How to Stay In Control So You Can Be More Consistent


What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective


When we ask kids do something (or not do something) and they don’t listen, not only does it make us feel disrespected… but often we also feel helpless and out of control.

When we ask them to leave a friend’s house and they refuse…

When we tell them it’s time for dinner and they ignore us…

When we ask them to stop bothering their sibling and they continue as if we hadn’t said a word…

We know we can’t MAKE kids do what they’re supposed to do, but often we have no idea what to do instead. So we often assert our power in ways that we later regret.


What This Is Like from a Child’s Perspective


All day long, kids are told what to do, when to do it.

They’re told how to act when they’re at home, at school, at friend’s houses…

They’re told what they can have and what they can’t have

They’re told that they must stop doing the thing they want to do… so they can do the thing they don’t care about

So at times they stop listening —  especially after they’ve been doing everything they’re supposed to do all day long and they’re finally able to do something that feels good (being at a friend’s house, playing electronics, etc).



How It Usually Goes

When Kids Don’t Listen 


Scenario: It’s been a long weekend day, and Trevor and his dad haven’t been getting along. Late in the afternoon, Trevor’s dad asks Trevor to pick up a piece of trash that’s on the floor right in front of him. Trevor ignores his dad and starts to walk out of the room. 


Dad: Trevor! You get back here! I asked you to do something.

Trevor (ignores his dad).

Dad: Trevor. That trash was RIGHT in front of you.

Trevor: But I didn’t put it there!

Dad: Neither did I! I’m not your maid. I’m tired of this entitled attitude.

Trevor: I’m going to CLEAN MY ROOM, Dad. Like you asked me to do before. (He stars to walk away again.)

Dad: Come back and pick up the trash before you do that!

Trevor (keeps walking).

Dad: Trevor, if you do not pick up that trash, you are not going to your friend’s party this weekend. And no electronics while you’re at home that day either.

Trevor: That’s so unfair! Why do I have to do everything around here?

Dad: You? Are you serious? Your mom and I pick up after you and your brother all the time! I’m done!

Trevor: He’s the slob! Not me!

Dad and Trevor continue to argue. Trevor eventually picks up the trash, but days like this put a huge strain on their relationship… And Trevor continues to be resistant when asked to do things. 


How It Could Go

When You Stay In Control 

Scenario: It’s been a long weekend day, and Trevor and his dad haven’t been getting along. Late in the afternoon, Trevor’s dad asks Trevor to pick up a piece of trash that’s on the floor right in front of him. Trevor ignores his dad and starts to walk out of the room. 

Dad: Trev, I asked you to pick up that piece of paper.

Trevor ignores his dad. 

Dad (with a calm voice): Trevor.

[expand title=”CALM”]

Trevor’s dad is frustrated that Trevor isn’t listening. Even though he wants to force Trevor to do what he’s asking, he knows that he can only control his own behavior; not Trevor’s. He wants to model what it looks like to act maturely even when things aren’t going your way.  [/expand]

Trevor continues to walk away. 

Dad (reminds himself that he is the adult and can handle the situation and model maturity): I know it’s been a rough day, Trev.

Trevor stops but doesn’t say anything.

Dad: I’ve asked you to do a lot today. You wanted to play video games and I told you that you couldn’t.

Trevor: Yeah. You were so mean.

Dad: It does feel mean when someone stops you from doing the thing you want to do.

[expand title=”CONNECT”]

From his perspective, Trevor’s dad wants Trevor to pick up the small piece of trash. He also recognizes that Trevor normally would do that if he weren’t in Yuck. So instead of insisting that Trevor see his perspective, he consider’s Trevor’s perspective, knowing that that’s the only way to get him out of Yuck so he’ll do what he’s supposed to.  [/expand]

Trevor: It doesn’t FEEL mean. It WAS mean.

Dad: OK. (He pauses for a few moments.) Trev, I asked you to pick up the piece of trash in front of you.

Trevor doesn’t say anything.

Dad: You just wanted to leave just now, didn’t you?

Trevor: Yes.

Dad: I can understand that. I don’t love when people tell me what to do either. (Pauses.) Trev, I’m going to ask you again to put that trash away. Once you do that, you can go wherever else you want to go.

Trevor: Why don’t YOU pick it up?

Dad: I asked you to pick it up.

Trevor: You could do it too.

Dad(calmly repeats himself): I asked you to pick it up.

[expand title=”CORRECT”]

Even as he is understanding Trevor’s perspective, Trevor’s dad still maintains his boundary. He repeats himself calmly, knowing he may have to wait a little while for him to do what he’s asked to do. ​He does not let Trevor’s behavior control him or deter him from being firm. .  [/expand]

Trevor: And I asked you.

Dad: I know you did. I bet sometimes you wish you could tell ME what to do as much as I tell YOU what to do! What WOULD you tell me to do if you could?

Trevor: I’d make YOU take out the trash! And clean YOUR room. And do YOUR homework!

Dad: I might complain a lot!

Trevor: That’s fine… I can handle that. (As he’s talking, he goes over to pick up the trash.) Oh, and then I’d tell you that you have to put ALL your shoes away before you wanted to do anything!

Dad: Ha! We do say that to you alot! … Thanks for picking up the trash, kiddo. Now go do what you wanted to do.

NOTE: If Trevor hadn’t picked up the trash, Trevor’s dad would have to continue to focus on what was in his control: staying calm, giving Trevor a sense of control (even as he enforced his boundary, 
​and waiting until Trevor did what he was asked. 

The first few times parents try to be consistent, it can take a little while for this to happen. But when kids know you mean what you say (and you are filling their needs and giving them tools to be successful), they will do what they are supposed to do. 



Though Trevor’s dad used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy in the moment, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation will play out. 

if you want to be able to stay in control when your child isn’t listening to you, remember:


[expand title=”Depositing into CALM”]

You will only be able to stay calm when

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you recognize and respect that your children have different priorities than you do.

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CONNECT”]

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, kids who feel out of control and disconnected from you do NOT listen to you)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CORRECT”]

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “You need to pick up that piece of trash.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively. [/expand]