How to Give Your Children Reasons for the Things You Ask Them to Do

Whenever possible, give your child a reason for the things you ask him or her to do or not to do. This says to your child, “I have thought this through. I value your life too much to treat you in a willy-nilly way. I count you worthy of an explanation.”

Granted, there are many times in life when providing a reason is impractical. This is especially true when it comes to commands. Your child needs to learn to heed your commands without question. “Run!” should mean run. You don’t want your child standing in the path of a runaway car while waiting for you to give an explana­tion!

Explain in a general way the reason for your com­mands. Let your child know that when you say, “Run!” “Stop!” “Don’t!” “Move!” you expect immediate and prompt obedience, generally because pain, harm, or damage is imminent.

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Requests, however, differ from commands. Requests are things you ask your child to do because you prefer or need those things to be done. “I’d like for you to rake the lawn today” is a request. Your child’s life isn’t in danger. “It’s time for you to set the table.” Although it may sound like a command to your child, that, too, is really a request.

What rationale can be provided for simple requests?

“Because you’re a part of this family and each person in a family has to do things to help the family. As a parent, I get to ask you to do certain things. That’s my job.” That’s reason enough for reasonable requests.

There are other requests, however, that are going to seem out-of-the-norm to your child. Those are the ones you need to explain. “Starting on Monday, Joan, you’re going to be riding the bus to school.” Such a new rou­tine in a child’s life deserves an explanation. “I’m start­ing a new part-time job at the hospital next week, and I need to leave the house when you do. I won’t have time to drive you to school first. I’ll be here until you get on the bus each morning, and I’ll be here when you get off in the afternoon. Today, we’re going to go to the school to see where the bus drops you off and where you will get on it in the afternoon.”

There may be times when you feel hard-pressed to come up with a good reason. You always have the pre­rogative as a parent to say, “Hmmm. My parental in­stincts tell me ‘no.’ And since I’m the parent, I have to go with my parental instincts. I may be wrong. But my instincts are all I have to go on, so you’ll just have to trust me this time.” Most decisions are made based on the way a person feels, not on logic!

Avoid basing your reasons on “absolutes.” For exam­ple, there’s no magic age when children should start to date. Saying to your child, “You can’t date until you can drive” gives you little room for evaluating your son or daughter’s development as a teen. Perhaps your teen­ager won’t be mature enough to date even when six­teen! On the other hand, perhaps a double date to a school dance will seem appropriate when your teen is fourteen. Don’t box yourself in. This principle carries over to issues such as wearing make-up, shaving legs, piercing ears, going alone to movies, or staying over­night at a friend’s house. Don’t take the easy way out by establishing “magic ages.”

Evaluate your child as an individual. Move with your child at his or her own developmental rate. Trust your child as he or she grows in trustworthiness. Loosen the parental ties according to your child’s level of maturity. That approach says to your child, “I value you as you, not as an ‘average child’ or a ‘statistic’ or as ‘everybody else.’ I will make decisions for you and explain them to you in a way I think is right for you, not for every other kid on the block. You’re a distinct individual. I care about all of your life, not just this one particular mo­ment.”

A child who hears reasons for requests and direc­tives will grow to believe he or she is a person who is worthy of consideration when decisions are made. Such a child’s self-esteem will be enhanced.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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