Baby number three is just about ready to pop… and I am tired. I just want to lie down and sleep most of the time, much like during my first trimester.
And I’ve been giving in to it. My kids’ homeschooling has gone on maternity leave early, our routine has gone south, and my patience has been cut into shreds. I just want to be left alone, but I still have to mind the kids.
So, I find myself barking orders – Take a bath NOW! Brush your teeth NOW! Get dressed NOW! Eat NOW! – and getting exasperated when my little shadows don’t seem to listen. Talk about the classic idiom “in one ear and out the other.”
Until I realized that I don’t want to be a nagging mom. I don’t want my kids to obey me just because they can hear the impatience, frustration and anger in my voice. Instead, I want them to obey because they are internally motivated.
I stopped and racked my brain on what I could do instead. I remembered the positive discipline tool of asking kids instead of telling them what to do.
Asking versus Telling
When you think about it, we usually just tell our children what to do. Oftentimes, we blame them for something that happened because of what they did. You were late to ballet class because you forgot your ballet bag and we had to go back for it! You wouldn’t stop reading so you had to hurry taking a bath! (Yes, these words came out of my mouth.)
The positive discipline approach recommends asking children about what happened, how they feel about it and what they should do about it. This way, children think and reach the right conclusions and decisions on their own, without anyone dictating to them.
Learning to ask my children
I try to think of how I feel when somebody tells me what to do without giving me a chance to think things through. I know I feel upset and defensive when that happens.
So, now I take a deep breath (the first step in successfully talking to children) and try hard to make them think with my questions instead of just telling them what they should do.
Just a little while ago, I told my 4-year-old, “We are going out later. What do you think you should do?” He said, “Take a bath,” and ran to the bathroom.
And to my daughter who just arrived from her Filipino class, I asked, “We are going out later. Do you want to wear those clothes again?” When she said yes, I led her to think of the next step by asking, “What do you think you should do to keep them clean?” With a gleam in her eyes, she exclaimed, “Change my clothes!”
Here are some more examples of questions that I’ve used to remind them of rules and things to do:
- What did we say about when you can play Minecraft? What day is it today?
- What did the dentist say about keeping your teeth healthy and strong?
- What should you do first before you start reading?
- What did you promise to do after playing with your toys?
Yes, it takes a little bit more effort to ask questions that will guide our children to understand and act on their own. But being curious about what they think helps open their minds and invites a gentle discussion with them that makes them feel capable and motivated.
It helps us stop becoming nagging moms too.