Parenting Tip: Don’t Ask a Question if “No” is Not an Answer

Think about how many questions you ask your kids in a given day – especially when you are trying to get them to do something. Questions like:

  • “Honey, will you brush your teeth now?”
  • “It’s time to do your homework, okay?”

When trying to get their kids to do the things they should be doing, like making their beds or doing other chores, parents often resort to asking for their kids’ cooperation.

a slash through a question markWhat would happen if you asked your kids, “Do you want to clean your room now?” Hmmm. Let’s see, yes or no? It would be nice to think that your kids would respond, “Yes, Mom. I’ll do that right away.”

But chances are, given the choice, they are much more likely to say “no.” Now you’ve backed yourself into a corner.

So today’s tip is: Don’t ask a question if “no” is not an acceptable answer.

Often parents phrase their demands and expectations for their children in the form of a question because it feels nicer to ask – rather than to tell – children what to do. And that is true.

There is a time and a place to ask for things in a polite manner, like “Do you want to read another book before lights out?” or “Would you like to wear your red shirt today?” And, you should use such questions whenever your children actually do have a choice in the matter.

But there are also times when you really want or expect your children to do something or behave in a certain way. In those cases, don’t ask a question to which “no” is not going to be an acceptable answer.

It is much more effective to use a direct approach and state clearly what it is you want them to do. For example, you can say: “I need you to clean your room before your friend comes over.”

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Parenting Tip: Parent with the big picture in mind

A dad leaning over helping child with homework

Have you ever wondered how you could turn helping your kids with their homework into something more elevated than just teaching them reading, writing, and math? Without understanding that you can use the opportunity to instill important values in your children, getting your kids to do their homework can feel like pure drudgery.

But if you keep in mind that how you approach your children on any issue, even how they do their schoolwork, will ultimately influence what kind of adults they are going to be, you can do a lot more than just get them to finish their work.

So, today’s tip is: Parent with the big picture in mind.

It is true that as you guide your children in completing homework, you are teaching them specific academic skills related to the assignment. However, while you are doing that, you can also teach them how to approach life with balance, to be organized, to delay gratification, to be responsible, and at the same time, to find enjoyment.

With this long-term view, you can approach the day-to-day steps of doing homework, guiding them, and even practicing instruments and finishing nighttime rituals, as part of the larger picture. Any interaction with your kids can be an opportunity to develop the character traits you would like them to have.

Parents usually find a great deal more satisfaction when they keep in mind the bigger vision of raising happy, successful, caring and responsible adults.

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Parenting Tip: Choose Chores that Fit your Child’s Interests

This tip revolves around that dreaded “C” word – chores.

Do your children have assigned chores to do around the home? Are they doing them?

Mkids helping out and doing chores in kitchenany parents find that chores can be a real source of angst, with parents spending most of their time reminding, nagging and even begging their kids to do them, while their kids are doing everything possible to avoid them.

To make the whole chore process work more smoothly, choose chores that fit your child’s temperament and personality. I have three very different children and, not surprisingly, they are also very different when it comes to preferences for chores.

So how can you discover which chores will be best for your children?

You may want to start by asking them for input to find out what chores they don’t mind doing and which ones they would really prefer to not have on their list. The bonus here is that when kids are given some choices in the matter, they are much more likely to stick with any decisions made.

Think about what makes each of your children unique. Here are some things to consider:

  • Are your children generally active or do they prefer quieter activities? I have a daughter that never seems to sit still. I discovered that chores that allow her to
    move around, like carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room and vacuuming, are more likely to get done versus those that don’t require as much movement. My youngest son, on the other hand, prefers activities that are more sedentary. For him, clipping coupons out of the Sunday newspapers proves to be a good fit.


  • Next, do your children prefer to do things alone or with others? My oldest son prefers to work alone without help, so his list of chores includes things like mowing the lawn and taking out the trash. My youngest son, however, likes to be with others, plus he often requires help with chores, so he gets called to work with me when it is time to sort and fold the laundry.


  • Next, think about what interests your children have and how that can be combined with doing chores. My daughter loves animals so she agreed to take on the task of feeding and walking the family dog. My oldest son loves music so he tunes in while washing the dishes. My youngest loves cooking and is an eager helper with preparing meals.

Other things you can consider are whether your children like to do things at a set day/time or do they like things to be more random? Would they prefer the same chore over and over, or do they like variety?

When you take the time to identify chores that match each of your children’s unique personalities, then you are helping to set the stage for success and you are more likely to get cooperation from your children.

