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Article #1101

Articles from Mac Bledsoe's Parenting With Dignity program.


By Mac Bledsoe

Do not assume that your kids have heard what you have said simply because you have said it.  Repeat it! Repetition is fundamental in almost any learning so when you are attempting to teach your children use repetition! 

As we travel the country speaking with and listening to parents there is an almost universal comment we hear being stated by frustrated parents and teachers; "We told them, so we can't understand why they are not doing what we said!" Boy, did we spend lots of time saying the same thing to ourselves in the early years of teaching school and working at home with our own boys. Then, it occurred to us that only upon rare occasions have we ever learned anything on the first repetition, so why would we expect kids to do so? So, we decided to begin repeating the important lessons we wanted kids to learn and something amazing began to happenů the kids began to learn those repeated lessons!

There must be some real and conscious care applied when using repetition, however. First, when something is repeated to a child all anger and frustration must be kept out of all body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. You, as the parent, are repeating this bit of advice and instruction to the child because you have deemed it to be important and not because your child is slow to learn. Your child is normal; thus some repetition is necessary! Accept that fact, and keep the anger and frustration out! Simply say it again. If you want your kids to know that, "Happiness id an attitude of choice, and that it is possible to choose to be happy in just about any situation," then they must hear that statement more than once. If "Honesty is the best policy," is an idea you would like to have rule the world of your children then they better hear it often. 

If you have a particular religious belief and you would like your child to follow that belief it is simply not reasonable to expect them to do so simply because they go to Sunday School once a week. Those kids must be hearing about that belief which you hold so dear on a daily basis. They better be hearing your prayers and be seeing them work in your life. They had better be reading those beliefs on the walls of your home and they must be hearing discussions of that belief at the dinner table! (Note: It is hard to use repetition as a tool of instruction if you don't spend lots of time with your kids! Dinner table discussions are impossible if a family doesn't eat together or if the TV is on!)

Now, this next step in the use of repetition must be paid considerable attention. When a parent says, "If I've told Johnny once, I've told him a thousand times," we can show you the slow learnerů and it is not Little Johnny! Doesn't it stand to reason that if a parent has said something a thousand times and the child is still not doing what the parent said, that those words aren't working? When we apply this "rule of repetition" with kids we must remain always on the lookout for new ways to say the same thing. 

If we have said something three times and they do not seem to be using it then we must not give up, or become frustrated or angry, and we must never say, "I've tried everything." At this point we must simply become creative and figure out another way to say the same thing. (And always remember that often the worst way to "say" something to a child is with words. Demonstrate it, role play it, do it yourself, point out the lesson you are teaching as others use it to make their life easier or more fun, but keep repeating it!)

One thought bears consideration in closing this discussion on repetition. We do not mean that parents should become nags. When we say repetition should be applied we are speaking about the big lessons in life, which are taught over time. We do believe that simple requests for help around the house or for simple compliance with parental commands it is possible to expect action from kids following the first statement. In order to get that kind of response it is necessary to insure that the child knows what you said. One great way to find out if they have actually heard you is to ask them to repeat your request back to you by saying, "What do I need?" or "What did I ask you to do?" Then practice these three important steps to insure compliance: 

1. Say what you mean. 
2. Mean what you say. 
3. Do what you say you are going to do. 

Make all requests for action in a pleasant tone of voice. Precede requests for action with "please," and end them with "thank you." Keep request for action to a bare minimum, but do not ever make a request for a child's action if you are not willing to take the time to insure that it is done exactly as requested and at the time requested. This will establish very clearly for your children that you: say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you are going to do!

Repeat the important lessons in life in as many ways as you can creatively devise and they might just become the ideas that rule the world of your children!

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