A small change can have a huge impact: Chapter two – ask them!

Recently when I have been getting “agitated” with the children’s behaviour: the squabbling, bickering and arguing over stupid things, it got me thinking about questioning them. For example the power of “why” is incredible, usually they give me sensible and thoughtful answers. Not childish answers, which surprised me a great deal. There are 5 magic words that will help you with this: why, where, what, when and how! 

It actually works really well, more so with Noah and I am not sure if thats his gender, age or simply his personality. Isla is pushing the boundaries at the moment, not listening and giving me that look when you tell her off. Like you possibly have been talking to me, type of look. I just love it when they have the nice moments and play together, those milli seconds in time that you capture when they think you are not looking. Or you can hear from the other room. It doesn’t last long with my two though. They are up and down like yo-yo’s and have been told that’s perfectly normal. Phew. 

Situation examples 

Squabbling over toys – this has got to an all time high at the moment. They are even squabbling over who has the most charge on their tablets. It’s absolutely ridiculous and it got to the point where I wanted to scream (throwing the tablets out of the window). I can’t keep shouting at them all the time. As much as when you feel you are not being listened to, frustrated and why – I didn’t want to keep shouting at them. Especially at the moment, I just do not have the energy for it.

I have been doing some leadership and mindfulness courses at work, part of the things I have learnt are to do with accountability. Sometimes to stop people asking you questions, you need to make them think for themselves. Next time they will not ask you the question, they will act on what they have learnt. 

“So Noah, why does it upset you that Isla’s tablet has more charge than yours? Does your tablet still work?” 
Noah’s response: “Yes Mummy”.
“What do you think you could do with the tablet whilst it has charge?”
Noah’s response: “Play with it”.
“Excellent Noah. What do you think Mummy will do once it runs out of charge?” 
Noah’s response: “Charge it”.
“Of course I will charge it. So do you think you could carry on playing with your tablet without being upset?”
Noah’s response: “Yes Mummy” *Then he goes away playing on tablet, end of whine. 

Biting and hurting each other – they do this constantly. They get angry with each other and end up biting or punching each other. It’s crazy because within three minutes of doing that they are best friends and playing nicely. I just do not get it. I have even said to them, many times, do Mummy and Daddy treat each other like that? Because we do not. 

“Why do you keep hurting each other?” “What do you want to achieve from hurting her/him?” “Why do you not just walk away from him/her if they are annoying you?” – these are probably the most popular questions I ask the children. 

Simple questions. I am sure that when I shout demands at the top of my lungs, they smell the weakness leaking from me. So I am trying to avoid this. It’s almost like they get confused when I ask them sensible questions in a calm voice, I always make sure I get down to their level too. 

Don’t get me wrong, if they really hurt each other, badly hurt, then I will always discipline them. Usually it’s threat of or playful hurting if that makes sense. Shoving each other or tapping a leg repeatedly. 

The responses I get to these questions are usually good to work from, I listen to their responses and ask them further questions. You could never predict their answers. One time Isla answered me back with “because I wanted to”, totally surprised me and yes, she was in her pushing boundary moods. 

The five magic words 

Next time you are in a position where you feel like you need to tell the children off, try keeping calm and asking them a question with a how, why, when, where or what at the beginning and see where it goes. I remember one time asking Noah if he deserved his treat (after he had hurt Isla, over a book or something silly) and he said, very tearfully “no”. It broke my heart to see him so upset. I asked him when he thinks he should be able to have it. He told me the next day when he had been good. So that was that. As much as I wanted to give him the treat and be a “nice” Mummy, I did what he told me. 

I have tried that with punishment too. Asking them what they think they should get as a punishment. I usually get things like “Naughty step for 5 minutes” or “No tablet/TV for a week”. I do what they say. It works. They seem to take it on board. 

At the moment it hasn’t stopped the behaviour but I am definitely seeing a change in the way Noah deals with his sister when she annoys him. 

Do you have any tips or tricks you use for these kinds of situations? Any particular questions that help? I would love to know your thoughts. 

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