My brother and I often have chats about parenting our kids and teaching our students (I am a teacher/therapist and he is a principal). We both agree that there is one word you should try to avoid using when your discipline your kids… I heard it again today.
I was in the car, driving to get ice cream to make ice cream bread for the kids (a special treat!) and we were listening to my favorite family radio station when the host of the radio show gave the same advice…
“There is one word you should never say when disciplining your child...”, he said.
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So… what is the word?
Yep- the word is Okay.
Easy enough, right? I use it… oh… all day long. “Grab the dish, OK?” “Pick up your shoes, Ok?”
There is a reason to why my professor, the parenting books that I read and the parenting expert on the radio show all said that should never use the word OK when you are discipling your kids, or giving them directions… It confuses your child.
Before you read on… please know that I am not sharing this with you so that you (or I) can take choices away from our kids or be demanding. I am telling you this because when I heard it, I thought about it… really thought about it… and I realized that it was true. I was essentially giving our kids the option to say NO. When they said NO, I was upset that they didn’t listen. It isn’t fair to them.
When we say “Ok?”, we are really asking a question and giving them the option of saying Yes or No to our question. When they say NO, we raise our voices or get upset that they said No. They don’t understand that it isn’t actually a question- remember that most kids don’t even understand sarcasm until they are 10 years old, so they are truly confused by this.
When the kids say “No”, most parents, like me, would say: “Well, it isn’t a request. I’m telling you to go make you bed.” … but to be fair… it certainly sounds like a request, doesn’t it?
The word “Okay” takes the “authority” out of what you are saying. You are teaching your children that when you give directions, they have the choice if they want to follow them or not. Now, while I do want our kids to have choices (and we give them many throughout the day), but I also want to raise children that are respectful and responsible and do what we ask. I want them to help out around the house and listen when I am talking to them. I want our kids to grow into responsible adults.
I only have 18 years with them before I let them loose… into the world, with only the roots and wings that I have given them.
I want to use these years to teach them with love and understanding, and to avoid frustration. When our children don’t listen, it causes us to lose our patience and become impatient with our children. I make it a mission to give my kids happy memories for when they are grown and yelling at them is not one of those. Teaching them simple things like when an adult tells you something, you listen, is just one lesson that I will teach them that will help them and help me. Using the word OK diminishes this.
Let me give you a few examples:
“Please put your tablet away and clean your room.”
“Please put your tablet away and clean your room, OK?”
Do you see how adding Ok at the end takes it from a command to a question. You are essentially giving your kids the right to choose not to do what you are asking. They are given a choice, instead of a direction. There are certain situations where you need your children to do as they are told and this is a great teaching tool.
When I taught second grade, I made the mistake of asking my students to put their books away before we started a new activity.
Here is what it looked like… “Ok, friends… it is time to clean up. Put your books away for me, ok? Thanks!” Do you want to guess how long it took for them to do this? Quite a while! In my class, I had a 2 minute transition time (meaning it should take less than two minutes for our class to transition from one subject or activity to the next). We would race ourselves to beat this two minutes! (You would not believe the amount of school day that is wasted on transitions!)
Back to the story: Giving them the direction as a question and not a command added to that transition time and to them not doing as I had asked. I had to ask multiple times, before it hit me that I was allowing them the opportunity to choose if they put their books away or not.
This is the same situation when you ask them a question.
~~~”Clean up your dish and put it in the dishwasher, please.” It is clear what I need my child to do and I am still asking in a polite way.
~~~”Would you please clean up your dish and put it in the dishwasher?“ Now I am giving my child the chance to tell me no or to say “Not right now, Mom” or “Can you do it, mom?”
This will lead to nagging them to do chores and eventually, impatience on my behalf, which isn’t fair to my kids, because I led them to respond this way.
I love to give our kids choices, but sometimes, they need to understand that a command is a command and it needs to be done. Give it a try today. Try to NOT say “OK” or give directions in the form of a question. You might find your kids arguing less and helping out more. ♥
If you want more advice, I highly recommend the book Boundaries for Kids.
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