Reminders

Get dressed. Brush your teeth. Say thank you. Eat your breakfast. Sometimes we sound like a broken record. We feel like we are prompting and reminding our kids to do things all day long...and sometimes we are. It's exhausting! That's what we are talking about today. I'll share my tips and tools for success.

For my 7-year-old boy
For my 5-year-old girl

Get dressed, brush your teeth, say thank you. Say hello, go to the bathroom, eat your breakfast. Sometimes we sound like a broken record. We feel like we are prompting and reminding our kids to do things all day long and, sometimes we are. That's what we're talking about today. If the prompting and reminding your kids to do all the things it's just

Getting exhausting, then I think you'll find this episode to be helpful. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler and more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Thanks so much for tuning in today. We're talking about prompting and reminding our kids to do all the things. I got a message from Cass, and she said, I need

To remind my daughter many times to complete a task shoes on brush hair, brush teeth. Sometimes she seems to get down on herself, even though I try to do so without blame, she's five, she'll be six at the end of the summer. This is familiar to me as well. I do a lot of prompting and reminding. I think we all do. There are some kids who are very self-sufficient and fall into patterns, easily. Kids who have very strong executive functioning skills seem to just zip through routines and know what to do when they're supposed to do it. In general. I would say that these kids are the exception rather than the rule. And in fact, prompting and reminding is in many ways, a part of our teaching process as parents, when our kids get off task and they forget to do something, it's generally not willful disobedience.

It's a skill deficit. We talked a little bit more about this in the recent episode on consequences, you can go to simple families.com/episode266 to listen to that one. I know it is frustrating. It is very frustrating to have to ask your kid to do the same things over and over day after day. And it might be tempting to try to use punishments. If you don't brush your teeth right now, I'm taking away tv time. As our kids grow, a lot of them, aren't motivated to do the things that we want them to do. Many kids are not motivated to brush their teeth. Now when they get old enough to go to school with stinky breath and other kids say you, I don't want to sit by you because your breath stinks. Usually a pure correction like that will shift things pretty dramatically. The willingness to brush their teeth can be an overnight change. But as intentional parents, we want to prevent all of the pain, right? Anybody else? We don't want our kids to have to go to school with stinky breath and have to be corrected by peers.

If we're going to do that, try to prevent that struggle and prevent a stinky breath there. We're also going to have to embrace the fact that it's going to be harder to get our kids, to do the things that we want them to do. Not impossible but harder. And we'll talk about how in the second part of this episode, now teeth brushing is a little different because it's not just about the stinky breath. It's about preventing cavities and having good oral hygiene. So we do take on a lot of responsibility as parents to make sure that that happens. But there are some things that are better left appear, correction, like nose picking. For example, chances are, if you have a nose picker, you have probably tried to correct and change this behavior. Lots and lots of times, unsuccessfully, because most kids don't mind picking their nose in front of their parents. Sometimes things like this that parents have struggled to correct for years will be very quickly corrected by a peer. You, you picked your nose, that's gross.

And all of a sudden kid doesn't want to pick their nose anymore. Not in public. At least social pressure can definitely create behavior change. But often these things that we struggle to get our kids to do the most are at home where we don't have that social pressure or it's just us and them, us versus them. Sometimes it feels like. So I want to talk first about the why, why it is so hard to get kids, to do basic things, things that they do every day. That should be easy by now. And then after that, I'm gonna talk a little bit about the strategies that I use to decrease the nagging and increase independence. I want to start by saying that kids have their own agenda and we have our own agenda. And these two agendas rarely seem to match up your kids' summer agenda might be to play on the iPad all day.

And your agenda is to make sure that your kids eat shower, spend some time reading and go play outside. Maybe a little bit of iPad time in there too. But we have to recognize that our kids often don't want to do the things that we want them to do. They often don't really understand the importance of the things that we're asking them to do. Their priorities look different than ours. Therefore it makes it harder for them to get motivated, to get those things done. It's important to recognize that we all need prompts and reminders every single day, this school year for my kid's school, I had to fill out this form to say that we hadn't been exposed to COVID and nobody had a fever. I know many of you probably had to fill out those forms every morning. So every single morning I had to submit this form and I forgot almost every single morning.

It finally got to about spring break. And I got an email from the nurse saying that if I didn't start submitting my form in time, that my kids were going to have to wait in the nurse's office with her in the morning until I submitted my form. So that was a threat also punishment of a sort. It could be as, I certainly didn't want my kids sitting in the nurse's office rather than in their classes. So sure enough, I remembered on Monday to submit my form. And then I forgot after that because punishment doesn't motivate us. It scares us and moves us to action immediately, but it doesn't actually teach us. It rarely changes behavior in the future in the moment. Yes, surely, but it rarely changes behavior in the future. So the first day I remembered and then I started forgetting again shortly after that.

