Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Parents: please stop pleading with your children

When did parents stop telling their children what to do?

Walk into your local supermarket and you'll discover parents not only asking their children to behave, but pleading with them.

I nearly called this post "stop saying please". But it's not really the "please" bit that's the problem, though it doesn't help. Indeed you can't expect your children to grow up saying please when they ask for something if you never use it with them. However, there's a difference between saying to little Charlie, "keep hold off the trolly please" in a matter of fact tone when it's an instruction with manners and "darling, pleeeease keep hold of the trolly. " using best pleading voice. In fact, to give that the right tone I was forced to add the "darling" to that second version making it far more accurate. Some parents can't say a sentence to their children, even when supposedly reprimanding them, without saying darling. I'm not sure why. Don't their children have actual names?

I feel like slapping them. The parents, not the children. Becuase it seems like only that would bring them to their senses.

Who is the boss in your house? Is it a parent? It should be. If your children are misbehaving and not listening to you, asking them in your best 6 year old whiny voice is not the way to go. Who is the grown up again?

My mum has the knack, as I suspect did yours. Because mums in the 70s and 80s still knew who the boss was. I will share it with you.

It's very simple. So simple you'll just roll your eyes and probably ignore it. Put if you can bear to hang on and trust me, I can guarantee that it makes a difference. It works for me. I wow of no reason why it shouldn't work for you.

Don't ask. Tell.

That does not mean shouting. And it doesn't necessarily mean loosing the "please". Though I'd definitely lose the "darling" in reprimanding situations.

What it does mean is stating the instruction in a tone that says it's a foregone conclusion that the child will absolutely do exactly as you say. If you ask for something whilst your mind is saying "they'll never listen", then guess what. They won't listen. If you ask for something whilst fully engaged in believing that they will do as asked, the chances of a positive response are huge. It's the difference between asking a question and stating a fact. Try and imagine you are stating a fact. If the child hears a questioning tone they will assume they have a choice about their response.

And another extra tip, just for you. Be in the room. What I mean by that is, saying "Charlie, darling, please don't draw on the walls" whilst not looking up from your iPad to meet his eyes, won't get a great response. What Charlie probably wants is your attention and he's not getting it. But you've just told him exactly what to do to get more attention. That's right. Keep drawing on those walls.

Try focusing on your child. Looking them in the eye and saying it like it's the truth. Now that "Charlie. please do not draw on the walls". In fact "Charlie. We don't draw on walls, we draw on paper." Is far better. Stating what the outcome is going to be has, of course, a more definite air about it. Want an immediate positive response? Following up with what you do want little Charlie to actually do clarifies and helps them focus on the behaviour you want, not the one you don't want. "Get your homework book out now, please. It's time to study."

Or if he has already drawn on those walls, your next move is obviously to give him a pack of wipes, or a bucket and dishcloth and to say; "now wash it off." Isn't it? No? And why not? Cleaning up after oneself should be an important lesson shouldn't it?


This is what works for me. I know when I'm getting it wrong. My children ignore me and I realise I've asked questions, given choices, not been in the room. I haven't said "this is what will happen next". When I do the latter, everyone is so much clearer. They know what I expect. The lines are drawn.

Let me know how you get on. Do you have any other tips to help get your children's attention? Do you use "please" and "darling" ALL. The. Time?


  1. This makes so much sense. Now I'm wondering if I plead with my kids to go to bed, because I know deep down they won't go to bed until 10pm so my voice gives it away.

  2. Could be. You need the power of positive thinking. :-)

  3. I read this at first thinking (to myself) 'This is me, try not to be defensive if you reply' then realised... IIt's not me at all! Well, except on a really bad day - when I am more likely to bribe Mushroom than plead with him. Generally, I try to use positive language, so 'Mushroom. I want you to sit properly and eat nicely please' rather than 'stop climbing all over your chair and eat your dinner!' although I have said the latter on occasion pleading is not my go-to! I do use 'darling' a lot, but that's because usually my first response to 'Mummy?' is 'Yes darling?' If not 'Yes chicken/chickpea/sweetheart' - My Mum used to say darling so I guess I got that from her. I prefer 'baby' but Mushroom won't have that anymore he's NOT a baby! He tells me ;-)


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