If you love dogs like I do, then I have a “dog-proven” approach that can be successfully used with your kids when teaching important life lessons. Dogs, like kids, don’t always race to sit in front of us obediently and ready to comply with our every wish. In fact, when trying to administer a pill to a dog it is not uncommon for your dog to turn and run away from you — similar to how kids sometimes want to leave the room when we have important lessons to teach them. For dogs, one way to get around their aversion to dog medicine is to wrap the pill inside a savory treat, like a piece of bacon…yum! Using the bacon-wrapped dog medicine as a metaphor, what things do you wrap around messaging to your kids in order to lean-in and experience better focus, attention, and compliance?
Digging deeper on bacon
Obviously, enticing your kids to sit down at the table by using real bacon as the bait is not today’s lesson (though that might work with some kids!), but it is important that we think about the interpersonal components and qualities that dramatically help with openness, compliance, and ultimately behavioral change. The “bacon,” therefore, is the part of the messaging designed to create a friendly and open exchange, or the kinds of things that offset your kid’s anxiety and aversion to actively listening to what you have to say. A few examples include:
- A positive atmosphere. Where do you meet with your kids? Is it an environment conducive to conversation? Is the room quiet, well-lit, and comfortable? Or do you try and talk in environments that are distracting?
- Open/inviting body language. How do you appear to your kids when speaking to them? Do you give the impression of being open and friendly, or negative and upset? How you present to your kids sets the table before you even begin to speak!
- Smiles & eye contact. Do you offer direct eye contact and a healthy smile, or do you shift your attention around the room and appear put-off and aggravated?
- Support and encouragement. When teaching your kid a lesson do you model the appropriate behaviors yourself?
- Specific reasons and rationale for change. Demanding your child to do something, while sometimes effective, isn’t usually the best way to help promote positive future change. Instead, try authoritative parenting, an approach that offers sound rationale for why changes need to be made (i.e. your grades are poor, you need improve your grades to get into college, and this is why we are setting up a study schedule).
- A team effort toward future success. Does your child know you love him or her unconditionally, and that you will help your child throughout whatever challenging situation he or she is experiencing?
How you message with your child has a lot to do with attracting and sustaining your child’s attention, and the likelihood for future success. Getting your child’s buy-in is invaluable as it applies toward future goal commitment and attainment, and the efforts you make to overcome your child’s anxieties and disinterest are well-worth it.
Successful messaging with kids can be challenging, but the more you put into the preparation of your communication, the greater chances for success. Dogs will eat just about any pill you wrap in bacon, and while kids are obviously more complex than dogs, they will also accept your communication when you take the time to create a warm and caring environment around the words that you use. Taking the time to think about your child’s interests, the ways in which he or she best communicates, and the unique reasons why he or she should be motivated for future change are all really important components toward behavioral change.