Just Pick Up The Sock! What To Do When Kids Don’t Listen

It’s summer, summer, summertime! Cook-outs, pools, ice cream, vacations, fun and a break from the expectations of the school year.

Stick with me my Australian friends, even though it’s not summer for you, the topic we’re discussing is still relevant.

Summertime can be a bit loosey-goosey with more unstructured time, more time with siblings or other family members, and an increase in new experiences and new environments.

All of this can lead to the one thing that’s the opposite of a fun summer: dealing with resistance.

Resistance can look like:

I told her it was time to stop riding her scooter and asked her to put it in the garage. She rode away in the opposite direction.

I asked him to brush his teeth. He told me he did, but when I checked his toothbrush it was dry.

I asked them to stop playing minecraft or watching youtube shows. They acted like they didn’t hear me and ignored my request.

I asked him to pick up his dirty sock that was laying in the front hallway. He said it wasn’t his and didn’t move a muscle.

When things like this happen to you and the frustration and feelings of defeat rise up, are you thinking things like:

  • Oh my gosh. Here we go again.
  • Why can’t she just listen the first time?
  • I don’t want to deal with this.
  • I can’t believe he’s still acting like this.
  • She’s just stubborn.
  • We do this everyday. Why’s this such a big deal?
  • What do I do? I can’t let them get away with this.

When we believe that children’s resistance is sending us the message that our job in the moment is to break through their resistance and make them comply, our natural response is to seek control and compliance.

We get focused on choosing things that will force them to do what we want them to do through punishments, threats, facing our rath, or our disappointment.

How does this usually work out?

When we approach children who are being resistant with a goal to break them, they feel backed into a corner and respond with shutting down or fighting back. This is human nature.

What if it’s possible that the approach when children are resistant is not to find a way to break through their resistance and instead your approach is to get playful?

When you approach resistance from children as a message to get playful, you change the energy from one of control to one of connection.

You can shift the energy of the entire interaction which in turn can shift the outcome from a fight or meltdown to collaboration and cooperation.

Getting playful means connecting with your goofy side and can look like:

“Let’s pretend our toothbrushes are lightsabers. We’ll charge them up by brushing and then we’ll have a lightsaber battle. Are you Princess Leia, Luke, Llando, Darth Vader or someone else?”

With a smile on your face announce, “Oh my goodness, her scooter GPS must have malfunctioned. She’s headed right for the quicksand and scorpion pit. Yikes! Look out! Turn around quickly! I’ll try to guide you home safely”

It’s normal about now in this discussion for doubt and “yeah, buts” to be showing up. You aren’t alone if you’re having a few.

Getting playful might sound like you’re letting the child get away with things or that they’re going to grow up thinking everything is a big joke and never take anything serious.

Hang with me for a second and consider another perspective on this.

It’s been hard-wired into us that when a child does something “bad” we must do something that will ensure they stop this behavior. If we don’t do something, we’re failing the child. They’ll never learn the lesson.

Here are some questions for you:

  • What are they truly learning when we get militant, threaten, punish and control them with our anger or disappointment? (No judgement here. I’ve done it, too.)
  • What are they learning when our goal is to win by forcing their compliance so they lose?

Think back to a time when you were in a similar situation. Were you focused on learning?

If you’re more on the side of being strong-willed, you likely focused on what a meanie the other person was and how unfair they were to you.

If you lean toward being sensitive, you probably focused on yourself and what a terrible person you were for doing what you did.

This is what our kids focus on, too. It’s hard to learn new skills when we’re filled with either anger or shame.

Summertime is a playful season. Next time you’re dealing with resistance from a child, get in touch with your silly side and let loose.  

Remember: Resistance=Get Playful

Next we’ll be exploring why creating an emotional language with children matters. Stay tuned!

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Read more: 

What’s the Impact of Creating an Emotional Language?

One Key to Understand Children’s Emotional Meltdowns and Help Them Grow

A New Lens for Understanding Children’s Behavior