As a parent coach, I hear so many questions that begin with the words “How can I get my child to” followed by all sorts of things: do chores, say please and thank you, look people in the eye, be more patient etc.
There are, of course, many answers to these questions: if you want an exercise in confusion and overwhelm you could read several parenting books to tease out an answer. You would probably get as many different ideas as books you read, ranging from sticker charts to allowances, from praise to time-outs.
In my work with parents – whether it be in parenting classes or in coaching sessions – I try to help parents get in touch with their parenting intuition. Believe it or not, it’s in there: maybe it’s buried under layers of muck, but it is there. And when you are in touch with it, it’s such a relief! You aren’t having to remember the “scripts” recommended by this or that book or the number you’re supposed to count to before you enact the “consequence.”
When we are in touch with our intuition, we remember that the most powerful tool we have to “get our children to do X” is our own self: how we act, what we say, what we do, how we move through the world. It can be such a relief: we don’t need to focus so much on how to get our children to do things, we just need to do them – with joy and presence – ourselves. And, in time, we will see our children doing them, too.
It won’t happen right away (although sometimes it will); our children are immature, developing humans, so immature behavior is to be expected. But, over time, they will grow, mature and move in the direction of what they see “their grown-ups” doing. So, when you wait in the long line at the post office, respond to the driver who cut you off and take some time to chat with your elderly neighbor, your child is watching, taking note and learning how to be. So, dear parents, hold yourselves to high standards and make yourselves worthy of imitation. Good Luck!