One of the major areas that can be a cause of frustration for parents or adults who work with children, is when kids refuse to do what we want or need them to do.
This could be getting ready for school or for bed, doing their chores, or an unending number of things.
There is a trap that we set for ourselves. And, it’s a question. The yes-or-no question. We use these out of politeness, mostly. But it leaves a significant loophole for kids and also causes unnecessary misunderstandings and arguments. A few examples:
- Do you want to get your shoes on so you’ll be ready for the bus?
- Do you think you should start your homework now?
- Would you please come to help me bring in the groceries?
- Could you stop your video game and come to dinner?
A yes-or-no question contains an option – the no option. And, kids will choose this option in circumstances when what we are asking them to do is not what they want to do.
Misunderstandings and arguments happen when we give the option, the child takes the option, and then we become frustrated or angry with the child. For kids who don’t interpret the hidden gray areas of intended meaning, a yes-or-no question when no isn’t really an option is confusing.
The best bet for when you need a child to comply is to make a directive statement and skip the question.
- The bus will be coming soon. It’s time to get your shoes on.
- In five more minutes, it will be homework time.
- I need help carrying in the groceries.
- Dinner is ready. It’s time to pause (or stop) the game.
I still catch myself asking kids yes-or-no questions now and then. You will catch yourself doing it now, too. And you will laugh to yourself when you get the result you weren’t looking for and change your approach to avoid this particular parenting or teaching trap.
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