If I were a teacher at Hogwarts, I’m sure I could get my kids to behave by a wave of a wand and a few choice words. Being mortal, however, I have to rely on carefully chosen words alone.
I’m a firm believer in not negotiating when something absolutely must be done. There are times when the parent should assert themselves and be the parent. One technique that’s tried and true is counting to three to get the kids moving. There’s a great book that talks about using this method called “1-2-3 Magic.” What the author makes clear is that you cannot dither – no counting “1, 2, 2 1/2, 2 3/4. . .” The child knows he has a good long time until you get to 3 because you’re giving him that out. He’ll ignore you almost indefinitely. You must firmly and steadily count to 3.
But the author also describes a twist on the technique that works fabulously for me. Count backwards instead. In my house, all I have to say is “3. . .2” and the kids jump to do whatever I’ve asked them to do. It’s like a bomb about to go off.
The irony? They don’t have any idea what might happen when I get to 1, and I’ve never thought of what I might do. Just counting backwards is ominous enough. In fact, I usually just say “3” and off they go.
The other magic word that I use very sparingly is “FREEZE!” The kids know this is the word of imminent danger. Moms say “stop” and “please don’t” enough that kids easily tune them out. Freeze is the word to use when a child is about to chase a ball into the street in front of a moving car. I use it so rarely that the kids know it’s important enough to really stop what they’re doing.
These magic words work for me. I’d love to hear what works at your house.
You can meet my (usually) well-behaved children at Lit and Laundry.