It’s Not What You Say— It’s How You Say It

We already know that lecturing a child does not always get the desired response. Sometimes it is not what you say but it may be how you say it.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | July 3, 2013

While my girls were young I learned about rewording messages to the girls so that they would understand and comply with requests. I also talked with Mr. Ramirez so as not to have their comments or feelings steamrolled. Here is an example to think about:

“Chelsey! I want the dog’s poops picked up— now!”

“I don’t want poops picked up later, I want it done now!”

This is not a request, it is a demand. I would even say this is a bit rude. When any parent makes this kind of demand they might not be as concerned with a child’s feelings as they are about getting the job done— ASAP, like right now.

In my Parents Anonymous group we learned that children, no matter how small, had their own agendas for how they spend their time. By parents demanding rather than requesting, they are teaching kids to disregard the feelings of others. This also shows children that when someone else holds power over them, they must submit.

Children go about their day from one activity to the next, they usually know that once they are finished playing catch with a friend they will probably have a snack then begin working on their hobby, etc. If a parent wants to teach proper social norms, they may want to approach a child in this manner:

“Hi Chelsey, I see you are busy with your hobby. I would appreciate it if you could pick up the dog’s poops pretty soon. Could you have them up by tomorrow noon?”

Set a specific time limit appropriate to the chore and current activity then stick to it.

A child that is approached in this way feels much less harried or pressured. Being given ownership of the chore and the opportunity to schedule the chore into their own agenda, they begin to learn time management. They will never enjoy picking up poops but they can choose a time that works better for them. A child will learn in time that poops picked up when they are cold do not smell as bad. In time, learning to troubleshoot and problem solve things like smelly poops can translate to other areas of their life.

If picking up the poops (or other chore or request) is not completed by noon the next day, Chelsey would be told she must immediately stop her beading project to pick up the poops.

I would also let Chelsey know of any problems or inconveniences caused by not having a duty completed as in the poops being picked up by noon. With the poops, it might be not getting them picked up in time to be included in garbage collection and her having to deal with week-old poop.

Letting a child know of your disappointment and the opportunity to work on improvement for success next time can help. Make note of improvements over a period of time and discuss this with the child.

Picking up poops is one example but there may be other examples of communication you would want to think about for your own children.

How about your parents, what was their style for getting you to do chores? How does your parent’s style compare with your own?

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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