"Sound More Like An Ice Cream Truck & Less Like A Fart" - Helping Kids Follow Directions (Part 1)

You give your kid an instruction and...

  • ...immediately they do the opposite!
  • ...it's like your talking to the walls and they never even heard you!
disobedient child.jpg

Here's a series of posts to help parents help their children follow directions.

Tip #1 - Parents must sound more like ice cream trucks and less like loud farts.

ice cream truck.jpg

Farts and ice cream trucks are the same. They both make kids drop everything they're doing and RUN! Except the sound of one makes the kids RUN AWAY and the sound of the other makes the kids RUN TOWARDS.

A parent's voice can have either effect depending on the things that happen immediately after you say your child's name or give them an instruction.

From your mouth, does your child MOSTLY hear nagging, reprimands, correction, limitations and shaming yells? If yes, then your voice will become, to your child, what a fart is to everyone: AVERSIVE. Generally speaking, the more aversive your voice, the less your children will want to listen to you and do what you say. It may even encourage them to want to do the opposite of what you say.

Don't get me wrong, your child DOES need to be reprimanded. Without setting limits on what your child can and can't do, your child will resent you. However, it is possible to, both, make your child behave AND help your voice sound more like an ice cream truck than a fart.

I keep an estimated mental count whenever my children are around me. Whenever possible, I try to have 50% or more of their interactions, with me (and my voice), result in something positive, engaging, rewarding or pleasantly surprising. Sometimes it's tough to meet my >50% goal; especially on the days when my kids are in a particularly non-compliant mood or when they can't keep from being at each other's throats. On these days, Daddy has to use his firm, correcting, limitations-setting voice more than he would like to. To keep my voice UN-aversive, I can do two things:

1 - make my strictness feel less aversive.

Redirecting and correcting doesn't HAVE to feel aversive to your child. For lots of ideas on this check out this post (the ideas can be easily modified if you have older children): 

2- increase the amount of appealing interactions they have with me in those days.

  • Instead of waiting for them to ask me to play, I take the initiative and ask them to play with me.
  • When they walk into the room, I pause and give them a smile or say something loving in a goofy voice.
  • At a random time throughout the day, I use a louder than normal voice to say, "Kids..." (pause and wait for them to look at me) "open your mouth and close your eyes." Then I put a small, yummy treat in their mouth.
  • I decrease the amount of choices they make by reducing the amount of times I ask questions like, "do you want to play Legos now?" Instead I'll use a firm/direct voice and tell them what's going to happen next. "Kids...right now we are going to _______." (and I pick an activity that I know will be fun and exciting for them.)
  • Give them extra compliments. Catch them doing something good and mention it. "Wow, you're really good at sharing your toys." "Nice job finishing all of that hot dog." "I'm really glad that I'm your mom." "You are a gift to us." "I like it when you're with me." "How did you get to be so good at that?"

My dad is really good at sounding more like an ice cream truck and less like a loud fart to his grandchildren. He hoops and hollers when they walk into his house. He hugs them and squeezes them. He spends HOURS on the floor playing with them. He compliments them and tells everyone how much he likes them.

You should see the effect it has on them.

Their eyes are glued to him. They run to see him whenever he's around. They all want to be on his lap, or next to him, when it's time for dinner. They will do anything he suggests. He's even gotten them to change their mind about one of their favorite foods. My kids LOVE cheese and their grandfather doesn't. So he always teasingly tells them, "cheese is YUCKY." Now, whenever we have cheese at home, my kids remind me what "Pop pop" thinks of cheese and, on occasion they don't eat it because HE doesn't eat it! Talk about the power of an un-aversive voice!

Any energy you can spend to make your voice be un-aversive will be worth it. It's one of the most worthwhile investments you can make.