stalling at bedtime

When Paige and Hunter Updegraff, eight and six, goof instead of getting ready for bed, or if their mum has to ask them too many times to brush their teeth, she’ll only read them one story instead of three, or she won’t let them read by themselves before falling asleep. “I’ll just say: ‘Sorry, but we’re running out of time and you won’t get as many stories tonight,' and they usually start hustling,” says Julenne, of Littleton, Colorado.

Hitting and kicking

When seven-year-old Eric James, of Clifton, New Jersey, slaps or kicks his four–year-old sister, Danielle, his mum, Barbara, insists that he apologise to his sister for hurting her and that he read her one of her favourite books.

Being rowdy in a restaurant

When one of Cheryl Mills’s three-year-old triplets refused to sit still at a restaurant and kept dropping her crayons and climbing under the table, the Clayton, North Carolina, mum took her out to the car and left the other two kids at the table with their dad. “Holland was so mad and threw a fit, but she calmed down after I explained that she had to behave or she wouldn’t get to eat with everyone else,” says Cheryl. After a few minutes, she returned inside with her daughter and they enjoyed a peaceful meal with the rest of the family. “For the most part, all three kids have been good in restaurants ever since,” says Cheryl. – © Parents/TMSI

The Star, Thursday 18/9/03

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