My kids, ages 4 and 7 are very persistent. When I ask them to do something to help around the house (like take the dog out), they argue back with the skill of a defense lawyer! They want to know why they have to do it now, why can’t someone else do it, why does it have to be done at all, etc. I often get so tired of this that I give in and take out the dog. At least he doesn’t talk! Can you help?
We can definitely help you solve this!
First of all, let’s use an illustration. Mom wants her 7 year old son, Joey, to take the dog out.
She asks “Joey, would you please help me and take the dog out?” Since she asked, it implies to Joey that he has the option of saying yes or no. Naturally, Joey prefers to keep playing his game and so, the situation goes something like this.
Joey may respond with an argument about how it is not his turn, it is his brother’s turn, the dog doesn’t need to go out, or that there is a full moon. It doesn’t matter what Joey’s argument is. Many parents make the mistake of thinking that Joey really has a good point that should be addressed and listened to.
For example, when Joey says that it is not his turn, Mom thinks, “Hmmm. maybe Joey is right. Maybe it is his brother’s turn. I don’t want to be unfair, so I better go ask his brother whose turn it is.”
Five minutes later, Mom returns. “Nope,Joey, I was right. It is your turn.”
To which Joey says, “But Mom, the dog doesn’t need to go out. He just went.”
Mom then explains that they are getting ready to leave the house and therefore the dog needs to go out now.
Joey says, “But I just have to finish this level. I have been working so hard at this and if I stop now, I will lose all my progress!”
Mom explains he can pause the game long enough for him to take the dog out.
Joey may continue to argue, eventually he does take the dog out. However, Mom is so tired that next time she doesn’t even ask. She just does it herself.
Two major problems with this situation.
The first is that Mom is asking, not telling. She is implying that her request is optional.
Secondly, she is assuming that the arguments deserve a valid explanation. It is as if she expects that if she explains herself logically, Joey will look at her and say with great joy, “Why Mother! NOW I understand your very logical reasoning. Thank you so much. I am so happy to do this task now that I totally understand!” No. Joey actually is just stalling so that he will not have to do something he doesn't want to do.
So let’s try this again. This time Mom will use LEADERSHIP SPEECH. She will act like a leader and speak like a leader. She will not explain or get into an argument.
Mom: (with confidence) Joey, I need you to pause your game and take the dog out right now.
Walks out of the room, showing that she expects to be obeyed.
Joey might be so surprised he actually does it!
More likely, he calls out an argument. “It’s not my turn, I can’t stop my game, I don’t know where my shoes are, “ whatever. It doesn’t matter. Mom does not engage. She simply says, cheerfully, “I have already told you. I need you to take the dog out.” And she goes far enough away that she cannot hear any more arguing.
She comes back in 10 minutes. If Joey has taken the dog out. all is well. There was no argument and the task was done.
If Joey did not take the dog out, she does not say anything and takes the dog out herself. She does not say anything to Joey at the moment. They have to leave the house, and she knows she will give Joey a consequence at a later time, when it is convenient to her.
Later, Mom discusses the situation with Dad, and they agree upon a consequence, which they will impose the next day or next week, whenever it works for them. Joey will be reminded that Mom had to do the job which Joey was asked to do, and therefore the price for Mom doing it is that Joey will now have extra work/miss a week of sporting acitivites/ stay home from the laser-tag party/ go to bed right after dinner for a week, or any other creative consequence that his parents have chosen.
And Mom will continuee to use Leadership Speech, tell instead of asking, and stop the arguments. Today!