Last Updated on March 9, 2021.
There are plenty of parenting tricks that work well on kids. Like hiding veggies in the spaghetti sauce, or claiming the park closes at exactly 3:27 to get your kids to pack it up. This parenting trick, however, is truly magic. It only takes three steps. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll use it every day. Here’s a sneaky way to give your kids to agree to virtually anything you want… even when they really don’t want to.
1. Check Your Tone
First, you need to use your ‘matter of fact’ voice. You may call this your ‘no-nonsense’ voice, or your ‘non-negotiable’ voice. Whatever you call it, there can be no equivocation in your tone. You need to sound like you’re speaking the gospel truth. Your kids pick up on this, I promise.
2. State the Facts
Describe whatever it is you want to happen. Give enough detail that your child knows exactly what’s expected of them, and they know exactly what should happen next. Make sure they understand there’s no “if”, but “when”.
3. Offer a Choice
The choice doesn’t have to be significant. Even something as simple as “do you want this red cup or the blue cup?” will work. If they refuse to make a choice, explain that a choice has to be made and if they don’t choose for themselves, you’ll make the choice you think they will like best. Most often, the child will make a choice because this makes them feel powerful. When they feel like they have a say in their future, they’re more compliant.
Here’s the trick: By making a choice in Step 3, they are indirectly agreeing with the conditions you set in Step 2. They are committing to comply with the ‘facts’ as soon as they make a choice. The choice you offered gives them faux power, and they are far less likely to push back on the behavior or event that you are mandating.
I use this strategy on my stubborn youngest daughter frequently. Every night at bedtime, we have snuggle time, then I explain which chores I have to do this evening. She likes to ask questions, like if I’m going to wash her red dress or if I will clean her red oatmeal bowl (red is her favorite color if you hadn’t guessed). And we talk about these things like they are set in stone. Then I’ll say, “Ok, I have to go do my chores. Do you want books tonight?” She will make her choice (almost always yes), and then I offer a second choice to double down on the hit of power she gets from these choices. I’ll say “Do you want the door open or closed tonight?”. Her choice varies here, but inevitably she feels powerful because she gets to make the decision. And I have no problems leaving the room.
My youngest also hates to be too hot or too cold. So if the weather isn’t perfect outside, I have a hard time getting her to play outside. My go-to is to say “We are going out side…” and then offer her a couple of choices, like which jacket to wear, which snack to take outside, or if she wants the sandbox open or closed. It never fails. I always get her to play outside!
One Word of Caution
It may take some practice to get good at this. If you have a bad night, that’s ok. Do not give up! You’ll master the technique and end some of your daily power struggles.
How can you use this sneaky strategy to get your kids to agree with your requests? What choices can you offer to give them power? Share your thoughts in the comments below!