DEAR HARRIETTE: My 8-year-old son is driving me bananas. He constantly leaves his bath towel pretty much anywhere in the house except where it belongs -- in the bathroom. I have reminded him time and again, and I have taken away privileges if he doesn't remember to put it back in the bathroom: Nothing seems to work. I am up to my ears in frustration about this. I don't want a wet towel on my bed or on the floor in his room. Why can't I get the point across so that he can follow directions? -- Towel Dry, Bronx, New York
DEAR TOWEL DRY: I hear your frustration screaming through your words. And I understand. Our children can push our buttons, and when that happens, it seems impossible for us to get them to understand the value of whatever lesson we are attempting to teach.
While the knee-jerk reaction may be to punish a child for not following directions, especially after having been reminded over and over again, there is another approach. I went to a seminar conducted by parenting coach Shelly McDonald, who suggests that threats and punishments never work. Based on the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber, McDonald encourages establishing respectful connection with your children rather than reprimands or blame.
As far as the wet towel is concerned, her approach would be to point out the reality -- there is a wet towel on the floor. Often, children recognize what to do after such a simple, non-judgmental revelation. Or saying the word "towel" could jumpstart the child to action, as opposed to, "I am sick and tired of having to pick up your towel all the time." By keeping your calm and guiding your child to right action without judgment, you stand a better chance of reaching your goal.