ask, don't tell

I wonder where we got the idea that our kids are supposed to blindly obey our orders, and how that delusion persists in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Maybe it came from the same myth-makers who told us Children should be seen and not heard.

In any case, let's just forget about that blind obedience thing. This generation of kids never received that memo anyway. It's causing a lot of frustration for parents and children alike, and creating unnecessary power struggles.

Instead of telling your children what to do, try asking them instead. You are far more likely to receive a cooperative response when you say, "Honey, think you can get those toys picked up before we have lunch?" rather than, "Pick those toys up right now!"

I know I've mentioned my little respect-and-cooperation formula before, but perhaps not in this venue.

To achieve maximum cooperation and gain the respect you desire, speak to your kids the same way you would to a visiting neighbor.

No, I'm not kidding! It really works.

If your elderly neighbor spilled her lemonade, would you chastise her, or just accept her apology and help her clean it up? Can you imagine how grateful your kids would feel to be extended the same kindness and benefit of the doubt? It's really just common courtesy, but it may not be common enough between parent and child.

Yes, of course, we all blow our stacks and yell at the kids sometimes, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about everyday interactions, where we think we are failing as parents because our kids don't instantly comply with our orders. But we're not failures - our expectations and strategies are simply obsolete.

When we treat our kids with courtesy and respect, they actually WANT to respect us back. Neat how that works out, huh? And really much simpler than trying to force compliance.


Anonymous said...

I often ask my children nicely if they will do some task and they answer just as nicely "no thanks". Like how about you help me set the table for dinner. "no thanks, I'm playing". well - I really could use the help. "I don't really want to right now". what would you do about that?

karen alonge said...

excellent question! watch for a new blog post on this topic soon.