Thursday, April 12, 2012

Improve Compliance


After our last visit to the psychologist (where I was feeling totally exasperated and confused and hopeless) and I expressed my frustration, he had the thought that one major breakdown in what I was doing was that I was giving Preston twelve chances. In that time I get worked up, Preston gets worked up and then we both become explosive. The Dr. gave me a print out from a book called “The TOUGH Kid Parent Book” (56) in which it lists out proactive ways to improve compliance. They have actually been incredibly helpful and surprisingly they do get Preston to work and be more compliant. Enjoy and employ!

  1. Say “Start” instead of “Stop.” Tell your child to start an appropriate behavior such as “Please start your homework” and make fewer stop demands, such as “Don’t argue with me!” Decide what you want to see and build on that! Encourage an appropriate substitute.  
  2. Use a clear directive, not a question. Asking, “Would you stop teasing? or “Will you take out the trash?” reduces compliance. When you won’t allow a choice, take care not to offer one.  General statements, such as “Its bedtime,” should be changed to direct requests. Good examples: “Please hang up your coat,” or “You need to brush your teeth now.”
  3. Make eye contact. Look directly at your child as you give an instruction. Say you child’s name. When your eyes meet, contact has been made, and the chance for compliance increases.
  4. Shorten the distance. Move close to your child. Asking while an arm’s length away works better than directing from across the room.
  5. Use a soft, but firm, voice. If shouting at your children tells them you really mean it, you are training them to not listen until you raise your voice. (This was like a lightning bolt because so often I ask myself, “Why in the world won’t this kid listen until I’m yelling. And so I do yell to get his attention which only reinforces him to listen at that point. Dang, so simple yet just didn’t occur to me). CAUTION: Yelling moves you further along the coercive behavior chain.
  6. Build behavior momentum! Give your child a few fun or easy directions before asking for the big one. Compliance momentum may carry them through!
  7. Give descriptive directions. When the request is definite, the child is more likely to succeed. Some directions are confusing or ambiguous. Your child may truly not understand your expectations when you say, “Clean your room.” Make your standards clear.
  8. Demand the possible! Be certain the request is something your child is able to accomplish. You may want to divide a large job into “baby steps” so that it does not seem impossible to your child. Plan for success! (I’ve also read that at times if you are present and help the first time or use a timer to make it a game, they are more ready to work. I have to do this with Preston and picking up our apples every summer).
  9. Time: Wait five seconds. Allow your child a bit of time to comply after making a request. During this short interval, just wait. Do not converse with the child, do not argue or respond to excuses. (1-2-3 Magic anyone?) Simply wait the five seconds (I find this an excellent time to breathe and bridge if I’m becoming agitated). This brief, watchful pause may prompt your child to action.
  10. Only Twice! Tell your child what you require only two times. Force yourself to simply wait the five seconds between and after each request. DO NOT NAG! Avoid interrupting the child with further instructions. It is surprising how often parents will unintentionally distract their own children from following through.
  11. Remain calm. (Ha!) An emotional response from the parent will actually reduce compliance. Exercise self-control. Remember to “breathe easy.”
  12. Reinforce compliance! Recognize your child’s efforts! It is too easy to request a behavior from a child, then ignore the positive result. If you want more cooperation, genuinely reinforce it.
Side Note: Since employing the 'Bunny Bowl' (which is the treat bowl that I started to improve compliance on avoiding naughty colors - see earlier post), Preston has been on fire (in a good way!) about not eating candy. He comes home and it is the first thing that he is excited to tell me; "It was Sammy's birthday today and they handed out big bags of Skittles (argh! why?) and I turned my in! Can I pick a treat from the bunny bowl?" So absolutely thrilling to me. It may or may not be coincidence but since the bunny bowl was introduced and color consumption has gone down, he has been a much happier, less hyper, more manageable boy. Thanks Liz for the simple yet amazing suggestion.


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