Keeping one step ahead of your child who is a step ahead of you.

Every parent has felt it. You are being run-ragged and out-paced by someone half your size with twice your stamina. They’ve pestered you till you’ve given in to their every desire. They have more determination and persistence than you thought was possible and they aren’t taking no for an answer. When you’re tired and a few steps behind, it seems like you’re losing every battle. Part of what makes parenting so wonderful and challenging is that kids are SMART. They may have fewer words than you but they are observing the world like a hawk. Even before they can talk, they know how to get your attention and get what they want. Here are some tips for keeping pace with your smarty-pants, while also teaching your child some important life lessions — how to get attention the right way and how to trust your leadership.

1. Anticipate what they want. If you pay attention, you can figure out pretty quickly what your kid tends to want or ask for the most (whether it’s juice, a story, a cartoon). Use these little treats as incentives and ask for some things that you would like in return. Try saying things like “we can cuddle up and read that story you love…when you pick up your toys”. Or, “you can have the juice box…if you can make it through the grocery store without pulling items off the shelf.” Use your psychic parenting skills to offer them these treats before they think to ask. You’ll be happier that you are thinking ahead and getting some needs met, and your child will feel pleased to get what they want with less begging.

2. Be a leader. If you lead, they will follow. Your kids want to be near you most of all, so use this to your advantage. You want to leave the house and they are kicking and screaming? Start walking out – they will follow you.

3. Talk less. Your explaining and lecturing and arguing is a one way ticket to losing steam and giving in. The fewer words you use the stronger your position and the better able your child is to understand what you need and want.  Your child will debate you all day if you let them and it takes two to argue. If you want to tell them ‘why’ you need or want them to do something, that’s fine but keep it one sentence long and end the conversation – walk away if you need to. If they want to have the last word, let ’em. You’re still sticking to what you said and they can’t argue if you aren’t talking.

4. Be a broken record. As I said above, it takes two to argue. You make your point, they make their point, you tell them they’re wrong, they tell you you’re wrong, and around and around you go. Talking less is key. And if you feel the urge to talk or 5 minutes has passed and your child is still digging in their heels, repeat yourself. Don’t try to rationalize with your child – they will reason back. Don’t try to persuade them to do the right thing – that will leave them feeling manipulated and robbed of their free will. Just repeat what you need or want from them. Be a broken record, calmly repeat yourself…your child will get the message. They can’t talk or yell their way out of it.

Jenn Bernert, MA, LMHC  *  jenn@jennanddavid.org   *  206.707.1247

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About Jenn Bernert

Jenn Bernert (LMHC) is a veteran parent coach and licensed therapist in the State of Washington (LH60169801). She holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Saybrook University (Graduate School of Psychology) in San Francisco, CA., and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences from Western Washington University. Jenn has been providing adults, families, children and agencies parent coaching, therapy, counseling, organizational leadership and advocacy for 10 years.

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