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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