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Exercising Values

Happy, Healthy, Kind, & Considerate Kids

Set the Bar High for Quick, Cheerful, Obedient Responses from your Children

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When children are asked or told to do something a few questions roll through their minds. Questions like:

  1. Do I really have to?
  2. Why do you want me to do this? (asked because they genuinely want to know)
  3. If I question this, can I get out of it?
  4. Why me? Could someone else do this?
  5. If I act unhappy about this request, can I get out of it?
  6. Can I postpone doing this?
  7. If I offer an alternative, will they choose my way instead?
  8. If I argue or claim this isn't fair, can I get out of this?
  9. What's in it for me?

To avoid resistance to requests, you need to set yourself up for success by establishing what your standard is when you ask or tell your young child to do something. Let's take these one by one:

Do I really have to? Anytime you back down from requiring your child to do what they are told, you reinforce this question. If you tell them to pick up their toys but end up doing it yourself then they have learned that they do not necessarily have to do what you say. Granted sometimes it is more work to require them to do something you could do yourself quicker and better but in the long run it is easier not just for you but for their future roommates and spouses if they learn to pick up after themselves. Choose what you ask or tell them to do wisely and offer choices when appropriate but once you've made the request be sure the answer to "Do I really have to?" is YES!

Why do you want me to do this? If asked out of curiosity and not defiance, this can be a valuable teaching moment. The reason you can't pull the dog's tail is he might bite you. The reason you can't play on the frozen pond is that it isn't safe. You get the idea. It's easy to forget what they don't know.

If I question this, can I get out of it? If you sense that the questions are a diversion to get out of being asked to do something or you simply don't have time to answer right now, then simply tell them that you will talk about it later but right now they need to do what you asked.

Why me? Could someone else do this instead? We all know adults that pass the buck and let others do for them what they could and should do for themselves. Don't let that be your child. If they raise a legitimate point, of course you can consider it. "I wasn't the only one playing with these legos, they should help me pick them up." Ok. We're reasonable people capable of recognizing a legitimate grievance. But if it becomes a habit, having them do something that "isn't fair" might help them become capable of doing what is asked of them. There is a balance here.

If I act unhappy about this can I get out of it? The answer had better be no and no every time unless you want to invite fussing, crying and fits. Their emotions are their own but tantrums are not allowed and the task needs to be done if if there are tears.

Can I postpone doing this? You set the tone for this. If you expect immediate responses, you will get them. If your style is to say, ok in 10 more minutes then that is what it will be. You can give them a time warning, like you need to have your shoes on in 10 minutes but when that ten minutes is up, you will want to enforce your deadline or forever be waiting for the response you are looking for. Teaching an immediate response is helpful when what you are asking them to do involves avoiding danger. In the EV book and program, you can read about encounters involving a bear and a shark were near tragedies when obedience was postponed.

Offering an alternative can become an annoying habit. That's not to say that a good idea can't be considered but when you see a pattern developing of insisting on their own way, it is best to end it quickly. This form of resistance can get to be a habit if you don't explicitly teach that it is not acceptable.

Arguing and claiming it isn't fair needs to never win or again you are creating a response you are sure to get tired of. Then you might become impatient or angry. Prevent that by holding firm to what you have asked them to do.

What's in it for me? Stay away from bribes of all kinds. Try to never start a request with,"If you do this then...," You have authority and you do not need to barter. if you want to reward your children then do it separate and not as a condition for them to respond to you. In truth, your children would rather have the security of knowing you mean what you say that whatever you would give them as a bribe.

Please share any other questions that your child has raised to your requests. I'm sure this isn't an exhaustive list as kids can be very creative when it comes to getting out of something they don't want to do. So set the bar high and give them the security and direction they need. In the end, creating these habits is less stressful for them and for you.

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About the Author

Pamela Davenport


For decades I have helped countless parents and their children overcome significant obstacles. My unique accomplishments in the fields of child development, health, and fitness have given me an unparalleled perspective and expertise that I would love to share with you.

  • Award-Winning Author and Parenting Coach
  • Mother of six and grandmother of five
  • Studied Juvenile Justice at Stanford University
  • Master’s degree in Social Work
  • Experienced family counselor
  • Support group leader for struggling parents
  • Taught health at the university level
  • Program manager for the personal training programs at two colleges
  • Personal Trainer helping people lose 5lb-100lb+
  • Two-time Ironman Triathlete and competing member of team USA
  •  UMB Lifetime Sportswoman Award 2017