I bet you find yourself nagging your child too much. Or it always seems like when your child wants something the words “no, nope, not going to happen, I don’t think so” are far too often the first ones out of your mouth. Both you and your child are frustrated.
This is fixable.
There’s one technique that does away with the nagging, and your child will be more compliant and less argumentative. It’s effective, simple, easy, and doesn’t cost any money. Are you ready for it?
It’s the “when-then” phrase.
What’s that? It’s a genius way of phrasing your words so your child knows when he does what you need him to do, then your child will get what he wants.
This can teach your child responsibility and help him to prioritize tasks. It also lets him know there are rules and expectations and you are going to hold to them.
So what does a “when-then” phrase sound like? Check out these examples:
“When you finish this page of math problems, then you can take a 20 minute break to play video games.”
“When you finish making your bed, then you can go play basketball outside.”
“When you’ve earned $5 from this week’s allowance, then I will take you to the store so you can buy the fidget spinner.”
Here’s two quick tips to really make it effective:
- Make sure the when is specific. If you say “do your chores” your child might whine and complain because what’s in his mind may be overwhelming and not what you had in mind. Not being on the same page can be frustrating for both of you. Instead say, for example, make the bed, put your clothes in the hamper, or wash the dishes.
- Make sure you follow through on the then. It’s kind of like a contract. If your child does his part, and you don’t hold up to your end of the bargain, you’re teaching your child not to trust your word. And that creates a much bigger problem and is much harder to undo.
Also, be prepared to sound like a broken record. Especially if your child isn’t used to this phrase and is used to lasso-ing you into a power struggle. When-then phrases are designed to be the antidote to an argument because you are specifically laying out your expectation, while allowing for your child to get what he wants as well.
Why is this technique effective?
Your child is asking for something, and you’re not saying no. That’s powerful. Sometimes you must say no to your child, especially if safety is a concern. But for those moments in life (and there are more than you think) in which you can turn “no” into “yes” and you both get what you want: that’s golden!
Please comment below: Have you tried the “when-then” phrase with your child? How did it go? What did you notice happen?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health.