On Parenting

On Parenting

It really isn’t hard to get your kids to do what you ask them to do. All you need to do is outsmart them.

For example:

Let’s say you want the lawn mowed on Saturday morning. In the past, you turned to your child and said, “I need you to mow the lawn today!” Late in the day, you notice the lawn still hasn’t been cut and an argument (often heated) erupts. Excuses you’ve heard a dozen times are rehashed. So, everyone’s feelings are hurt. Right?

Instead of presenting your request in the form of a demand, try rephrasing it: “Today’s lawn mowing day, Tommy, so would you like to mow the lawn this morning or this afternoon just before you go over to your friend’s house?” Did you order him to do it? No. You gave him a choice and whenever he decides to do it, it’s his decision, not yours. This is known as a double-bind in the therapeutic world.

This can be done with the youngest kids and the smallest of chores. Here is how I got my 6-year-old grandson to close the drapes for me. “Adam, I’ve seen you close the drapes before but, I wonder, can you close them with one pull or two?” He couldn’t wait to show me. 

This works all the time. Whether you are young or old, you want to show how well you can do a chore or a project. When a young child is sitting at the kitchen table and you (naturally) say, “don’t spill the milk,” what happens? Every person, young or old, is thinking about plans, events, memories, etc. When you begin your sentence with the word don’t, you are conveying nothing. All you are doing is breaking into their thought processes, into their mental trance. That first word does nothing but bring their attention to you, that voice out of the blue.

Rather than start with don’t, begin with his or her name first: “Suzie, can you hold that glass with both hands?” Now that you have her attention, she hears the balance of your statement and she’ll do her best to prove what she can do. The exact same goes for, “Johnny, I know you a good runner, but can you walk in the house?” The first word you say interrupts a thought and they will then hear what follows. What he heard was, “rrummph, run in the house.” So, he thinks, “okay, I can do that.” “rrummph, spill the milk.” “Okay!” 

Try it and see how well it works for your family.

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