Use this quick parenting strategy for getting kids to listen when your voice becomes white noise.
Some evenings during the kids bedtime routine, it feels like we haven’t made any progress in nearly nine years.
“Did you brush your teeth yet?” I repeat this in a pleading voice.
It’s almost like a prayer, hoping that some divine miracle occurred, and it’s simply done without me needing to ask nine. freaking. times.
This is an unspoken part of parenting: Even something as simple as teeth brushing can involve much up and down.
Some days you don’t need to ask.
Kids surprise you.
Other days, you DO ask nine times with no response. Your voice becomes white noise.
When my voice becomes white noise, it’s a signal to me that I need to switch tact and try something new.
The technique I like to use most in these situations is called “Backing Up” and it’s much easier than repeating yourself or going Hulk Mom.
A Simple Technique to Help Kids Listen Better
Back when my kids were toddlers, we incorporated visual routine cards into our bedtime routines and things went much smoother. We still use them today and find a lot of success.
During the elementary school years, we added pillow talks with kids and learned how this technique helped our kids melt into bed each evening.
Recently though….my kids are obnoxiously wild at bedtime. And my husband and I find that we are repeating ourselves a lot – especially about brushing teeth.
This is the hard truth about getting kids to listen.
It’s a fluid evolution over a long period of time.
You take a few steps forward, then take a step back.
We are all human, growing and learning.
Parenting is a lot of trial and error.
What is “backing up” and how does it work?
If you ever find yourself in a parenting situation with your kids that seems like it’s swirling the drain fast, using a technique called “backing up” can be the perfect reset.
“Backing up” is a way of returning to an easier version of what you’re trying to accomplish. This comes from Language of Listening® – the 3-part parenting framework I use and teach to parents.
Using our teeth brushing example, I started returning to the bathroom with my kids to supervise teeth brushing and connect with them while they did it.
- The challenging version of this is expecting the kids to handle this 100% on their own without me getting involved.
- The easy version of this is supervising and walking through the steps with your child.
Do you see what I mean?
It’s much easier to “back up” and spend two minutes coaching your child through the teeth brushing process THAN it is to spend 15 minutes shouting, “Did you brush your teeth yet?”
When kids stop listening well in a particular area – when they previously did amazing – it’s time to start “backing up.”
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Here are some more examples of how I implement “backing up”
When my kids struggle to stay in bed, I will sit in the hallway and read a book. Or I’ll even take it up a notch and sit in their rooms until they fall asleep (although this almost never happens nowadays). To me, this is far easier than it is to shout “go back to your room” or walk up and down the stairs every 5-10 minutes.
When my kids struggle to turn off technology, I significantly decrease the frequency of technology. To me, it’s far easier to have fewer battles over turning it off.
After a few days of me “backing up” and doing things the easy way, I will start easing back into the more challenging version again.
It is a perfect reset.
After a few days of supervising teeth brushing, I will go back to allowing the kids to manage it on their own. It’s impressive how quickly this can get both you and the kids back on track.
But wait…isn’t this just rescuing your child when they should be developing independence?
The goal of “backing up” isn’t to use it as a long-term solution.
It’s a strategy to use over a period of 1-3 days.
This is where you step in as your child’s coach, guiding them along, and also seeing more clearly what they may need in order to be successful on their own.
“Backing up” is also a buffer to you feeling triggered and eventually exploding. It’s a win-win.
There’s another benefit happening – connection.
When you go back and become more involved in the process with your child, kids automatically feel connected with you.
Sometimes that was the issue all along – kids wanting to meet their need for connection.
Language of Listening® tells us that all kids have Three Basic Needs: power, experience and connection. Whatever kids are already doing is meeting those needs. So when your child is refusing to brush teeth and ignoring your voice, it can be a cry for connection with you rather than an act of defiance.
When you and your child re-group and find connection in the everyday moments, behavior issues can start to fade on their own.
For me, it often starts with something as simple as saying this:
“It looks like you need a little help brushing your teeth. I can help with that.”
Print this free listening checklist.
This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with listening. I always have the hardest time remembering these phrases. This printable simplifies it!
Here is a sneak preview…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join 37,000+ parents who receive my weekly parenting tips and ideas!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on parenting?
- The Key to Helping a Perfectionist Child Is the Opposite of What You’d Think
- Why Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child Isn’t Working
- 7 Things That Will Change How You Try to Stop a Temper Tantrum
- Routines, Boundaries and Early Bedtimes: 13 Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids
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- Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
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