Parenting a strong-willed toddler is testing. You feel like whatever you do, you struggle to end the defiance and power struggles and raise a child who just for once listens to your requests.
I want to give you 3 powerful coaching tools to use to start to see a massive difference in your parenting. It’s a little piece of parenting magic that swaps defiance for willing cooperation.
It all comes from Language of Listening® – the 3-part framework I use and teach.
It starts here.
1. Everything children do and say is a communication, and children must continue to communicate until they are heard. So, when a child isn’t listening, go immediately into saying what they want.
“You want to walk around.”
“You want to explore; you’re done with sitting.”
“You want to go to the playground now.”
The great part here is, you’ll know when your child stops and listens to you, the communication gap is closed and you’re then ready to find solutions that work for you.
2. Support your child to find solutions within your boundaries.
In this case, it started by asking myself a few questions and becoming clear on what my boundary is in this situation.
- Is it ok for my daughter to be walking around our table?
- Is the cafe full?
- Will she be disrupting anyone?
- Is it age-appropriate behaviour?
What you want to happen is not right or wrong, we all have our own preferences. Being clear on our boundary and what we want helps us to see what our possibilities are to find solutions.
When your child is screeching and doesn’t want to do what you want, they’re meeting their needs. It might not be in a way you like! But they’re meeting their needs, nonetheless.
One of the premises of LOL is that: All behaviours are driven by three healthy needs: experience, connection, power. Whatever children are doing is already meeting these needs.
The magic of connecting and validating your child’s wants first opens up your child to your guidance. You now get to support your child to find solutions that you DO like.
In Language of Listening®, we call this step CAN Dos. Literally what your child CAN DO that’s within your boundary. This helps you focus on finding solutions that work for everyone.
Here are a few examples:
“You want to get up out of your seat, AND it’s a busy café. You can walk around our table just here. That’s OK with me.”
“You’ve finished your biscuit, AND we’re not all finished. Must be something you CAN DO to keep busy while we finish.”
“You want to move, you’re done with sitting. You can come with me to pay the lady. Would you like to hold the receipt?”
This acknowledges your child’s needs while holding your boundaries – finding solutions that work for everyone.
Or you can turn the problem-solving over to your child like this:
“You want to keep busy, we’re leaving soon, and you need to stay close. Hmm, must be something you CAN DO?”
3. When you or your child have found a solution that works for everyone, make sure to acknowledge your child for their cooperation.
“You wanted to get up out of your seat, and you found something to do while you waited. That took patience.”
“You wanted to go to the playground, and you waited so calmly walking round our table. That took self-control!”
“You came up with a solution that works for everyone! That shows you’re a problem-solver.”
This is what Language of Listening® calls naming STRENGTHs. All children have every possible inner strength. Children act according to who they believe they are.
When we finish our interactions by pointing out STRENGTHs it allows our child to see their capability to problem-solve and find solutions.
Why this works.
Your child’s behaviour is guided by her STRENGTHs, (the ones you just pointed out to her) This is what impacts her future behaviour. So when she sees herself in this way, she will go and show you all the other ways she has that strength.
How you respond on this trip isn’t just impacting the enjoyment of this trip – it’s setting up all your future trips too.
You’re setting yourself up for future trouble if the trip to the café ends with your child thinking of herself as spoiling the trip to the café, never listening or always wanting her own way.
If you learn how to point out strengths then you’re setting yourself up for future successful outings. She gets to have the inner voice of “Oh! Yes, that did take patience to wait while the others finished. I did find a solution, I’m a problem-solver.”
These 3-steps are the keys to gain willing cooperation and bring out your strong-willed little one’s inner strengths. You coach them to find their own solutions and control their own behaviour within your boundaries. Now that’s what I call a win/win.