If you want to get your son to do what you want follow the below steps:
- Let Go of the Outcome
- Don’t Give Instructions More than Once
- Make him complete his work before play
- Let consequences teach
- Make consequences immediate, and brief
- Give consequences without judgment
- Don’t negotiate in the moment
- Always follow through
Connection before Correction
Before you try and change your sons behaviour ensure you are making efforts to connect with him. If your only interactions involve him getting in trouble he will think you don’t like him and resist your influence. Read my article How to Connect With Your Son for more idea’s on how to build your connection. The better your relationship is the more likely your son will want to do what you say, but there will still be times when he flat out refuses.
You Don’t Have to Nag Him to Get Results
In my work as a counsellor I often hear parents’ frustrations over their son’s lack of motivation for cleaning their room or doing their homework, and becoming rude when given instructions. They say “I’ve told them a thousand times but their room is still a pig sty!” or “He won’t do his homework, all he wants to do is play video games”. Parents often resort to telling their son what he needs to do over and over again which only irritates him, and makes them even more frustrated when he doesn’t follow through. Alternatively they sometimes give up which leads to resentment, and delays important life-skill building for boys. There is a way to get your son to do what you want, without nagging him, and it all starts with your mindset.
Let Go of the Outcome
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. In the same way, you can’t control your son’s behaviour. But isn’t this article all about getting your son to do things? It is, but the first step is recognizing that you can’t force him to do anything, you can only give him choices. This is important because it will help you to be less frustrated when he doesn’t do what you want him to. The less frustrated you are the more you will be able to give your son consequences to shape his behaviour without judging and getting angry at him. This will reduce his resistance to you, and increase the likelihood of him doing what you ask. For more on letting go of the outcome watch this video from Joe Newman, author of Raising Lions Saving Our Children from Behaviour Disorders.
Don’t give instructions more than once
Kids are smart. They almost always know when they are doing something they’re not supposed to, even when they’re toddlers. If you have expectations for your son only tell him once, and if he doesn’t do it give him consequences. Make a commitment to yourself that you will only give him one warning, and after that you will take action. For boys especially, actions often speak louder than words, and it sends him the message that you’re serious. Giving him a lecture, or nagging him is actually a type of consequence. It’s using guilt to try and get the behaviour you want. This will embitter him towards you, and cause him to resist all your instructions. It is also usually ineffective in getting him to do what you want, especially if he has an oppositional streak.
Require responsibilities to be complete before fun
The quickest way to get your son to do chores or homework is to make those activities required for him to do the things he wants. For most boys they want to play video games, go on their phone, or watch video’s online. This means you have to be able to control his access to screens, which may take some work but it’s worth it. Check out my article on How to Limit your Son’s Screen Time to learn how. If you come home and the work isn’t done shut down all his screen access and internet until he does what you expect of him.
He will put up a fight, that’s a natural response to setting boundaries. But over time he will get into the routine of doing what’s required before getting plugged in and you won’t even have to tell him. In my experience chores and homework are 90% of what parents fight about with their kids so if you can master this one you’ll rarely need to go to the next step of giving consequences.
Let Consequences Teach
If your son does something bad like hitting his brother or swearing at you skip the lecture and give him a consequence. Make it something small and immediate like no screen for the next 20 minutes for example. If he protests, set a timer and say that he will lose 2 minutes more screen time for every 1 minute that he argues. He will most likely back down, but if not still follow through with the consequence. He may choose to ignore your consequence and do something else. All you can do is give him choices, and let him decide what he wants to do about it.
Make consequences immediate and brief
Many parents I work with don’t give consequences for their sons bad behavior until they’re at their wits end and it results in them over-doing it and hurting their son. Instead give consequences as soon as you see something you want to change and make it immediate and brief. For younger kids this could look like taking a 1 minute break (or timeout), and for older teens this might be losing their phone for 10 minutes. Every time you give a correction you’re giving your son the chance to regulate and control his impulses and also communicating to him that you won’t tolerate bad behaviour.
Give him consequences without judgment
When you are implementing consequences it’s important that you deliver them in a neutral tone and without judgment. Speak in a calm, clear manner, and don’t question or shame your son for his misbehaviour. Simply give him directions. Sometimes parents feel ‘mean’ giving consequences, especially if their son becomes mad or sad in response. But what is really harmful is the emotional hostility parents build towards their son when they aren’t able to parent them effectively. This inevitably bleeds through in their words and actions. Kids need and even expect parents to set boundaries for them. Though he rage against you, it will actually strengthen your relationship with your son in the long run.
Don’t negotiate in the moment
If your son is smart he will try to beg, plead and borrow his way out of consequences. This is normal and expected, but don’t give in to it. Negotiating is a tactic to wear you down and will only result in both of you getting into an argument. Simply reiterate the consequences and let him choose. At a later time when your son has had time to process what happened you can ask him “why do you think you got in trouble?”. He will almost always know why. If he doesn’t know you can discuss what he got wrong, and now he can do better in the future. If he disagreed with the punishment, you can discuss and negotiate what he would like you to do differently in the future. But at the end you decide what you think is best.
Always follow through
There may be times when you implement a consequence and then you immediately feel that it was too harsh. Or perhaps your son’s reaction is so overblown that you back down. No-one is perfect, and there will be times when you wish you had chosen a different course. However whatever you decide to do make sure that you follow through. If you choose a consequence and your son’s big response gets you to back down, you increase the likelihood that he will act out this way again in the future.
What has worked for you in dealing with your son’s behaviour? Feel free to leave a question or comment below.