It’s time to stop the Yes/No questions

For the rest of the day, listen to yourself when you talk to your kids. I did this recently and was struck by how many times I asked my kids a Yes/No question, when instead I meant to be giving instruction. No wonder I was hearing so many No’s!

Parents are late trying to get out the door while mother pulls little girl's hand to hurry up“Okay kids, how about we all tidy the room up?”

“Can you please get ready to go?”

And the best phrase is when I tack on that innocent “okay”.

“After dinner, it’s time for a bath, okay?”  We ask okay, because in our minds we are seeking validation. It’s a “did you understand me?” But believe me, kids are hearing a Yes/No question.

Wow. Talk about giving kids all the power! You often hear parenting experts recommend giving children choices, but you don’t want the choice to be between whether they get dressed or not. Instead, the choice is, “are you wearing your blue shirt or your red shirt today?”

It’s a simple thing but one that teachers everywhere know to be true. Could you imagine if a teacher instructed a class of students by asking Yes/No questions? “Class, how about we stop gym now?” “Please come inside, okay?” “Can we work on trigonometry?” It makes me laugh just thinking about it!

I’m not saying we need to sound like drill sergeants! Connecting with your child first can help deliver instructions in a positive way and you’ll have a better chance of them following through. For example, you could comment on how well they are concentrating on a task: “You are doing a great job finishing up your homework.” Once you have connected and your child is paying attention, it’s a good time to tell them what’s coming next: “In 5 minutes it is time to go upstairs to get ready for bed.”

Mother talking to daughter who is writing

These days I try to be clear with instructions without a Yes/No question: “After dinner, it’s time for bath.” “It’s time to get dressed.” “We need to tidy up the room now.”

If I feel that crazy urge for validation I bite my tongue or say, “Do you understand?” Or “Did you hear me?”

Give it a try – listen to yourself when you give instructions to your kids. Are your instructions in the form of a Yes/No question? If not, hats off to you! (Are you a teacher?? 😉 )

Looking for more handy tips to stop having to nag? Check out another great blog post: “Are you tired of nagging? This simple strategy can help!” or connect with us:

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
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