Don’t Listen to Me

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Yesterday I wrote about how yelling can unintentionally part of your routine. Today I want to dig into that a little further.

Don't Listen to Me

The first time I realized I was doing this was when my son was about four and I would take him to his best friend’s house for a playdate. When I came to pick him up I’d stand in the entry way and talk to his friend’s mom for a bit. One day as we stood there, shoes and coats on theoretically ready to go, I heard my son say to his buddy, “We still have time to play because they’re not done talking yet.”

See, he figured it out before I did. I thought the routine was come to the house, instruct him to put his shoes and coat on, and then leave.

He thought the routine was I came to the house, told him to put his shoes and coat on, and then I’d talk with his friend’s mom for ten minutes or twenty minutes, and then we’d leave.

Guess who was right?

Think about some of your more frustrating routines.

You think it’s time to clean up when you sing out sweetly, “Time to clean up!” Your children think it’s time to clean up when you enter the room all stomping fury and holler, “I said clean up NOW or screens are gone for the rest of the day!”

You think it’s time to get ready to leave when you chirp cheerfully, “Shoes on, kids!” Your children think it’s time to get ready to leave when you are screaming and threatening and near tears.

You may even catch your children exchanging looks with each other, “Oho, now she really means it!”

What’s the solution? First you need to notice. Next you need to pull back before you get to the stomping and screaming knowing that it will take time to retrain them and retrain yourself.

You introduce the idea first by explaining what’s happening, that you have the intention to not let it escalate, and you ask them for their help. Then the next time it’s dinnertime or time to get ready to leave, you say, “Remember, there’s no yelling this time so you just need to listen.”

Then you keep on with that. They may listen with that first reminder and they may not. (Or they’ll listen that first time, all well intentioned, and then slip and we might slip and then we have to start again because life is messy like that.) If you have a child who is very attached to routine — even dysfunctional routine, it’s going to be harder for them. Or if you have a child who loves to test limits, they’re going to hang in there to see if you really mean it.

You can also lean into the reality of this unintentional routine and figure out how to make it not dysfunctional. Like maybe you need a loud voice but you don’t need a loud angry voice. Maybe you can escalate the volume without needing to escalate emotionally by saying, “Now I’m using my loud voice because it really is dinnertime!”

But the most important thing is to note when your routine has been hijacked. When you find yourself getting frustrated at the same time each day, stop and note what’s happening. Knowledge is power, baby. When you realize what’s going on, you have the power to change it.

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