Effective persuasion with children

December 19th, 2013 @   -  No Comments

Parents try to convince their children of various things daily such as getting ready for school, doing homework, eating healthy foods, sharing toys, adopting certain ideas, and picking a certain career or life path. To influence their children in a particular direction, parents employ different methods such as reasoning, encouraging, threatening, coaxing, begging, and shaming. Certain methods are more effective than others and some more harmful, but persuasion is a skill, not a formulaic matter. Both parents and children should develop their persuasion skills.

Persuasion or force

Both parent and child are more likely to be happy when the parent successfully persuades the child to do something. Persuasion may take longer than use of force (verbal or physical) but it is more effective in the long-term because the child is more likely to stick with the idea or action. When forced, he or she is more likely to abandon the matter in question when you are no longer present.

The best way to persuade your children

Parents sometimes feel they do not hold much sway over their children. If most of your interactions with your children are negative  (forceful, boring, rigid and filled with disagreements and anger) while interactions with their friends are more positive, your children’s friends are going to be more influential in their decision making, even if their friends aren’t giving them the best advice. In essence, we are more likely to listen to people who instigate positive emotions within us, and we are less likely to listen to those who set off negative feelings, no matter how good the argument is. If you want to have a more positive influence in your child’s life, work on having a positive relationship with them.

What motivates your children?

The way to persuade one child may not be as effective for another. Before you can persuade anyone to do what you want, you have to know what they want. To persuade a child to do something, find out what motivates him/her, not what motivates you. When good advertisements try to sway you to buy something, they don’t convince you of how the product or service will benefit them but how it benefits you.

For example, in religion, some people are persuaded by the stories in the Quran while others appreciate the scientific aspects. Some are motivated to become better by the verses on Hell while others are stirred into action by the verses on Allah’s Mercy. Some are brought closer to Allah by fearing Him while others focus on loving Him. The ratio of love to fear of Allah is different for each individual.

So address whatever issue from the child’s point of view and take into consideration individual differences; what motivates a six-year-old child may be different from what motivates a 16 year old.

Reasoning with children

“Because I said so” is rarely an effective way to persuade a child to do something. Sometimes adults find it easier to order the child to do something without having to explain the reasoning or benefits behind it. Adults often underestimate the child’s ability to understand the reasons behind something and forego explaining it to them altogether.

For example, when children learn to pray, they usually learn the steps but not why they are praying or the significance of what they say during prayer. As a result, it becomes a chore for the child and a struggle for the parents to get their child to pray. But if parents took the time to (learn and) explain what it means to pray and the positive impact it can have on their daily life, it will become less of a struggle.

Explaining things to children and encouraging them to think through things will not only help you convince them but will also help them develop critical thinking skills. It will prevent children from accepting matters at face value and help them form their own opinions rather than being easily swayed by others. There are many trends nowadays that do not make sense but people follow them because everyone else does. Raising children who are not easily persuaded by everyone will give them an advantage.

Your child may persuade you!

Give your children opportunities to voice their opinions. Children and youth may surprise you with how well thought out and sophisticated their arguments can be. This will give them an opportunity to develop their own persuasion skills.

“Do as I say and not as I do”

What you do is much more persuasive than what you say. A parent who smokes or watches too much television may try to convince his children not to do the same, but your actions make the behavior acceptable in their view even if you tell them otherwise.

Parenting is not easy. You may not persuade your children to do all the right things at the moment, but the results of your efforts to inculcate a certain idea or habit often lay dormant for a few years. Only with time and experience do they resort back to your teachings as a guide. So do not despair if they do not seem to follow your lead right away.



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