Techniques That Work (from Working with Men www.workingwithmen.org) Working With Men is an award winning charity focusing on positive male activity engagement and involvement with over 25 years experience of successful work with challenging young men.
If you want his attention, touch your son on the arm. Even if he looks away, his ears will open. This is not a grip or a tug, just a touch. Low and Slow - If you want him to listen to what you say, you will need to deepen your voice and slow down your speech. This is just low and slow, not aggressive or angry.
Whatever you want him to do, strip it down to as few words as possible without commentary. If you go from ‘I’ve asked you ten times to put those toys away, you’re doing my head in,’ to ‘TOYS AWAY PLEASE.’ then you can drop all of the ‘can you’, ‘would you’.
Boys take words literally. If you say ‘in a minute’ he will think you mean ‘in a minute’. If you say ‘you can walk on ahead’ without saying ‘near enough so you can hear me if I call,’ he will go further than you want. This will only increase, so get used to it now.
Boys need to be told the rules; they rarely ask what they are. Assume he doesn’t know how to behave in a supermarket, so tell him ‘here we walk,’ ‘the trolley is pushed slowly,’ ‘we put in the basket what is on the list.’ Boys often see the world as a playground, so if there are rules they need to be told them, and often more than once.
When we deepen our tone, our sons will look at us to make sure that our eyes and mouth match our words. If you are speaking firmly, but having trouble not laughing, or feeling bad because you are telling him off, your eyes will give that away. Make sure that your words, eyes and mouth are all saying the same thing.
If he is becoming too focused on something that is likely to lead to him getting upset, then draw his attention onto something else, such as another toy; something funny; someone else; or another activity.
Boys will often react to what you ask them to do. If you give him a choice then he will engage with the choice. So rather than saying ‘eat your sweetcorn’ ask him if he is going to eat his rice or his sweetcorn first.
Especially if you tend to give him a lot of explanations and certainly if he knows he should not be doing it, a very firm NO will do the trick. If he is about to throw something at someone, say NO firmly, but not aggressively or threateningly. An explanation can follow later, but he needs to know there is no negotiation.
Some parents say they ask their sons to do something ten times and then shout. Sometimes this is about timing. If you use the techniques above when you can see that something WILL become a problem, then both of you are more relaxed. Sort it out before it becomes a drama.
Boys form habits quickly. If you use any of these techniques consistently for three weeks they will become habit and you will find you need to use them less and less.
A lot of boys find it easier to talk when on the move. We ask boys to sit down and talk, but they are often more comfortable when they are in motion. If you have to have a difficult conversation, then try walking him around the block.
Many boys prefer to learn by doing. If he looks out on a winter’s day and sees the sun, he may say ‘I don’t want to wear a coat today.’ Rather than trigger a disagreement, let him go out without it (but take it with you) – he will ask you for it before he gets to the gate. If he can’t get hurt, let him find out for himself.
NB: This is a rough guide, don’t forget that all boys are different, mix and match to suit your sons’ needs.