Friday, November 6, 2009

Please put your shoes on

A couple of months ago, I heard a snippet of a parenting lecture that completely revolutionized my thinking about how I communicate with my children. At issue? It makes me nuts to ask Connor or Helen to do something, and then watch them not do it.

For example, I might have said to Connor or Helen:

"Please put your shoes on. We are going outside."

Connor would either:

(1) hop to it
(2) look up from what he is doing and slowly wind around an imaginary path that detours through every possible space in our house before he gets to the shoes, sometimes veering so far adrift that he forgets what he started out doing
(3) not even look up, as if he is so engrossed in what he is doing he can't possibly be bothered with being aware of the rest of the world.

Helen would:

(1) stomp her foot and shout "NO!".

Assuming Connor went for option two or three (the norm), I would then have responded in a louder, firmer tone:

"Please put your shoes on. We are going outside."

Because seriously, he must just not hear me, or he must just need a reminder.

And Connor would respond by:

(1) Acting surprised and annoyed that I had interrupted his daydream
(2) Continuing to ignore me.

Helen would

(1) stomp her foot more firmly and shout "NO!!".

And this could go on indefinitely, until I finally said, in an exasperated tone "if you don't put your shoes on right now we are going to have to stay in this house for the remainder of your lives - which might be suspiciously short - because I am going completely insane", or something akin to that.

But then, as I mentioned, I listened to a snippet of a lecture and the lecturer said "do not repeat things to your children. All it does it teach them that you say a lot of very unimportant things each day and they don't have to be concerned until you start threatening them or screaming at them."


She followed that advice up by saying "after you ask your child to do one thing, if they do not do it, simply move to them, take their hand, and guide them to do what you have asked them."

And it almost totally worked. Within a few days, when I would ask Connor or Helen to do something, they would just do it. And I patted myself on the back for being a total rockstar mom. And life was, indeed, easier.

But Ed? He has a more direct approach to the problem.


  1. Very funny. I try two approaches when I can.

    1. I tell them to wear it or carry it. Trust me, when it's snowy outside and they take that first step out the door carrying their shoes...Zoe always ran back inside and put them on pronto. Same with coats...wear it or carry it.

    2. I tell them that either they put it on or I put it on and that they always like they're way better than mine. Then, if they don't do it, I make sure that my way is not the most comfortable.

    Geez- not easy though.

  2. Now that you mention it, I'm seeing a pattern in why sometime Samuel gets dressed and other times he doesn't.

    Laurie - I also do the you do it or I will and it won't be as nice. I like the carry or wear it and will be giving that a try too.

  3. All fabulous ideas. I have never heard or read anything about not repeating things to your children. I am certainly going to give a try because I think I said "I am going crazy." or "Will you PLEASE just do what I ask?" about 1000 times today.