So I decided to set a daily reminder on my phone that prompted me every morning at 7:30 AM to submit the form. And that picks the problem. The daily reminder did the trick. I never forgot again, but it wasn't the punishment that fix this problem. It was the implementation of the daily reminder because no matter how hard I tried to function without that reminder, I just couldn't do it on a similar note. I got my very first speeding ticket a couple months ago. There's this area when I'm driving my kids to school where the speed limit changes from 65 to 55 and the road looks very similar and I have a hard time noticing the change. And I was going 71 in what I thought was a 65, but it was actually a 55 because I had passed the point in the road or the speed limit had changed.

And I got pulled over, got my very first speeding ticket for going 71 in a 55. And for at least three or four days, I was really careful in that area to slow down and notice the change in the speed limit. But sure enough, after that, after that initial fear wore off that initial fear of punishment, I'm still struggling to remember, you know what I need, I need a reminder. I need an announcement. I need like a ding in my car to say, Denaye, you have reached the speed limit zone change. You need to slow down now because I don't mean to speed. I'm just going about my business. And I forget that there was a change, even though I've been punished for this. So I just can't seem to remember. And it frustrates me endlessly. I have not gotten a speeding ticket, but every day I approached the spot where I got pulled over.

And I think to myself, crap, you're still speeding. Denaye, slow down. I start engaging in that negative. Self-talk why can't you just remember? So in my own imperfections and my own need for reminders, I have a lot of empathy for my kids. I know that they're going to need reminders as they grow, even for things that they've been told repeatedly. Now, before I had kids, I wasn't like this. I didn't really need that many reminders when my life was quieter and simpler, when it was just me or just me and my partner, I seem to have a lot, a lot more brain space to organize all of this stuff. I could remember events and tasks and things I had to do without even writing them down. But my need for prompts and reminders. Yeah, it seems to correlate strongly with my level of overwhelm. And I think the same has to be said for our kids, if they are overwhelmed and their stress, and they got a lot going on, they're probably going to need more frequent reminders and prompts to stay on task and to get things done.

Even things that are very familiar to them. It's not as simple as learn it once and do it forever. If that was the case, we'd never get speeding. Tickets as adults, even if your child is not overwhelmed and not stressed out, they are still learning. They are overall in progress. The developing brain is still learning how to initiate and execute tasks out of follow multi-step directions. And we have to remind ourselves that these things come easier for some kids than others. And as they grow, they will get better at all these things as their brains mature. But let's try to stay away from this belief that you're 8 years old, you should know better, or you're 13 years old. You should know by now, because age is just a number we have to meet the child who's right in front of us, right where they are. And if your eight year old cannot follow three-step directions, like eat your breakfast, but traditional way, and then go brush your teeth.

If your eight year old can't seem to execute that sequence saying, you should know this by now, you're old enough to be able to do this on your own. Isn't actually going to aid them in completing the task. Instead, it's just going to have a negative impact on their self-esteem and sense of self-worth and in turn, probably having a negative impact on their ability to complete such tasks. So I remember people at all, ages need reminders, even adults, especially during times of stress. And during times of overwhelm, when our brains are extra taxed and working in many different directions, focusing on more things than we probably should. And for our kids, it's not just about stress and overwhelm. It's also about the fact that their brains just haven't yet developed and refined the skills yet they are a work in progress. And so are we, frankly, we're going to take a 60s break and then I'm gonna share some tips on managing reminders and prompts at home.

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First and foremost, we have to make sure that we are approaching prompts and reminders in a developmentally appropriate way. So we can't expect a three-year-old to remember and independently execute an entire morning routine that requires 6, 7, 8 things. We can create a visual routine where we have pictures of each thing that we need our child to do, and that can be immensely helpful, but often they're still going to need our support in the early years, even sometimes in the later years. So remind yourself developmentally appropriate. It means it's appropriate for your child, right? Where they are at approaching this by looking at the kid in front of you, not just by their age and what you think they should be able to do, meeting them, right where they're at, when we're prompting and reminding our kids to do things. We often don't notice that we're also asking them to stop doing something or to leave something behind.

If your child is watching TV and you ask them to brush their teeth, you're actually asking them to stop doing something, perhaps something that they love to do, something that they don't really want to do. So you'll find that if you're a prompting your child to do something less preferred while they're engaging in an activity that they love, they're probably going to be less responsive in situations like this. It's important to first end what they're doing before, prompting them to do something else. So if my kid was watching TV, I had to give a warning in two minutes, we're going to turn off the TV and brush your teeth. I might even set a timer for two minutes and the timer goes, then we brush our teeth. I'm ending one activity before prompting them to do another one. If I just blankly started spouting off, Hey, go brush your teeth.

