You give your child an instruction and they don’t obey it straight away. Familiar? Maddening, isn’t it? Often it is the way the instruction has been given that is the cause of the problem. In other words, disobedience is often the grown up’s fault!
Don’t say please!
In our culture, the word please usually suggests that there is a choice to be made.
“Could you be quiet please?”
‘Please put your shoes on, we need to leave the house?’ –
“Can you go upstairs and get ready for bed now please?”
“Would you please stop that arguing?”
“Can you get off your Xbox now please?”
Each of the above examples could be heard in thousands of homes up and down the country. And in thousands of homes up and down the country, children are ignoring their parents and tension is the result.
The answer is simple. In each of the above examples (and in hundreds of others we could think of), the adult thinks they are making a non-negotiable demand for compliance. Not so. The use of the word ‘please’, the pleading tone the adult is likely to be using and the fact that what should be a directive is being framed as a question, results in mis-communication. There is a huge difference between what the adult thinks they are saying and what the child is actually hearing.
“Right, can you go upstairs and clean your teeth now please?” Is interpreted by the child to mean, “Right, if it is convenient to you and you don’t mind, could you see your way clear to pop up and clean your teeth please?”
If it is convenient and if the child doesn’t mind, they are likely to comply. On the other hand, if the child is busy on the Xbox or reading, watching television or whatever it will not be convenient to them and they will mind! Not unreasonably therefore, they will either simply ignore you, (strategic deafness!) or they will present you with their terms for compliance; something along the lines of, “Yeah, ok. In a minute when I’ve finished this game, you’re always interrupting me.”
Try this in a calm but firm tone:
“John, you need to go upstairs and clean your teeth, now, thank you.”