Effective children know how to get the cooperation of others, so it’s important that kids know ask for what they want. That means that they don’t throw tantrums, whinge or sulk and hope parents guess what’s on their minds.
When children are young parents can help their children to find the words they need to express themselves. We become experts after a while at interpreting what toddlers say, repeating back to them what they are saying.
We carry this on into childhood and adolescence, interpreting the silences of young people, sometimes second guessing grunts and shrugs. While we need to be patient with toddlers, we need also to give older children the chance and opportunity to ask for what they want.
Sometimes we need to ignore shrugs and grunts and expect them to articulate their wishes. This is the basis of civil behaviour, as well as a basic human skill of asking for what you want.
Putting it into practice
1. Help children find the words they need to ask for what they want from you and others. Use prompts such as: “Take a minute and think through what it is you want me to do.” “What would you like me to do?”
2. Encourage children to ask for what they want in the following way:
- Make eye contact
- Speak clearly and to a person.
- Use a moderate, firm voice as opposed to whiny or loud voice
- Accept that the answer they receive may not be the one they want
The basic task for parents is a teaching task. And teaching kids how to ask for what they want is a simple, but powerful lesson that we can pass on.