One of the biggest challenges in dealing with children is how to deal with non-compliance. So far in this series we have only dealt with attention seeking behaviors. Attention seeking behaviors are not in response to a command. Instead, they are a bid for the parents’ attention. So what do you do with a non-compliant child or when a typically compliant child does not obey a command? This post will talk about how non-compliance can in part be increased by ineffective commands and decreased by effective ones.
One thing many parents have taught their children is that they aren’t really series about what they are saying until they begin working through their standard “I am finally getting serious” routine. This often involves counting, raising the voice, yelling, a certain stare, or using the child’s middle name. My question for all you parents out there who use such a technique is this, “Why can’t they know you are serious the first time you tell them to do something?” Children learn the verbal and non-verbal cues their parents give them and they will stall as long as possible until the frustration level has reached its threshold before they comply. Don’t even give them a chance to do that because you are the one who controls whether or not that happens by how you respond to dawdling, stalling, or outright non-compliance.
So how do you short-circuit this vicious cycle?
- Take away all the “I am finally serious” cues and start giving commands one time in a normal tone of voice.
- Don’t give confusing commands. Make them simple and direct.
- Don’t give commands you aren’t willing to follow through on with discipline if the child does not comply.
- Don’t give commands that are impossible to tell if they have been completed.
- Commands must be realistic and doable.
- Don’t repeat commands. This gives children time and they learn that you aren’t really serious the first time you say it. Say it once. Mean it. Give them roughly 5 seconds (of silent counting) for compliance. Follow through (discussed below).
The easy part is giving the command. The hard part is what you do afterward. There are only two possible outcomes and following responses from any command you give your child. There is either compliance followed by reward (praise – specifically a labeled praise “thank you for holding mommy’s hand” rather than just a “thank you”) or non-compliance followed by punishment. This has to be 100% consistent in order for discipline to work and for children to learn the importance of compliance.
We will talk more about methods of discipline for non-compliance in a future post.