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My youngest was in Cub Scouts so we met weekly at his Den Leader’s house to have our meetings. His leader Tammy’s son Evan was a friend of Cameron’s so it worked out well. It was a good group and the kids had a lot of fun and learned about Scouting. But I observed Tammy doing something that I didn’t understand. So I asked her about it.

When Tammy would ask Evan to do something, anything, she would explain why she wanted him to do it. I mentioned my observation and asked her why she did that. She replied, “Well I find Evan does what I ask him more easily when I explain to him why I am asking him to do something.” I stopped, started to say something, and then stopped again. Then I said, “Okay, well I was just wondering.”

Tammy stared at me for a moment then asked, “How do you get Cameron to do what you want?” I hesitated-I wasn’t sure this was a good road to go down. I mean, I wasn’t trying to criticize Tammy’s parenting skills. I just didn’t understand why her child needed everything explained. So I answered her, “Well…I just tell him to do something and he does it. If he doesn’t do it then he gets in trouble for being disobedient.” I thought to myself, well I’d just better throw it out there. Yes, I am a mother who expects her children to do what she says without question. I don’t ask them to jump off buildings or eat nails for breakfast. My directions are all reasonable so I don’t see why there should be any explanation.

I’m not even sure how I would explain why they need to eat the food on their plates or go to bed at eight o’clock or stop playing video games and do their homework. I don’t even understand why those directions need to be explained. I also knew I really didn’t want to continue this conversation. So I said, “Well, we just have differing parenting styles so I was just curious. Thank you for answering my question.” I thought this would be the end of the story. To be honest, I completely forgot about it until six years later.

Tammy’s son had dropped out of Scouts but we had kept in touch and had coffee here and there. One day she called me and asked if I remembered when I questioned why she needed to give reasons why she wanted Evan to do anything. I told her I didn’t. She hesitated and then said, “Well I understand why you were asking me. At the time I thought it just made things easier for him. But now that he’s eleven, my explanations aren’t good enough anymore. Now Evan wants to argue with me that my reason isn’t entirely correct, or that there’s a better reason to do something else. I’m finding our conversations spiral into a debate as to whether it’s better to take the trash out now or wait two hours until just before he goes to bed. I am so tired of the debating-I just want him to do what I ask him to do!” She sounded extremely frustrated and on the verge of tears.

So we had a talk about new beginnings and new ways of doing things, and that it’s never too late to change the way she is parenting. Tammy resolved to sit down with both her kids and help them understand that it’s okay for Mom to say Please Do This Just Because I Said So.

I talked to Tammy a month later and she was excited to report that, although it had been a bumpy start, the kids were adjusting well to doing things just because Mom said so. There was a lot less debating in the house, which left more time for fun.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post. How do you get your kids to do what you ask?

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