My four-year-old is really bad at responding when I give him direct orders. It's even worse when I give him choices. It's kind of a no-win situation right now, but last night, a beautiful thing happened....
I could hear him down the hallway in his bedroom. It was 11pm. He shares a room with his older brother but does all in his power to turn bedtime into party time. I knew if I told him to go to bed, things'd get more out of control. He never takes the easy way. I guess you could say the kid likes a challenge.
So, I hear him messing around. I stand just inside my bedroom where the Warden is already in bed, I turn to the Warden and say, in a voice loud enough for said 4-year-old to hear clearly, "Wow! I hear ***. That can't be. He's supposed to be going to sleep. What shall we do? Should we move him out on the back porch?"
Immediate response. Suddenly, the four-year-old is standing outside my bedroom begging and pleading that he didn't want to do that. Could he please stay in his room?
My response: "I would love that. I don't want to have to find a different place for you to sleep because there aren't any places in the house for loud kids right now since everyone is trying to sleep, so the only option is out back. I really don't want to send you there, so what can I do to help you?"
As he slowly retreats down the hallway back toward his bedroom, he stops, turns and looks over his shoulder and says, "I just want a light."
I tell him he could turn the bathroom light on. He does, and all is peaceful. Not another sound was heard.
I'm finding a really magical thing from this example. I have also noticed that with some of my kids, if I compliment them to their faces, they do all that they can to prove me wrong. It's the strangest phenomenon, but if I compliment them within earshot to someone else--particularly to their dad, it's powerful. They do all that they can to live up to what I've just said.
So, I'm learning to be careful what I say to others while my kids are listening, and I frequently set them up to hear just what I want them to hear behind their backs.