Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Making Requests Specific and Doable - for kids AND adults

I get these "tips" (recommended by my sister a while back) every week that remind me to approach parenting without "violence" - that is, without harming my relationship with my child. 
Below is the tip I got this week and it is something I've been thinking about for a while - how to give my kids specific instructions, rather than the vague catch-phrases we are used to.  Things like "be nice to your sister" and "be more respectful" are less helpful to a two, three, four year old brain than, for example, "when you are playing with your baby sister, look at her face to see if she is enjoying what you're doing" or "when someone asks you a question, you need answer them, rather than ignoring them".  At least that's my understanding of this idea.

But for some reason when I read the email, it hit me in a broader way this time.  Perhaps it's the fact that I'm in the middle of some intense family time that has brought this into focus, but I just realized that I would really appreciate these types of instructions myself.  The example given, where "I want more help around the house" is reworked as "would you spend 20 minutes with me cleaning up the kitchen right now?" makes so much sense to me.  I know I do the same thing myself, and often resent the implication that it is MY responsibility to think through the request, rather than giving the other person that job (why doesn't he/she just KNOW what I want?).  But I think that even in adult relationships this is a healthier way of interacting. 

One last example - I actually experienced this today when my mom was doing a craft at the dining room table with the four grandkids.  I was sitting with the laptop on the couch and she said to me "Rose, I will need you to come and glue things on for the kids right now".  For some reason I felt much more willing/able to respond to this request than the "I will probably need some help with this" that had been uttered to the room in general a few minutes earlier...

A lot to think about...

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"Making requests in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want."

- Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Compassionate Parenting Tip -- Week 30
When you express your needs and make requests for something that is doable now, it increases the likelihood that your child will want to help you meet your need.
Can you expand with a suggested action here? If you are not getting the help you want, see if you are asking for something specific and doable.
Instead of saying only your need, "I want more help around the house," ask for something concrete and specific: "Would you spend twenty minutes with me right now cleaning up the kitchen and see how clean we can get it by working together?"