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  Common Asked Questions on Parenting

Noncompliance

Q: My child is a headache to me. We have fights nearly everyday and she never does what I tell her to do.
   
A:

After their first birthday, toddlers are becoming more independent and want to do things their way. This is their first phase of being impressed as 'oppositional' though they do not meant to be. Having understood their developmental characteristics, we can use firm parenting to teach children how to follow rules and control themselves.

   
Q:

So my child is not the special one. But is there any way to make children more compliant?

   
A:

When we keep giving out commands and stopping children to do this and that, the chance of noncompliance will increase. To minimize unnecessary fights and worries, prevention is basic. For instance, we may ensure home safety by locking up things you don't want children to touch and putting barriers or gates to block areas that may be dangerous such as kitchen. Furthermore, when children are busy engaging in play, they'll have less time to get into trouble. Spend time to play with your children. Make sure there are plenty of things for them to play with. Praise them when they are involved in the activity to encourage their desirable behaviour. The most important thing is to set limits for them to know what they should do and should not do. When we are consistent and firm in setting limits, children will learn to follow rules.

   
Q:

I have already tried what you said and talked with her over and over but she still won't listen. What shall I do?

   
A:

How we give out instructions affects whether children will listen to us. Instructions given have to be easily understood and followed by the child step by step. There are two different types of instructions.

  • When we want children to start a new task such as going to have a bath. We'd better wait for them to finish off what they are doing, e.g. finishing off building a doll house, or waiting for a break in the TV show they are watching before telling them what to do. When giving the instruction, get close to your child, gain her attention by bending down to her eye level and call her by name. Tell her exactly what you want her to do in brief terms, say, 'Now the show is over. Please go take a bath.' Usually she won't follow right away. Pause briefly for about 5 seconds to give her time to start to do what you have asked. Praise her when she does as you ask. If she doesn't cooperate within 5 seconds, repeat the instruction once.
  • Another one is when you ask children to stop doing something undesirable. Don't just tell them to stop doing something; tell them what they should do instead. Say, 'Sarah, stop climbing on the furniture. Sit on the couch to watch TV please.' Pause around 5 seconds to give her time to start to do what you have asked. If she does not cooperate, do not repeat the instruction. You may have to take other back-up actions.
   
Q:

What kind of back-up actions can we do if she still doesn't cooperate?

   
A:

If children don't cooperate within 5 seconds, we can use a logical consequence that fits the situation and state how long this will last. For example, switch off the TV for 15 minutes or stop the child from playing on the swing for 5 minutes when she continues to do stunts on it. Explain why you are doing it, 'Sarah, you have not done as I asked. Now you have to get down from the swing for 5 minutes.' If she still refuses to follow your instructions or that the problem persists, you may have to use quiet time. By 'quiet time', we mean taking your child away from others to sit on the edge of the activity or to stay at an uninteresting but safe room or space. Explain why you are doing it, 'Sarah, you have not done as I asked; now you have to go to quiet time.' Tell her that she must stay quiet for 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the child's age, before she can come out of quiet time.

When you use logical consequence or quiet time, do not pay any attention to her crying or protest. Arguing with her or explaining to her won't work when she is in an emotional state. Just carry out calmly in a matter-of-fact manner with no other attention given to her. When she has stayed quiet for the set time, tell her the time is over. Praise her for staying quiet. Return her to the activity she is supposed to do. Always find chances to praise her for behaving well once she returns to an activity. Remember, you may have to carry out quiet time repeatedly before she can learn to cooperate.

 
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