Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

The Mechanical Turk parenting principle

The most important first step to getting your kids to cooperate - without this there is no chance that they will listen to you.

This morning I was reading an article about the "Mechanical Turk".

The Mechanical Turk was a "automatic chess machine" constructed in the 18th century. It was a table with a robotic man standing behind it, and it could play a very strong game of chess.

It was a wonder to everyone (there were no computers or automated machines in the 18th century). At one point, even the Holy Roman Emperor ordered the inventor to come display this wonderful machine to him.

Everyone wanted to know how it worked. Everyone had a theory.

Only, everyone was wrong...

You see, it was all a fraud.

Instead of being an automated machine...there was simply a small man sitting inside the table, moving the chess pieces.

Here's the thing: without the "machine" as a costume, no-one would have been very interested in the man inside it. No-one would have invited him to come play chess at the Emperor's court. No-one would have written articles about him, because he would have just been one more person playing a somewhat strong game of chess.

But, dress him up inside a "machine", add some mystery, and suddenly it was a sensation that everyone was speaking about.

I'm telling you this, firstly because I found this super interesting, and secondly because it reminded me about something that Lisa Smith said when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Lisa Smith is a parent coach, speaker, author and host of the popular weekly podcast, Real World Peaceful Parenting.

When I asked Lisa what her best tip for getting kids to listen and cooperate is, she said:

The best technique I know is really this four-step process that I've developed.

Step one is to make sure that you gain your kids' attention before you make the request. So often, we're just making the request, we're just calling it out, "Sue, put your shoes on." And what we don't realize is that kids are not multitaskers.

They're not scanning the universe for your command while they're doing something else. And, what happens to parents is that we're often assuming, because I've called out, "Sue, put your shoes on." I'm assuming that you've heard me and that you're going to do it. Meanwhile, you haven't heard me. And this is where the conflict comes in.

Lisa Smith

Getting attention is always the first step, whether you want your kids to listen to you, or you want to meet the Holy Roman Emperor.

In the interview with Lisa, she shares how to use "Pattern Interrupters" to get your child's attention, without having to resort to yelling.

She also shares how to leverage your child’s teacher to easily get your child’s attention without yelling.

Lisa also explains her four step system for ensuring that your kids cooperate, without having to use threats or punishment.

You can find the full interview with Lisa Smith - The four steps to getting your kids to listen without yelling - here.