My request is probably going to be ignored, probably going to get a more negative reaction. And frankly, it's a little bit disrespectful. I was in the middle of something that I enjoy. And someone in my family walks in and tells me I need to get up and do something else right away. I'm not going to feel really good about that. Like if I'm reading a great book and my husband walks in and said, you need to cook dinner right now, that doesn't feel good. Now, if my husband walked in and said, that looks like a really good book, you seem to be really enjoying it. I noticed it's almost six o'clock it's time to start dinner. Can you wrap that up and join me in the kitchen? I'd probably be much more amenable to listening and responding to that. I've got the chance to wrap up what I'm doing and then move on to something else, especially because that's something else. The cooking dinner is less preferred. I don't really want to cook dinner. Now I do want to note that it's okay to tell your kids to do something. You don't have to ask them to do something. Now, if I asked my five-year-old, do you want to brush your teeth? There's a very good chance that she would say no. And teeth brushing is not optional though. I usually address that with my words. I say, it's time to brush your teeth rather than do you want to brush your teeth?

Sometimes we can think that positive, gentle parenting is all about asking our kids things, but it's okay to tell them things that they need to do to it's often necessary. And you can do it in a respectful way. Like I've just described. So if your kid is engaging in something that they enjoy and you know, you need to move them on and prompt them or remind them to do something else when possible, it's always great to help them shut down or put an end to the activity that they're engaging in, in a respectful way, and then prompting them to move on and do what it is you need them to do. You're going to get a better attitude from your kid. You're going to get more responsiveness and more mutual respect. Of course, we're prompting our kids to do things, especially if it's something routine like getting ready for school or summer camp in the morning routine is going to help immensely.

We have a visual routine with my kids. It's a paper that's printed out with pictures of each step of what they do in the mornings. And it is a great aid. It really supports my kids getting ready in the morning, but they do need reminders to stay on task. But visually being able to see first I eat breakfast, then I get dressed. Then I brushed my teeth. It absolutely does help with independence. Now when creating our morning routines, I've found that for us, it helps to tie things together by room. So let's use my seven-year-old for example. So my seven year old goes into the bathroom and he uses the toilet, brushes his teeth and Combs his hair. There's three tasks that need to be accomplished in the bathroom. So he does those in a row. Boom, boom, boom. Those three are tied together. Sometimes we call that chaining. Those three things are chained together. It's easier for him to remember those three things when he's standing in the bathroom, okay, here I am in the bathroom. Maybe use the toilet, need to brush my teeth and need to comb my hair.

And then he goes to his bedroom and there's two tasks that are tied together in his bedroom each morning. He meditates and gets stressed after he completes those two things. Then he's done with the tasks in his bedroom. So by dividing tasks by room, it helps to sort of mentally break things down for him. Now it's also important to look at patterns. I said, when he goes to his room, he meditates and get stressed. Now let me tell you a little bit more about that. Now my husband and my son and I are trained in transcendental meditation. We'll be getting my daughter a train this summer. And for kids, they're trained to do something called a walking meditation, which is basically that they have a mantra that they're saying while they're moving or while they're playing. So when he's meditating, he's often playing and staying as mantra in his head.

I do not. In fact know if he's actually saying his mantra in his head, but that's what he's supposed to be doing. Usually he's spinning Beyblades, but he's got that five minutes of quiet every morning. So I noticed that when the routine was go meditate and then get dressed that even though I set a timer for five minutes, you're going to go meditate for five minutes and then get dressed. He would get lost in his play and it would take forever for him to get dressed. He just wouldn't get dressed. I'd have to go in there like six times in order for him to get dressed. Now, when I changed up our visual routine, the little picture chart that I have for them, I put, get dressed first and then meditation changed everything. He would go into his room, get straight to business, get dressed.

Then after he was dressed, he would start meditating. He got the thing that he didn't really want to do. Get dressed out of the way to do the thing that he wanted to do, which was play with his Beyblades/meditate, whatever we're calling it here to doing the less preferred thing first, getting it out of the way. We'll often the amount of doddling. If you go to simple families.com/episode268, I'm going to put an image of our visual routines in there. So you can get an idea of what those look like. Keep this in mind for your evening routines. When you're prompting your kids to take a bath and brush their teetj, that sort of thing. If there's elements of it the evening or the morning routines that your kids dread or seem to really get stuck on, try to put those things before a more preferred activity.

