Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mind Your Ps and Qs

If you don't want your kids to repeat it, then don't say it. If you want your kids to say it, repeat it.

I think most of us want our kids to say please and thank you, especially when they're with company and dealing with others. Are you polite to your children? What tone of voice do you use? Not only will your kids repeat your words, they'll also mimick your tone. I cringe when I hear Sam ordering Charly about just like a Mini Me in a less-than-flattering tone. Do I really sound like that? If you haven't had that moment as a parent...just wait. It's comin'.

I don't always say "please" to my children, and sometimes my tone could use a little tweak. But, I try really hard to ask my children polite questions, and I expect them in return. It can get pretty frustrating, but I hardly ever let my kids get away with asking for something without saying "please." If they omit it, I don't even have to prompt them, a simple eyebrow raise will suffice. And so the dance continues, all day everyday. I hope someday, someday this will be second nature for them and my eyebrows will get a rest.

As per a previous post, the words we decide to use is incredibly important for another reason. Our children assume we're always telling the truth. They don't understand irony or sarcasm.

If you tell them "You are____", they'll believe you. Make it good.

If you say, "If you do that, then you'll get [insert discipline here]." Then you better follow through or else they'll lose respect for you and not trust you.

Sometimes I'm flabbergasted at what comes out of my mouth.

If it's my night to tuck the girls in, I give them a hug and kiss before leaving the room. A lot of times, they ask for another one, and another, and another...

One night, I heard the words, "Okay, no more hugs." come out of my mouth. Now this is a fairly innocuous phrase, but I didn't like it just the same. Would they know I meant no more hugs just for tonight? Or would they think I meant no more hugs...EVER?

I decided saying "I have more hugs for you tomorrow." was a much more accurate portrayal of what I wanted to say. Framing our ideas in the positive is awkward at first, and not always possible, but I think it's worth the trouble.

If, as a parent, you find yourself saying "no" a lot, just flip the phrase.

"No hitting." becomes "Hands are not for hitting." etc.

I use, "That's a great idea for tomorrow." a lot. Most of the time, they'll forget their request, but sometimes they'll remind you in the morning.

This won't produce perpetually-positive children, but it makes me more positive, which in turn helps my kids. Plus, I eliminate some guilt by feeling like I'm not always rejecting my kids' ideas.

This doesn't mean you are soft on your kids. Discipline is still necessary. Strong tones and words are sometimes necessary. But when they're not, let's be a soft place for our children to fall so they keep coming back.


  1. Macey called Connor a weinie the other day. Awesome huh?!

  2. I have tried so hard to frame things in a postive. Like when Abigail wants more candy or fruit snacks. I say "You can have more, tomorrow." Or after dinner, whatever. Yeah, she doesn't like that answer anymore. It used to work. She's such a turkey. But I sure do love her.

  3. You put your thoughts into written words so beautifully, Nat! I loved reading this. Thanks for the gentle reminders. You know, you are going to have to update this daily so I can get my mommy inspiration fill EVERY day!

  4. I like the "I have more hugs for you tomorrow" line. I hope I remember to use that if necessary. Have you read "Between Parent and Child?" It's a parenting classic recommended by a number of BYU MFHD professors. I'm reading it now and it addresses the issue of speaking respectfully to your children much as you did---an approach I really like. If you haven't, I recommend it. Keep in mind it's written by a child psychologist/therapist (40 years ago---but there is a revised/updated edition out), so it's from a different angle than some other books.

  5. Dearest Natalie,

    I am constantly astounded at how similar our lives seem. I honestly think that Charly and Ezra could be the same child.

    This post is an answer to prayer. Really. So simple. So true. Thanks.