As a marketing professional and former journalist I’ve learned that the words I use really have a powerful effect in how people receive or chose not to receive what I have to say. The challenge of getting kids to listen to us adults is more challenging then ever so to get the attention of my two older kids, Jonathan (10) and Elena (6), I’ve learned to almost never teach them something in the form of the universally dreaded “lessons” but rather in the shape of “tricks.”
If you think about the powerful contrast between the words “lesson” and “trick” you’ll quickly understand why one appeals to kids much more than other. From a kid (and I would argue even adult) perspective the word “lesson” is a heavy one. It often insinuates teachers, homework, judgment. In sharp contrast if you tell your kid you want to teach them a trick, who could say no to that? My kids don’t. Heck, even adults have a hard time saying no to learning a trick or two.
Tricks are better than lessons because tricks are connected to magicians. Tricks relate to shortcuts (we know kids love those). Tricks are happy, quick, surprising, uplifting, wacky. At a time when children are over-stimulated and media-saturated with all kinds of “fun” stuff to divert their attention from you, their parent, you need a verbal weapon to capture their imagination. For me it’s worked wonders to get their fuller attention about something when I tell them I’m going to teach them “trick” instead of a “lesson.” How you descriptively explain the trick you’re about to teach is just as vital and only part of a bigger strategy I will continue to describe in future posts but the first battle you need to win is actually getting your children’s attention, especially while their young.
If you’re reading this blog today, I would bet a big reason for that is because you want to learn more “tricks.” Parenting tricks are the compelling, unique value proposition of this blog because while generally write from a dad’s perspective, the fact is that the concept of parenting tricks is universal to mommies as well.
I get my kids attention by telling them that I’m going to teach them a trick. It’s the first cardinal rule of PapiBlogger’s Parenting Commandments and the reason why we published this post today. What verbal and non-verbal techniques do you use to get your children’s undivided attention?