After close to 18 months home with them, I am sick of my own voice.
I swear my two boys have this incredible ability to IGNORE me and filter out what I say. They seem to hear my husband, and other adults (and a wrapper in the other room), but not their primary parent (me). I find myself getting louder and starting to yell, and feel like a crazy person.
Does this sound like your house too?
As a strategy to help me with this, I’ve looked back to my professional training to help me with a few tricks and tips. I’ve got to use creative discipline rather than what I’ve been doing. To cope, I am leaving little sticky notes around my house for my kids. My husband might need a reminder or two, as well!
I am a pediatric occupational therapist, my job is to facilitate a child’s success in their occupation. For a child, that is to play, grow, and learn. Part of learning is being able to listen
to your mother and follow directions, take care of yourself/body and participate appropriately in daily tasks. For most children, they require cues to help them learn, remember and execute steps to tasks. These cues can be:
Instead of the constant verbal cues that I’m giving my boys, (at the risk of sounding like the adults talking to Charlie Brown), I’m trying to use more visual cues. Creative discipline means is less work for me, in the end.
Part of my strategy is to use sticky notes (a visual cue) as reminders around the house. My oldest son can read; the younger one eventually learns by repetition. I use these visual reminders as:
- Daily “checklists” to make sure they’re ready for school.
- A photo posted next to the door is a good reminder to make sure they have everything. This photo serves as a checklist for my kindergartener to make sure he has: mask, water bottle, snack bag, folder, and a lunch bag in his backpack. My 3rd grader can read, and does well with a written list.
- Reminders of their routines to get ready in the AM/PM.
- Yes, it should be a routine, but I’m constantly checking in – did you brush your teeth? Floss? Are you sure you went to the bathroom? You can search the web for free morning routine printables like this one. This is a simple visual that takes me out of the equation (eventually).
- Set expectations for appropriate behavior.
- Mealtimes are always hard, especially after a long school day, but we need to start somewhere. This list has been there since COVID first hit, and we started having 3 meals a day together. Although we refer to it less after 18 months, it’s still a good reminder. In my professional opinion, all kids struggle at dinner (especially dinner at a restaurant– I have some tricks for helping kids behave at restaurants, too!).
- Hygiene in bathroom (I swear its smells like Fenway in mine sometimes). This sticky note gets a laugh from my boys, but its at eye level above the toilet!
- Remember: you want to target the desired behavior, instead of saying “don’t pee on the floor”, tell then what you want them to do
- Behavior shaping as part of a positive reinforcement system. Creative discipline means less punishment and more reward.
- Over the summer, we reviewed things in the morning and worked to “catch” him doing these things during the day; and reinforced with a marble in a jar. It’s still a work in progress ….. but he often reminds me when he worked really hard and deserves a marble. It lets me know that he’s trying!
In summary …..
You can use visual reminders for many things, and the goal would be to transition away from the verbal cues (and becoming sick of your own voice). There is of course pre-teaching and lots of review, but we make it fun and take turns with the instructive part, so that it’s a family affair and the kids begin to learn from each other.
Eventually I can ask my son “Did you get all of your jobs done upstairs?” or “Do you match the picture today?” (in regards to getting ready for school). At dinner, I can just point to the behavioral expectations, and they are beginning to self-monitor and patrol each other (and sometimes the parents) about the rules. It’s funny when we have company over for dinner, and the other kids get wide-eyed when mine review our family “rules”, but secretly I know its a win. My goal is to take the emotional battle out of the routine daily tasks and make things more objective – this is part of everyone’s responsibility in this house and we work together as a team.