Give children clear instructions

Published 10:02 am Sunday, September 15, 2013

QUESTION: What do some parents do that results in their children listening and cooperating, while the parents of other kids are ignored or disrespected?

RESPONSE: Parents who have cooperative children are giving their kids very clear directions in a non-emotional, firm manner. They tell them what they need to do and expect them to do it. When they don’t, the parents take action. They don’t reason, argue, explain, negotiate, ask or get drawn into an endless discussion.

Kids feel safe with a firm, non-emotional parent because they know exactly what to expect. They know their parents are in charge. They know there will be an immediate consequence and that their parents are not afraid to have them be upset. Effective parents do not need their children to be happy or to be happy with them. They lead, and their children follow.

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What isn’t effective is to ask your children sweetly, for example, if they will get in bed or do what you want to have done. When parents ask for their children’s consent and permission, children usually decide, “No, I don’t want to.” Then parents respond by explaining and talking: “Honey, it’s been a really long day and we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s getting late and you need to get a good night’s sleep so you’re not tired in the morning. Kids your age need at least 10 hours of sleep or you’ll be crabby tomorrow. I’m really tired and just need you to get in bed. If you do what I ask this time, I promise tomorrow we can do something special.” Unfortunately, parents are going on and on about why it’s important to them that their kids get sleep, but the kids simply don’t care.

When kids begin to negotiate or argue, parents usually become resentful and react with words that aren’t going to be helpful: “After all I do for you…. I make you special meals… I run you around to all your events… all I’m asking is for you to go to bed. Is that too much to ask?” When children continue to dawdle, parents often get emotional. ‘I don’t know why you can’t just do what I ask once in a while. Do I ask too much of you?” Frustrated parents may even get personal and say something hurtful.

When parents react emotionally, guess who is in control? The children are and it makes children feel insecure and unsafe because children are not supposed to be in control. Parents are suppose to be in control and lead by staying both firm and calm.

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out