1. Make eye contact
“I can call, ‘Come for dinner!’ repeatedly from another room, but if I go right up and look them in the eye and say, ‘Hi! Please come for dinner now,’ they’ll look up and say, ‘Oh, OK.’” says Montreal mom Sarah Lavigne.
2. Describe the problem
It can take the heat out of a situation if you focus on what needs to happen as opposed to kids’ shortcomings. Rather than “How many times do I have to tell you to pick up your clothes?” say, “I see clothes on the floor.” Or try giving info instead of orders: “Wet towels belong on the rack, not on your bed” rather than “Hang up your towel!”
3. Say it with a word
“The more I explain, the more zoned out she gets,” says Victoria Stacey of her six-year-old, Frances. “So, instead of, ‘I worked all day and spent three hours making dinner and now I have to tidy up the whole kitchen and I’m only asking you to bring in your plate,’ I’ll say, ‘Frances, your plate.’ It’s much more effective.” How to stop your child's whining
4. Write a note
Some kids might react more co-operatively to a written list (or one with pictures) than a verbal one. Hand him a checklist with “Breakfast, get dressed, make bed, brush teeth” to see if it prevents your nagging and his stalling.
5. Tell them what you’re going to do, not what they need to do
You may not be able to control what your kids do, but you can control your own actions. “It’s time to leave, so I’m going to the car. See you there,” is more effective than harping at them from the doorway about what they should be doing.
6. Empathize and validate
Statements like “I wish we didn’t have to go to school today, either. Wouldn’t it be nice to stay home and play games?” let a child know that his feelings are important to you and you’re listening—even if, ultimately, he has to go to school.
7. Watch your timing
You’ll have more success asking your child to set the table at the end of her TV show than in the middle, plus it shows respect for something that’s important to her.
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.