Apparently, a total of ZERO parents have received the memo that lecturing is completely ineffective. Okay, so the study was based on teachers lecturing students, but the same rule applies for parents and kids. I mean—it just makes sense, right? Take yourself back to one of your big ass lecture halls in college or to any lecture EVER from your parents. Are your eyes glazed over yet? Yeah, I thought so. Sad but true–lecturing, repeating, and reminding just don’t get kids to listen.
The problem is we do it ALL THE TIME.
Lecturing doesn’t get your kids to behave, do better, or learn from their mistakes, but there are 2 practical parenting tips that CAN help your kids to change their ways!
Lectures Are All About You
We parents hold tight to our lecture mic like it’s the antidote to every poison in town. For example, I’ve been on the lecture bandwagon lately with my 5 year old, and I’ve lectured practically every day till I’m blue in the face.
But, it clearly isn’t working.
TRUTH: It never works. But, we parents keep at it. WHY?
Well, we tell ourselves that the lecture serves a purpose. The “purpose” is to let them know what they’ve done wrong and how it effects us. Lecturing is the “teachable moment” part of the job.
But, I’m pretty convinced that the REAL purpose is all about blowing off steam, anger, or even anxiety.
The bad news: that soap box you keep hopping on won’t do much to change their behavior. But, don’t worry! There are 2 PROVEN parenting tricks that will help.
Parenting Tactic #1: Ask Forward Looking Questions
One of my favorite things to do is to ask my kid WHY???? Why did you do X? Truth is, it never results in a good answer, but it ALWAYS makes me more frustrated.
Therefore, Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore says, “DON’T rehash the past by asking them questions they seriously can’t answer (or feel too ashamed to answer out loud): “Why did you do that?”, “What were you thinking?”, “What’s wrong with you?”.
These trap you in your anger and frustration AND trap your kid in the shame of the moment. These don’t help them LEARN (which is what the lecture is meant to do, right?).
But, most of us aren’t really accomplishing that goal of having a teachable moment. We’re getting lost in the frustration, anger and happenings of the moment.
According to Dr. Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., we should help them work through bad acts by helping them to becoming critical thinkers.
Therefore, she suggests using “Forward Looking Questions.” These will help turn them into little critical thinkers. These questions, NOT LECTURING, make them actually learn something.
“What is your job right now?
What do you need to do to be ready for ____?
What’s your plan for getting that done?
How will you remember to ___?
What can you do to help her feel better?
How can you make amends (or show him you’re sorry)?
What can we do to prevent this from happening again?
What would you like to do differently next time?
What is the kind thing to do now (or from now on)?
How can I help?”
Using these types of “forward looking” questions helps keep that REACTIVE parenting instinct in check. And, it can help keep the communication flowing instead of blocking it off completely.
Basically, there’s a take-away with these questions. Lecturing is just a venting session.
Getting Kids to Listen Without Repeating, Reminding or Lecturing Requires You To BACK OFF
Most of us also fall into the TALK TALK TALK trap. We remind our kids what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. ALL DAY LONG. And, we HOVER. Why? Because, we are a generation of helicopter parents.
Then, when they don’t do what they’re supposed to do….we don’t let them suffer the NATURAL consequences of their actions. No, no, no! (What are we ANIMALS?)
You get irritated by the constant nagging, reminding, and repeating. So, you know what happens next, right? Bring on the lectures!
End result: they don’t listen, and they don’t change. AND: YOU GET BURNED OUT.
Parenting Tactic #2: Don’t Remind & Don’t Repeat
So, the alternative to all the nagging, reminding and repeating is to just let the kid’s rule breaking or choice play out. Basically, let them reap what they sew.
Here’s what it means:
- If your child breaks a family rule, then they should “pay the cost.” This means they lose the privilege tied to the rule. Like, if they didn’t take out the trash, then they don’t get screen time that day.
- Or, if they failed to do something (like pack their jacket), then a “natural consequence” is in order. That’s right, they just have to be cold.
So, the bottom line is simple. Let the kids learn from their own actions instead of us saving them from themselves every two seconds.
Sometimes, your kid needs to get reprimanded by the coach for being late, so he won’t be late next practice. And, on occasion, your kid needs to forget his jacket and freeze for 20 minutes on the playground. Then, maybe he’ll remember all on his own tomorrow morning.
Natural Consequences. What a novel idea. Sounds effective.
Also, if you’ve got a little one that is nagging or acting out, then check out Change Your Child’s Difficult Behavior Problems in 2 Steps. This is a great helper for those preschool years!
Spoiler Alert: Your Help Isn’t Very Helpful
I listened to a Ted Talk from Anne Lamott a few years ago called 12 Truths I Learned From Life and Writing. One of the best parts of the talk was her “truths” on HELP. I think it applies beautifully with why lecturing and hovering don’t work for us.
“Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”Anne Lamott
Bottom line: if you want to lecture, remind, and repeat things to your kids less, then try and let them fail more. And, they will LEARN.
Also, keep working on becoming LESS REACTIVE. Don’t let their behavior trigger you into a long winded lecture that (I dare say) wasn’t necessary. Replacing a lecture or two with some forward looking phrases could actually turn those “lecture moments” into actual “learning moments” filled with good communication.