We were in a hurry… OK, I was in a hurry because I slept late and was not feeling it this morning. I dragged out of bed and didn’t feel like dealing with the kids yet, so I took a shower – a long one. When I peeked at the clock from underneath my towel as I dried my hair, I noticed I had fallen even further behind. Half-dressed, I stormed into to kid #1’s room, flipped on the light and said, “get up, get up–WE are late and you need to hurry!” As she rubbed her eyes not knowing what happened, I threw open the door to kid #2’s room, turned on the light and shouted orders like a scene from some Navy Seals training documentary. Fifteen minutes later of getting my stuff together and 45 seconds of microwaving something that even Aunt Jemima would not recognize as a waffle, I checked on the kids again.
WHY ARE YOU STILL IN BED?!? GET YOUR CLOTHES ON!
Screaming event 1: OUTCOME: kid #2 hopped out of bed, somewhat frightened looking, but boy, you should have seen him move!
GET YOUR SHOES ON! YOUR BREAKFAST IS READY…YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO HAVE TO EAT IT IN THE CAR!
Screaming event 2: OUTCOME: kid #1 got her shoes on (at some point, so it must have worked).
Finally, in the car, the kids started arguing almost immediately. What the hell has gotten into them this morning?
STOP SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER…WHY CAN’T YOU GUYS BE QUIET! NO MORE TALKING UNTIL WE GET TO SCHOOL. THAT IS ENOUGH!”
Screaming event 3: OUTCOME: Quiet in the car! Well, there was a little sniffling from kid #2 and a frightened, but sad look from kid #1, but they’ll be fine…it worked. As usual, nothing worked until I raised my voice.
Hopefully by now, you know this is a bit of a fabrication written to make a point. How much does it really WORK when we (yes, I said, “we”) raised our voices to change behavior?
When I talk to parents about something “working,” what I try to get them to look at is how it affects behavior for the next time, not this time. Do you find yourself having to do that thing (yelling, screaming, threatening, etc.) a lot? More and more? Do you find yourself saying, “why do I have to __________ to get you to listen?” If you do, then you need to reassess the situation. What you are doing to get the behavior you want is not working. You might even be causing more problems than you are solving.
It is time to try something else. That something else might might have to do a lot about YOU. I hope you noticed in the story that I basically created that problem by being late in the morning and not even giving the kids a chance. Imagine being woken up in that way and being ordered like that before your first cup of coffee. Not a great way to start the day.
What is the thing you “always” have trouble getting your kids to do? How can you try it again from a positive/preventative side next time. Can you make it a simple, but important goal to try to solve that one problem? How can you stay ahead of the behavior problem? How can you set it up for success, rather than for failure?
All good questions to ask…Have others? Ask me on the BehaviorBandAid Facebook page!
Author disclaimer: I speak from experience on this whole “raising your voice” thing…so don’t think I’m immune to those moments. We’re all working on it…