Now keep in mind that this probably will not eliminate all of your kid’s complaints about doing chores. Kids will still be kids, but in the end, you may find that when it comes to actually doing the chores, your children may be a little less resistant to doing those that fit their personalities.

By Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator

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Parenting Tip: Give Short Explanations

Just yesterday I was at the grocery store and I heard the following conversation between a mother and her first-grader:

5 brightly colored lollipopsNow, Suzie, I am sorry but you cannot buy any candy. It isn’t good for your body, which needs certain nutrients for you to grow big and strong. Plus sugar is not good for your teeth. If you eat that candy now, you won’t be hungry for dinner when we get home. . . .

All the while, Suzie was whining and complaining that she wanted to buy this special candy. Each point the mother made was countered with an argument from Suzie.

If you have ever found yourself in a situation like this one, you could benefit from this tip: Rather than give a long explanation, repeat a simple phrase.

Parents often find themselves trying to reason with their kids. If you say just the right thing, then perhaps your children will see the wisdom of your words. What happens more often than not, however, is that your children either tune you out or they use your words as ammunition to argue with you.

This mother could have simply said, “Sorry, Suzie. The rule is “No candy.’”

But wait, you say “Isn’t it important to teach our children and to help them understand the reasons for our rules and decisions?”

The answer is “yes” – with one condition. You must do your teaching at a time when your children are ready to be taught. When you are standing in the middle of a store and the candy is looming large, most kids are not ready to listen.

Ideally, you have already discussed the importance and reason for your rules when you set them. Then, if your children protest you can give them a quick reminder such as: “Remember we talked about how you need to eat healthy foods to grow strong. Our rule is “No candy purchases.’”

If your child continues to complain, you can restate the rule: “No candy.”

And, if in the course of your child’s tirade, you realize that you need to provide more information, you can tell your child: “We can discuss why it is important that you eat healthy foods when we get home. For now, the rule is no candy purchases.”

Remember, when emotions are running high, say less.

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Parenting Tip: Manage Children’s Frustrations by Changing the Mood

Has your child ever protested or refused to get ready to go when you tell him it is time to leave a friend’s house? This can be a very annoying – not to mention embarrassing – situation be in. When it happens, parents often don’t know how to respond.

The following tip can be useful in these situations: Manage your children’s frustrations by changing their mood while still insisting that they cooperate.

A lantern with bubbles floating byThe first thing you can do to ease some of the tension is acknowledge your children’s frustration and disappointment. That doesn’t imply giving in, it simply means listening and mirroring back what your children are feeling.

Sometimes that’s all children need to hear in order to feel less frustrated and do what they are asked to do. In the above situation, you could say,“I see that you are having such a good time and you don’t want to leave yet.”

If that doesn’t do the trick, you can give your children their wishes in fantasy.

  • “I bet you wish you could stay at Davey’s house all night!”
    Or maybe
  • “You wish you could stay forever. What do you think you would play if you didn’t have to leave? On our way home, let’s come up with a list.”

By trying to change the mood with a little listening and imagination, you help your children gain control over their emotions so that they can move on more easily and, in the end, be more cooperative.

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Parenting Tip: 3 Ways to Cope with Your Children’s Anger

angry red cartoon faceHave you ever had to deal with an angry child? Chances are, if you are a parent, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Dealing with your kid’s outbursts can be very frustrating. You may get mad at your child for being angry in the first place. It can be a vicious cycle, ending with everyone in the family feeling resentful and even angrier.

So what is the best way to handle your children’s anger?

Accept and understand that kids will get angry. Feeling disappointed and frustrated is normal for children as they proceed through childhood. Tell your children that it is okay to be mad and that you will help them handle their strong emotions.

Teach your children acceptable ways of expressing their anger. Emphasize the importance of not being hurtful with words or behaviors. Teach them to speak respectfully even when angry by using “I” messages to express feelings. For example, instead of name-calling or hitting, they can say, “I am really mad at you!”

Help your children to find ways to calm down. Useful techniques include:

  • taking deep breaths,
  • counting to 10, doing jumping jacks,
  • rocking in a chair,
  • or being alone for a while.

Once they are calm, then your children can talk about the reasons why they were angry. You can work together to find solutions.

Children do not get angry on purpose and they are not out to “get you” with their strong feelings. Your job is to model and teach your children as they grow and that includes how to handle difficult emotions. With this in mind, you can approach an angry situation with a little more empathy.

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Parenting Tip: Let Children Experience Natural Consequences

A note saying OopsLoving parents who want their children to be successful and to reach their potential often err on the side of being over-protective and overly involved in their children’s struggles.

They go to extreme lengths to keep their children from experiencing any kind of failure.