If your kid loves taking a bath, but they seem to run around the house and avoid brushing their teeth, brush their teeth before the bath, get those less preferred things out of the way and when possible chain them together. So you can do several tasks, tasks to build up momentum while you're in the same room. I remember, especially when my kids were toddlers, we'd go in the bathroom together and we'd boom, boom, boom, knock everything out with the door closed. I'd stand in front of the door actually so that we could get everything done that we needed to get done to brush teeth, go to the bathroom, take a bath on their hair, without them running all over the house and me having to chase them down and drag them back into the bathroom. Again, there's absolutely something to be said for behavior momentum.

Now, if you're prompting your kids to do things and you say in two minutes you need to come eat breakfast. Most kids don't have a real concrete sense of what two minutes is. And even if they do do, if they get lost or absorbed in something else, they're going to lose track of time very easily. So instead of using time-based cues, I like to use before or an after first and then spin your Beyblades one more time and then come down to meet breakfast. That's very concrete kids of any age can understand that first you finish that one page and then it's time to get dressed, pack your backpack up and then watch TV. Now it's really easy to get into the habit of prompting our kids with increasing intensity. So what does that look like? Hey, come brush your hair. It's time to brush your hair.

You need to brush your hair, get in here and brush your hair right now. If you don't brush your hair, you're losing the iPad for a week, right? So your voice gets louder and increasingly more angry. Every time you have to ask and remind understandably so, because this can be a frustrating process, but that approach just sucks. It sucks to feel like you're yelling all the time. And it also sucks for your kids to hear you yelling all the time. It doesn't serve anyone well. The problem here is that your kids often become accustomed to hearing this and they will stop responding until you get to the most increased level of intensity. It's kind of like counting to three. I'm going to count to 3, 1, 2, 3. Most kids don't respond until the three, just like most kids don't respond until you get to your most increased intensity because it's a warning system and they wait until they get the final warning.

If you approach prompts with increasing intensity like this, kids will almost always wait until you get to the most intense prompt before responding. And then sometimes we find ourselves to skipping the lower intensity and going right to screaming. So instead of increasing your intensity with your voice, try to use nonverbal and positional prompts. Now my kids respond really well to touch this. Isn't true for everyone, but my kids do so sometimes, you know, if one of my kids is distracted and I really want to get them dressed and I'll say, Hey, it's time to get dressed. And they don't respond. I will tug up a little bit on their shirt and be like, okay, it's time to get dressed. So they can feel that sensation of me pulling up on their shirt. So not only are they hearing the cue, but they're feeling the cue of me tugging on their shirt, sometimes gentle physical cues, like that can be really effective.

Now a positional prompt would be to do something like it's time to brush your teeth. Here's your toothbrush and you place it in their hand. And now they're holding the toothbrush ready for action or it's time to get dressed. They haven't responded. Haven't responded. You pick up the clothes and set them on the floor right next to them. In general, most kids respond best to verbal prompts when you're looking them in the eye when you're in the room with them. So if you find you're often shouting prompts from across the house, Hey, it's time to get your shoes on. And you're not even sure really whether or not your kids are hearing you. Maybe they're not even within earshot. And then you're getting frustrated. Remind yourself that verbal prompts are always more effective when you're in the room right next to the child, verbally down on their level, looking them in the eye.

As our kids get older and their brains are capable of handling multi-step directions. They're able to handle increasing amounts of independence. We can start fading our prompts off and we should start feeding our prompts off. If you're one that prompts excessively, like if you put food in front of your kid and say, eat your dinner, I would call that excessive prompting. Because if you put food in front of your kid, they know that they're supposed to eat their dinner. You don't need to say eat your dinner. If you catch yourself doing that, giving a lot of verbal prompts for things that are already implied things that your kids already know, things that they're already going to do, try to start fading. Some of those prompts off and instead saving the reminders and prompts for things that are really important. Things that your kids really do need extra support to get started with.

Now, even if we do prompt and remind our kids, it can feel like they don't listen. It can feel frustrating to get our kids to cooperate. And that's the next step to this understanding that sometimes when our kids don't respond to us, it's a lack of cooperation. It's not just our kid, not hearing us. It's not just them not listening. It's that they're not choosing to cooperate. They're not choosing to get on the agenda that we have for them. We're going to talk more about that in an upcoming episode. So stay tuned for more so grateful that you tuned in today. When you have a chance, leave a rating or review for the show in iTunes. If you've enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of yourself, listening to it and post it up in your Instagram stories. I'd love to hear from you there. Feel free to send me any questions or comments. I always love your feedback. I hope you've enjoyed this episode as always. Thanks for tuning in, and I'll talk with you soon.

Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.