For Effective Messages, Limit Length to 30 Seconds

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As a new foster parent, I thought it was my job to thoroughly discuss my reasons for every rule, consequence, and parenting plan I had in my crowded mind. I thought I should do this with my foster kids so they understood where I was corning from' and they would appreciate me more. WRONG! They thought I was nagging.

The kids used to say when they were in trouble; I should be like 'Pop' (my bus-band). They told him, "You just yell at us and then it's over. But Ma lectures us. She talks and talks and it's never over." I started to give that some thought and found they were right. I was wasting time and being ineffective. My husband was getting great results by just delivering short messages. I adopted his method after hearing a speaker extol the virtues of the 10-second message. It really works.

Consistency is important and I nagged to provide consistency, but I could do that with less effort on my part and more effectiveness on the kid's end. It is simple to do. Just go over your terrific speech in your mind. Sounds great, doesn't it? Even had to look up a word or two. Now, what is the main gist of that lengthy monologue? Say it in fewer words. Start with 100 words, then condense it to 50, now squeeze it down to 25, and finally 10 words. That was difficult for me since I'm rather wordy, but I found if I focused on key words, I could do it. It is a hit-and-run method because you say your piece and then move on with life. The first few times, your kids will be dumb-founded as they wait for the rest of the speech they just know is coming. You will see them out of the corner of your eye standing there with their mouth open in disbelief. After a few times, they may actually comment that they like it.

The benefits include no power struggle because you aim words carefully, shoot, and retreat.

Another benefit is that no one gets angry. There's no time. Here's an example: You want them to wear seat belts when they drive. The old method: you ask them to wear belts, they refuse. You explain how dangerous it is and they ignore you. You bring out articles, photos of car crashes, and 3-D charts with statistics. They roll their eyes and tell you it won't happen to them. Now let's look at the new way. You say: "I noticed you aren't wearing your seat belts when you drive. The next time I see you not wearing your belts, we will take the car keys away.' Now you walk away, but sneak a peek at the astonished kid you left in your wake. Neat, huh? Try it; you will have good results.

Credits: Jo Ann Wentzel

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