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Get Kids To Do What You Want Without A Battle

A little research project turned out to be a huge parenting lesson.

When one of my children did well or poorly on a school assignment, I could tell the minute I looked at the paper before I knew the grade. When the paper was neat, the grade was good. When the paper was messy, the grade was not what they had hoped for. So I began my very own research project.

I even had a hypothesis. The results taught me more than I bargained for.

I believed there was a strong connection between neatness and focus. If that was true, an improvement in one would automatically improve the other.

First, I had to have a baseline on each child’s levels of neatness. A neat room for my son would not be the same standard as a neat room for my daughter(s).

Next, I began to make specific references to my children.  If my daughter, Chloe, showed me a school assignment that was really neatly composed, I commented.

“Chloe, I could tell by just looking at this assignment how focused you were.”

When I made this connection out loud, I was anchoring or linking the practice of neatness to good focus. Soon she began to use this as a practice in focusing on schoolwork and tests. With amazing results!

The connection between neatness and focus, balance and stress, kept being validated time and time again. It gave me instant clues to her state of mind. Whether I could scientifically prove my theory to be fact remained a mystery.

I dropped many anchors in broader areas.

“Chloe, you made your bed and your room looked so neat and tidy today. I bet you carried that through all day at school today!”

Chloe began to make her bed and clean up her room more without being asked. She began to link the two because it set her intent on how she would approach her day. Wow!

So I expanded my theory and here is what I found.

When you make consistent connections between two desirable actions, in this case between neatness and focus, you can teach kids to shape their own behavior that you want.

This is different from choices and consequences.

When both outcomes are desirable, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

You could link all sorts of things. Make sure at least one of them your child is consistently good at and one that needs a little improvement. Here are a few examples to illustrate:

Example #1: Pouring breakfast cereal carefully with feeding the dog.

I bet you can pour that milk in your bowl without spilling a drop just like you can feed Brutus without spilling his food when you’re done.” (You don’t care about the spilling but you do care that he feeds the dog).

Example #2: Staying in bed through the night with quietly playing a video game in the morning without waking anyone up.

I bet if you can stay in your bed quiet without getting up tonight, you will be able to play your Wii in the morning without even waking up Mommy and Daddy. What do you think?” (The child’s focus is on the video game and the challenge you attached to it which he knows he can do. But now you’ve linked it to staying in his bed!)

Yes, it can even be effective with teenagers.

Example #3: Coming home on time with using the car next week.

“When you come home on time this Friday and Saturday night, I know you’ll take great care of my car next week.” (Your permission to use the car is granted as if it were an afterthought giving emphasis to the behavior that must come first. You know they want the car.)

It’s a bit sneaky as this is much like a double bind but I call it a double delight!

When you can get children to expect the behavior out of themselves, you have nailed the finest form of parental influence.

"What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." Ralph Waldo Emerson

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  1. GREAT post! Will use some of this language in my teaching and with parents. Excellent!

    June 9, 2012
  2. Mindy #

    Great advice!!!!!

    February 19, 2013

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