If this sounds like something you can relate to, then you may benefit from today’s tip: Give your children the opportunity to face the natural consequences of their mistakes.

Assuming they will not be harmed physically or morally, children often learn important lessons from making mistakes. When you run interference by rescuing them and bailing them out, you deny them the opportunity to discover their own limits and talents, to figure out how to do things better the next time, and to solve problems.

For example, when you assume responsibility for your children getting their work done and act as a personal assistant, you deny them the opportunity to discover why it is important to meet obligations.

When you turn over responsibility to your children, they may initially miss some deadlines, but ultimately they will learn better time management and organizational skills as well as what happens when they fail to do what is expected of them.

This does not mean that you abandon your children. You can still:

  • encourage them:
    “I’m sure you can figure this out.”
  • offer support:
    “Let me know if you want to talk about this.”
  • provide guidance:
    “What do you think will happen if you do this? What about if you try that?”

Remember, it can be more loving to let a child fail in the short term in order to let him grow in the long term. Life’s natural consequences are often the best teacher.

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Parenting Tip: Plan for Success

an open calendar and clock to plan your dayIf you are like many parents, just getting through daily routines with your children can be a real hassle.

For example, take getting out of the house in the morning. Every day you wake up, thinking of how kind and loving you’ll be. Then within one quick hour, you find your voice and your blood pressure rising.

If this sounds familiar, then consider the following tips which involve planning for success.

  • Rearrange your schedule. Are your children little sleepyheads in the morning, but have free time in the evening? If so, move some of the morning steps to the nighttime, such as picking out clothes or packing up their bags.

  • Create a list of tasks that are repeated on a regular basis and post it in a prominent place. Put on it all of the steps, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, and making the bed. For younger children, you can include pictures. And yes, many children really do need to be reminded to brush their teeth every single day.

  • Limit choices. Children can get so caught up in all of the options that they become immobilized.
    • Rather than asking an open-ended question such as: “What would you like for breakfast?”
    • You can direct your child with: “Would you like cereal or a bagel?”

    To simplify things, you can specify the type of cereal or topping for the bagel. Another approach is to ask: “Do you want to eat something hot or something cold?”

With a little planning, your routines in the morning or any time of day can go a lot more smoothly.

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Parenting Tip: Focus on Children’s Actual Behavior, Not their Mood

sad looking girl

  • Have you ever had to say “no” to your children when they ask to do something?
  • Or have your children ever resisted doing something you tell them to do?

You use all your positive parenting skills to get them to cooperate. And when they finally do comply, they do so grumbling and frowning.

Many parents wonder whether they should address the complaints.

The tip for today is: Focus on your children’s actual behavior, not on their attitude or mood.

As a parent, you know how hard it can be to set a limit that your children obviously don’t like or to engage their cooperation to do something they don’t want to do. And they are often quick to let you know when they don’t like the restrictions or requests you make. But there are times when it is important for your children to obey you and follow your rules.

Remember that your job is not always to make your children happy, but to help them develop into responsible, caring people. And in order to do that, it is important that your children comply with your limits and requests.

There are a number of things you can do when your children protest:

  • First, allow some complaining; you can acknowledge their feelings.
    “You are really angry that you have to finish your chores before you play.”

  • Second, be clear, calm, and confident as you insist on the behavior you want.
    “We agreed that you would finish your chores before you watch your show.”

  • And finally, avoid getting distracted by their negative attitude.
    “Even though you are upset, you still need to finish your chores first.”

Even if your children grumble about the limits you set, you can choose to focus on the fact that their behavior ultimately reflected their compliance. Remember to highlight positive behavior and cooperation when you see it!


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Parenting Tip: Know and Respect Your Limits

Have you ever felt that you are constantly giving to your children and doing so much for them that you are exhausted and even resentful of all their demands?

If so, then this month’s parenting tip is right for you: Know and Respect Your Limits

It is far better to give only as much as you can willingly – or perhaps just slightly more-so. After that, set limits calmly and firmly. Then what you do for your child will be done lovingly.

Parents need a degree of physical and emotional well-being so they can preserve their most important resources – their energy and their good will.

Parents usually take better care of their children when their own needs are met so it is actually better for everyone when parents respect their own limits and feelings.

For example, you can say:

“We don’t have time to take a walk this morning. I know you really want to go. After your nap this afternoon, we can go out for a walk.”

So, rather than feeling that you have to say “yes” to all your children’s requests, you can learn to say “no” to them sometimes with respect and understanding. If you do so, you will have modeled a valuable lesson in setting personal boundaries and taking care of oneself.

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