Answer in the Form of a Question

February 7th, 2011

A central tenet of the Love and Logic school of parenting is that one of the best things you can do for your children is to encourage/force them to think through the decisions that they make and to take responsibility for those decisions. Asking questions is a terrific way to get your kiddo’s brain working and it shifts responsibility to your child.

Here’s an example: Little Bobby breaks a window playing baseball in the house. Instead of shrieking — “You’re going to mow the grass every week for five years to pay for that, mister” the L&L; approach would be to ask — “How do you plan to pay for the new window?” See the difference? One approach tells the child what to do which can a) ignite their inner stubborn mule and/or b) subtly suggest to them that you don’t think they can figure out a solution for themselves. By asking the question, Parent forces Little Bobby to come up with a solution himself, thereby simultaneously making him take responsibility for his problem and also affirming their belief in his ability to solve that problem.

We’re finding that Miss Mouse responds really well to questions. They have helped to defray many a battle of wills. A few illustrations:

At dinner, she likes to put her feet on the table. Instead of endlessly repeating — “Mouse, put your feet down. Mouse, feet down!” — we ask her a question. “Where do feet go?” She usually puckers her face into a frown before putting her foot down and replying “Under the table.” She is repeating back the positive statement we’ve made a hundred times — “Feet go under the table.

Similarly (though, admittedly somewhat less effectively), when she whallops her little brother, we’ll ask — “Miss Mouse, what kind of touches does Buggie like?” She often refuses to answer this one because she knows jolly well that he likes “nice touches” and she doesn’t want to admit it!

Hands down, the most useful and common question in our house is: “What needs to happen first?” It’s magical in its ability to get her to comply with a request that she is being ornery about.

For example, when we read stories, we ask her to put away one book before bringing over another. She often chooses instead to fling the book we just read onto the floor. When she brings the next book over and asks us to read it, we respond — “What needs to happen first?” And nine times out of ten, she replies “I need to put my book away” and does it! Amazing.

This also works for getting her to put on shoes (“What needs to happen before we can go to school?” “Shoes on!“), getting her to try food at dinner (“What needs to happen before you have more bread?” “Try my chicken.”), and a million other daily tasks.

2 responses to “Answer in the Form of a Question”

  1. G'Mom says:

    Impressive! Please help us learn how to do this when we come visit.

  2. Kristen says:

    We, too, have read up on the L&L; method of parenting, and have found that Andy is much more receptive to this method–both in matters of discipline and in moments of praise. We have found that offering solid, innocuous choices, like, "Would you like to wear the blue hat or the black hat today?" has also been wonderfully effective.

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