Ever wondered why a trip to a café or out for ice-cream can end in chaos?
Mum and her 4 year old son are out for a treat to get ice-cream. It should have been a fun time together, her son was SO excited.
15 minutes into the outing, it had all ended in tears.
Want to know what went wrong?
“Come here right now! How many times do I have to tell you! You have to wait in line.”
“Stop running about. That’s naughty!”
“Stop messing around, you’ll get the counter all dirty.”
“Wipe your hands.”
“Aghh you’re getting the seat all dirty! Can’t you JUST sit still?!”
“Stop playing with your ice-cream – I am not going to tell you again, I’ll take it away if you do that ONE MORE time. Do you understand?!!”
“Stop kicking your feet against the chair, that’s not nice behaviour now is it?”
“We won’t be coming here again if you carry on like this!”
And on it goes, and before you know it the situation has escalated and it all ends in tears.
Mum gave over 20 commands in under 15 minutes.
It doesn’t have to be that way!
If only the mum had more tools in her parenting toolbox
Did you know that demands and commands trigger the lower reactive brain?
It activates the fight, flight and freeze part of the brain. It actually makes the higher thinking part of the brain go off-line.
Too many commands, demands and criticism releases high levels of cortisol and shuts down the opioids activity in the brain.
“The stress hormone, cortisol, is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels: interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease…”
“Opioids act on many places in the brain and nervous system, including the limbic system, which controls emotions. Here, opioids can create feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment and they also play a role in the feelings of closeness that support social bonding. We want to be activating this Not de-activating them!”
And when our kids are in the reactive brain NO amount of thinking, learning or responding calmly can happen, No wonder it all ends in tears.
So why do we use demands and commands?
- As parents we mean well, we are trying to teach our children right from wrong, teach them how to behave.
- We often use demands and commands without thinking, we’re on autopilot and may not even realise our interactions with our child.
- Often it is because that’s the way our parents spoke with us.
- And often it’s because we don’t have better alternatives.
Research and long-term studies show that if demands and commands are frequent in the parent-child interaction it can lead to children who are badly behaved, oppositional and defiant.
And what do we typically do when our children aren’t listening? Yes! You guessed it! Give them more demands and commands, and that is why we can find ourselves on this negative cycle.
That is why the WAY we speak to our kids is SO important.
So what can we do? Here are a few tips to get you thinking about your interactions with your kids.
Rather than “Come here right now! How many times do I have to tell you! You have to wait in line.”
Try “Do you want to wait in line next to me or stand right next to the ice-cream stand so you tell me what ice-cream you want?”
COMMENT ON WHAT IS HAPPENING
Rather than: “Stop playing with your ice-cream – I am not going to tell you again, I’ll take it away if you do that ONE MORE time. Do you understand?!!”
Try “OOH, looks like you’re enjoying that! you’re getting rather messy! We need to be careful the ice-cream doesn’t fall out of the cone.”
In other words, swap the commands, demands and criticisms for connection.
Enjoy your time together, chat, laugh, play..
Start to pay attention to the ratio of demands and commands in your relationships.
As always, I would love to hear from you.