Expert Parenting Advice
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Rotten fish or valuable treasure

Why understanding the way your child views the world makes it easier to get them to cooperate.

A while back, I took my kids down to the beach for a walk.

I spotted a dead fish, and shouted "Watch out for that dead fish," my face scrunched up in disgust.

But instead of disgust, my son's face lit up, and he ran towards it. He bent down and inspected it closely. "Come look, it has a big hole in it," he shouted, his excitement increasing.

My daughter ran towards it, picked up a stick, and started poking it, trying to turn it around.

The more they poked it, the more it started to smell. But the smell of rotten fish seemed to only make them more interested in their find.

The stick wasn't working, so my daughter reached out to pick up the dead fish.

"Get away from that dead fish, it stinks", I shouted, and they both looked at me like I was crazy.

My kids constantly do things that remind me that they see the world very differently from me. Where I saw a dead, stinking, rotting fish, my kids saw something wonderfully interesting to explore.

The same thing happens in the mornings when I want to get them ready for school. My agenda is to get them to school, but their agenda is to play. I see a deadline approaching, and they see the fun they can still squeeze into their morning.

Here's the thing: When you want to get your kids to listen, the first step is to let go of your agenda, and understand their agenda. You need to connect with them and try to view the world from their viewpoint.

This is something that I learned from Jennifer Kolari when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Jennifer is one of the US’s leading parenting experts, a highly sought-after international speaker and the founder of Connected Parenting.

According to Jennifer, when you connect with your child, you focus on understanding what is causing their behavior. You try to understand what is going on with them, so that you can find the real reason behind their bad behavior.

Here's what Jennifer said:

You’re really using your body, your facial expressions, everything in you to demonstrate to that little person that you really want to understand what they’re feeling. “What is their message? What are they trying to tell you?”

Behavior is never the problem. Behavior is a symptom of the problem. When you’re really trying to understand what the behavior’s telling you, or what their words are telling you, what’s underneath it, you’re going to get somewhere.

You’re going to take your agenda, which is whatever you want them to do or learn from that moment, “don’t talk to me that way”, “hurry up, do your homework,” “don’t hit your brother.” And you’re going to put it aside until you’ve finished the mirroring technique.

Jennifer Kolari

Once you connect with your child, once they realize that you are trying to understand where they are coming from, getting them to cooperate becomes much easier.

In our interview, Jennifer discusses each of the 4 parts of her C.A.L.M. method for getting kids to listen.

She also shares how this method allows you to use your words and language as "medicine" that floods your child's brain with oxytocin and opiates and natural endorphins, biochemically calming them down, and moving them towards healthy compliance.