Ah, yes reminders. Those lovely statements we seem to say over and over to our kids. All the while thinking that if we remind them just one more time we will receive our desired outcome. We get tired of using them and our kids get tired of hearing them. We get so tired of using reminders that we will often say things like, “Sweet girl, if I have to remind you one more time to unpack your school bag I am going to explode.” Sound familiar?
Here’s the thing about reminders. They are, in their purest form, demands. When our kids hear a demand they sense an implied threat and will often fight against this implied threat. It may present itself as tuning us out, refusing to do requested reminder or worse, self-sabotage.
Another thing happens with reminders. Our kiddos will come to require the number of reminders we give them. We actually condition our kids by using reminders. So going back to the school bag example – if I remind my daughter 12 times to unpack her school bag I have just now conditioned her to receive 12 reminders before she will unpack her school bag.
When our twins were little peanuts my husband and I decided we would be 3 reminder parents. We agreed that after the 3rd reminder we would take action and remind no more. They were little and we figured 3 reminders would be fair. As little ones are, our girls were highly distractible so we felt comfortable with 3 reminders. It was enough to give them some direction but not enough where we did all the thinking. We believed that our kids should go to bed tired from doing all of their thinking not us. And reminders put the burden of thinking on us instead of them.
So when we were getting ready to go the park we would remind our sweet girls 3 times to get their shoes on and after the 3rd reminder we would head out the door and start the car. Sometimes they would follow with shoes in hand and sometimes they would be barefoot. It didn’t matter to us as they were the ones who were going to have to figure it out. Now at age 5 all we have to say is let’s go to the park. And they know what needs to happen because they have been doing the bulk of the thinking for the past two years.
The 3 reminder limit was working but I wondered if there was something better than reminders. Because let’s face it as a parent we are hard-wired to give reminders. And as the girls got older I found myself being pulled to “reminders”. Especially with one of our girls. She lives so much in the moment and is highly distracted by bright shining objects, puffy clouds and puppy dogs if you know what I mean.
So that is when I came up with the pre-minder. It has been a game changer for us. The pre-minder is almost always in the form of questions and it happens before, not during the “situation,” thus the “pre” in pre-minder. Let’s look at an example. We have pulled in the driveway from school. Before the girls get out of the car we have the following conversation:
Me: “Hey sweet girls, what needs to happen the minute we get inside?”
Girls: “We need to unpack our school bags.”
Me: “Beautiful! What does that look like?”
Girls: “We put our Baggie Books in our cubby. Hang up our coat and make sure our lunch box is in the sink.”
Me: “Love it! Anything else?”
Girls: “Nope except give Connor (our dog) a cuddle.”
Me: “Sounds awesome. What will happen if this does not occur the minute we get inside?”
Girls: “We won’t get our after school snack until it is all done.”
Me: “Love it. Let’s do it to it!”
As we enter the house post school pick up, a time that historically was rich in reminders, the girls go about what needs to be done with not a word from me. By using pre-minders the girls do the thinking and own the process. When kids own the process they are more likely to follow through.
Pre-minders are a way to set them up for success. It keeps you from nagging, which reminders quickly turn into, and it supports a respectful parent child dynamic.
The long-term effects are amazing as well. By coaching your kids through what needs to happen via questions they begin to develop the executive function part of brain. This is where logic, reason, consequential thinking and cause and effect thinking reside. A part of the brain that I want to be strong in my girls.
Next time you find yourself wanting to give a reminder rather ask yourself how can I present this as a pre-minder rather than exhaust both parties with reminders.
Let’s look at another example. You all are having lunch and have made plans to go to the pool after lunch is done. This is where you want to do a pre-minder. Let’s take a look.
Me: “I love the idea of going to the pool after lunch – yea! What do we need to do before we can leave for the pool?”
Girls: “Clear our dishes and load them in the dishwasher.”
Me: “Yes, that sounds great. What else needs to happen? Like what do we need to do in order to be prepared for the pool?”
Girls: “Get our suits on and our suntan lotion.”
Me: “Yep, and what do we need while we are at the pool?”
Girls: “We need to pack our sun hats, goggles, water bottle and snacks.”
Me: “That sounds great. How much time do you think you will need to make this happen?”
Girls: “I bet we can do it in 5 minutes!!”
Me: “Great. Just let me know when you are ready and we can head out for an afternoon of fun in the sun.”
You will notice that you are coaching them through the process with questions. And part of that coaching is asking the questions of, “What does it look like?”, “How much time do you need?” and/or “What happens if it is not completed?” By doing that you allow them to set their own boundaries and expectations which means less push back because they have shared control. By having them articulate, “What that looks like,” there won’t be any discrepancies in expectation which will help you stay away from reminders.
Play around with pre-minders and let me know how it goes. You will love the liberation that comes from not having to live in the cycle of reminders.