How many times have you given your child a simple command only to find out that she flat out refused to comply? We are all guilty of doing it and don’t even realize what we have done. We choose our words carefully. We know that we need to start off a directive by saying “I need you to…” or “I want you to…”. We keep our words simple, “play nicely, speak in a quiet voice, stop sitting on your brother”. And then it happens. We inadvertently give her a way out.
We end our concise statement with one little word that turns our directive into a request. And not just any request, one that can be answered with the word “No”. That one little word is “ok?”
We may have gotten into a habit of turning our directives into requests as a measure of trying to ask our child nicely to do something. Ideally, we would give her a request and she would immediately comply. But something strange happens during toddler hood. Her emerging sense of independence gets the best of her and she asserts herself in a way that appears defiant. But is she really being defiant?
It is around this time in development that a child can distinguish between an angry and a friendly tone of voice and more importantly, she can distinguish between a statement and a request. At the most fundamental level she is simply answering a question. So the issue becomes whether or not you meant your directive to be a request. If you meant it to be a request then you need to accept the answer to your question, even if it is a “no”.
But what do we do if we need our child to comply? The answer, fortunately, is a fairly simple one; just stop adding the word “ok?”. However, if you are like most and feel the need to add a little something to the end of your directive there is a simple solution. Replace “ok?” with “Do you understand?” The answer to the “Do you understand?” question may still be a “no”, however this doesn’t mean that the child gets out of complying with what you’ve asked. It only means that you will need to repeat the directive.
If you find that an “ok?” slips out at the end of a directive simply restate what you have said and follow it up with “Do you understand”. It is never too late to correct yourself. In fact, you child is so brilliant that she will pick up right away that you are not asking her but rather telling her to do something. And that being said, she will no doubt immediately comply.
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