“I’m so stressed. I have so many things to do.”
Nope, that’s not me who said it.
My five-year-old son rolled back and forth on our family room carpet. “Mom. MOOOOOMMMMM”.
Oh geez, this had nothing to do with how much he had to do. He’s 5. We don’t live on a dairy farm. His “so much to do” was filling his water bottle and putting his lunch in his backpack.
No, he does not have TOO much to do. I know what’s really going on. It’s what always happens in the morning.
My son wants my full attention.
He doesn’t want me talking to his sister. He doesn’t want me to get ready. He wants my eyes completely on him and focused on his needs.
Which we know as parents is pretty much impossible when getting ready in the morning. Since my husband had to leave for work early, there was still a lot we needed to get done:
Dishes needed to be loaded
Pets needed to be fed
My five-year-old NEEDED to put his socks on by himself (“No, you do not need Mommy’s help for that”)
But how do you deal? What can you say to your child when he or she is being difficult and refusing to get moving?
As parents, we need to be detectives first. My son’s mood is pretty typical in the mornings. I like to think of it as a phase, but if I’m truthful, it’s a phase that’s lasted the past five years.
Mornings are just hard for him at least 2 days a week. We don’t know why. We don’t when it will happen. But we deal.
I know that making him more self-sufficient will make him happier. He will rely less on me and our mornings will be much better.
How to transition though? How to get a child to listen and follow directions when they’re in this state? These four phrases get him moving and will help persuade any difficult child.
“Can you help me…”
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Nina V. Garcia, author of the book Parenting with Purpose: How to raise Well-Behaved Children and Build a Strong Parent-Child Relationship, emphasizes how we as parents need to carefully phrase our words.
If you can say the same thing in a more effective, less bossy way, you should go for it.
Since I knew that my son wanted my attention, the “Can you help me…” phrase worked wonders.
I looked around the kitchen for something we could do together.
“Hey buddy, can you help me load the dishes into the dishwasher so we can run it?”
“Oh… I am so stressed. Ok….”
Nina says this works because kids feel more independent when they think they’re helping you rather than just obeying orders. They’re less likely to fight back and more likely to help you in the task.
I hate chores.
I personally view them as tedious tasks that need to get done. But I’m careful not to reveal my bad attitude toward my kids.
Why? When we instead phrase tasks as privileges instead of inevitable drudgery, kids will be more likely to do them.
With this phrase, tone of voice matters. I always try to make it upbeat so that the task sounds like a privledge.
Examples of using this phrase are:
“You can start your homework now.”
“You can help me put your clothes in the washer.”
“You can pick those toys off the floor and put them in the basket.”
This is my favorite phrase of all time! It’s about offering a small incentive or using something that your child wants to do anyway as the prize.
But, its important to note that this is not a threat. It’s simply stating the order that things will be done.
“When you unload the dishes, then we can go to the coffeeshop before school”
“When you pick up your toys, then we can go to the park.”
“When you pack your lunch, then we can have cuddles.”
Use a description instead of a demand
I used this one as a teacher… a lot.
Nina says that like most parents, she too asks her kids, “Why haven’t you picked up your toys yet?”
This question leads to excuses which we then try to refute, then more arguing and sigh … such a vicious cycle.
Meanwhile, we feel our blood pressure rising and a migraine coming on,
Instead, we can describe what we see:
“There are toys all over the floor.”
“There’s dirty laundry up in your room.”
“There are dishes stacked on the counter.”
By describing, you note what needs to be done. Nina affirms that using this strategy “empowers your child to make the right decision.”
Why phrase requests in this way?
These 4 simple phrases help you raise more self-sufficient kids. Your kids will not be simply complying with requests but rather coached into making their own decision.
Remember how my son cried on the floor this morning about having so much to do and being stressed?
He ended up putting on his own socks, transferring his clothes to the dryer, packing his own lunch and quickly loading the dishes in the dishwasher before leaving for school.
Did he stress me out in the process? Yes, a bit. Parenting is rough and emotionally depleting. But oh man, seeing how that boy can turn it around inspires me every day.