Q: I feel like my seven-year-old daughter never listens to me. No matter how many times I ask her to do things, she ignores me. I end up getting so aggravated that I yell at her and just do it myself. We’ve tried rewarding her when she does listen, we’ve tried allowance, bribery — nothing works. I feel like a broken record all day, every day! I don’t know how to handle this.
A: Your daughter needs to learn that you say what you mean, and you follow through with suitable consequences. Consequences, however, are often misunderstood or misapplied, and they really just become punitive measures with a fancy name. To make a consequence an effective learning tool, it must meet what I call the 3R criteria: It’s responsible, related and revealed in advance. An example would be: “If you don’t take responsibility for putting your bike away after you ride it, then you’ll lose your bike-riding privileges for two days.”
Remember, children don’t learn from the threat of consequences, they learn from experiencing them. Your daughter will test you. If you follow though with a matter-of-fact attitude, she’ll begin to understand the outcomes of her choices and make appropriate changes to her behaviour. Consistency is key, so try this on one burning issue at a time to improve the likelihood of success.