How Parents Can Adopt This Simple Compliance Technique with their Children
I’ve been interested in how to persuade people practically my entire adult life. There might be no easier way to get people to comply with your requests than to use the technique of commitment and consistency.
I’m going to explain to you what this technique is, and how it works. You’ll naturally see how it fits into parenting through the example I use. But you’ll also find yourself using this same technique on other people. Enjoy it. Life can be fun.
A Summertime Parenting Story
The setting for this little story is at my family cottage, during the summer months. The cottage is on a quiet lake. We were on a week’s vacation. My wife and kids were vacationing with her parents. Her brother Ryan also visited for a few days. My kids love playing with Uncle Ryan.
Whenever we’re going to be in the sun for a long time we put sunscreen on. The sun is healthy, but a sunburn? Not so much. My daughter, Anne, for whatever reason, was resisting putting on sunscreen. She was about 4 years old at the time.
?I ignored the issue for a few minutes and we walked down the gentle hill towards the dock where we’d lay out our towels and jump into the lake.
Uncle Ryan jumped into the lake. Anne looked at him, wanting to go in herself. She was timidly dipping her toes in the water to check the temperature.
Using a “Yes Set”
Here’s where the magic starts. I looked up at the sky and said to Anne, “Wow, it sure is sunny outside. What a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
The purpose of this was to establish a “yes” answer. I was building up to something called a “yes set”. When you want people to comply, you want them in an agreement frame of mind. Saying yes causes agreement. Having them say yes multiple times creates stronger agreement.
I continued, “Do you think Uncle Ryan should be wearing sunscreen so he doesn’t burn?” Anne nodded her head and agreed. So I kept on with the questions designed to elicit a “yes” reply.
“Do you think he should put on his sunscreen?” She strongly agreed, and my yes set was complete. Now she was likely to go along with any simple commands. I started with an easy one.
“Anne, tell Uncle Ryan he’s gonna burn if he’s not careful!” She complied, enthusiastically shouting at him from the dock.
Next I grabbed the bottle of sunscreen and said to her, “Show him how much he needs to use on his shoulders. Here, just squeeze the right amount into your hands.” She let me help her squeeze out a blob of sunscreen into her hands.
Finally, I moved in for the win. “Sweetie – maybe he needs you to show him how to put on the sunscreen. You’re really good at it. He’s watching you. Go ahead and show him how to put it on!”
What do you think happened? Of course, she started applying the sunscreen to her own arms and shoulders. The didn’t resist the sunscreen any more. She proudly applied it to herself, letting us help so it didn’t get too messy.
Commitment as a Core Influence Technique
Earlier I explained to you how I used a yes set to build up an agreement frame of mind in my daughter. But I did something else.
I got her to verbalize her feelings directly to Uncle Ryan. He was treading water in the lake about 20 feet off the dock. So she stood there (politely) shouting at him to put on sunscreen so he wouldn’t burn.
When somebody takes a stance on a subject in front of other people, it becomes incredibly difficult to do anything that contradicts the stance taken. So in this case, my daughter took the stance that wearing sunscreen is important. Yes, I tricked her into taking this stance but I consider it an ethical trick.
Using Commitment and Consistency in Parenting Toddlers and Kids
You can use this same technique in many ways as a parent. Is your child a picky eater? Have him declare what he wants to eat. Have him tell you why he loves that particular food so much. Have him help you setup the meal or snack in any way that you can. Involving him makes it more real.
When Tommy takes the bread out of the fridge to help you make a peanut butter sandwich and gets the butter knife out of the drawer for you, he’s far more likely to eat his snack without complaint.
If Leanne doesn’t like to brush her teeth, take her to the store and have her pick out her own brush and toothpaste. The extra couple of dollars you’ll spend will translate into her “owning” her decision. Amplify these feelings of ownership by having her show her new brush and toothpaste off to friends, family and neighbors. When it’s time to brush those teeth before bed, the resistance will have melted away.
This technique is not a cure-all. It won’t work 100% of the time. There are nuances that you have to respect. But you will find the consistency principle helps you diffuse resistance and get compliance in many parenting situations.
Learn the parenting communication tricks that really work!
The pattern interrupt that I described above is only one simple method to redirect a child’s negative emotional state and find a happy place. My full complete home-study audio course, “Talking to Toddlers: Dealing with the Terrible Twos and Beyond” shows you many more tricks and tools to accomplish the same thing.
Just remember: Logic doesn’t drive behavior. Emotional states do. If you have an unhappy or poorly behaving child, learn to be a master of changing your child’s emotions. It will carry you far beyond the toddler years. I believe it will lead to your child unconsciously learning more about managing emotions than he or she otherwise would.