Tip: Ask And Tell Children


by on April 17, 2014

in Parenting, Parenting Kids

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Cteavin, an American blogger friend now living in Japan, shared this experience in parenting and I thought parents here in the US would find it great benefit. The technique works especially well with young children throwing tantrums, acting out or other misbehavior. Read what Cteavin says:

The parents or caregiver stoop down to the child’s eye level, look them straight in the eye, and in the cool tones that they expect from the child, explain how their behavior is disrupting people around them. Children are made aware of their behavior’s impact on others. Depending on the reason the child is misbehaving, there will also be a discussion on why something is or is not going the way the child wants.

It might sound trite, but it really has an impact.

Moreover, when children misbehave or cry, the people ignore it whereas where I grew up if they didn’t say anything they would at least give disdainful looks.

I live in an apartment complex with a lot of children, but you would never know it. Everyone is aware of the impact being loud or noisy has on everyone else. The rare times when an infant cries, no one is ever annoyed. I think it’s great.

Chelsey once disappeared from our yard one day after I stepped inside to get something. I was frantic, had pain in my chest and did not know what to first. I ran to the street 250 yards away, then into the cluttered 5-car garage next to our house to search and finally I heard voices, a neighbor was walking her back to me. First I hugged her then scolded her for frightening me so. I was very upset and grateful I had a Parents Anonymous Facilitator to call; her instructions were clear: “Tell your daughter how frightened you were.” That was exactly what I did and when she realized how afraid and upset I was she apologized immediately. Of course she did not know — she was a child.

Sometimes getting away from what is considered the norm or common practice we are able to see things more clearly. It is obvious that Cteavin knows this having traveled from the US to Japan and it rings true for me as well. I spent two years in Germany many years ago and this is what I noticed:

In Germany in the late 1970s I arrived in Erlangen, a small town near Nuremburg. I tried to blend in but learned quickly that Americans stand out in some very negative ways. One was that American women wore hair rollers out everywhere: Food stores, post exchanges, in the Stars and Stripes bookstores and so on. German women were never seen with curlers unless in a salon. Parenting was similar…

American children had a tendency to be louder and argue with parents. Younger children gave tantrums when they wanted things or did not want to do something as trivial as leaving a location or sitting while their family at mealtime. When things like that happened, mothers and fathers begged and pleaded or threatened the child. When I talked about this with my German landlady she said that in America, children were the center of the family and in Germany the parents were the center. It made perfect sense!

In Germany I also noticed that parents speak to children as if they were adults and gave them respect. Think of it like this: Would you plead with your employer to be allowed to go to the bathroom? No, you would simply go.

Like Cteavin, I noticed that parents ‘asked’ of children rather than ‘telling.’ Asking elicits cooperation and respect: “Annie, could you put your books away and help me?” “Bobby, would you help your sister with geography?” “Would you mind if I use this space now?” Children understand respect and cooperation and mirror back to parents what they learn.

Another example is to ask how parents can help the child: “How can I help you keep your toys picked up?” “What can I do to help you leave for school on time?” “How can I help you divide time for homework, chores and playtime?” These ask for input to find a solution to a problem. Children love to be asked for their expertise and to have genuine input.

Can you think of other instances where asking or telling in this manner would help?

By the way, I never wore curlers outside of our home – ever. The military head of Erlangen Army base was so embarrassed that he sent out a directive, though, for American women there to have some self-respect and stop wearing curlers outside their residences.

Me, curlers? Nope, not me!

Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her blog here contact page.

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