The mother in the restroom stall next to me was engaged in heated negotiations with an unruly small child.

“I cannot hear you whining anymore. OK?”

“I need you to stop crying, OK?”

“We are going to leave if you don’t start behaving, OK?”

“Are you ready to go back outside?”

It reminded me of an exchange between a mother and her 3-year-old daughter during a dinner we hosted.

The child was bombarded with questions throughout the meal. The mother asked the little girl what she wanted to drink, which foods she was willing to taste, whether she was hungry and what other foods she would consider eating instead of what was served. The entire meal revolved around the child’s willingness to respond to her mother’s bargaining.

I felt overwhelmed just listening to the constant barrage of questions. I could only imagine how that preschooler felt, who steadfastly refused to eat much of anything placed in front of her. She knew she held all the power in that situation and was in no hurry to relinquish it.

There are parents whose primary method of communication with their children is in the form of a question. You can hear them pleading, offering choices, begging. Our verbal air space is littered with parental question marks.

Child development expert and parenting coach Pam Dyson says parents tend to overexplain themselves to children and feel as though they should offer choices to make their children cooperate more easily. It can get out of hand.

“Little children should not be allowed to have that much power and control over their parents,” she said. “And it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Yes, offering choices to children is important, as long as it’s done appropriately, she said.

When children come to visit her therapy practice, Dyson will greet them and say: “It’s time to go the playroom,” rather than asking if they want to go. Once the session is over, she will say, “Our playtime is over. I know you would like to stay and play, but our time is over.” She has communicated to the child that she understands his feelings and expects he will make the right choice.

She teaches parents to pitch their voice down on the last word of the sentence. The adult may need to physically point his or her chin downward because the up-tone pitch at the end of a sentence automatically turns a statement into a question. Some parents have lost their confidence in their ability to get their child to do what they want them to do, and the child picks up on that, Dyson said. The questions become defense mechanisms.

It may be more effective to rephrase a choice, she said. Instead of asking a young child who is reluctant to hold your hand while crossing a street: “Don’t you want to hold my hand?,” it is better to ask: “Do you want to hold my right or left hand?”

With either choice, you’re getting the child to do what you need him to do. Too much choice, just like too few boundaries, can be overwhelming for children.

I ask my children lots of questions about their day, their friends, the happenings at school. And, yes, I let them choose what they want to wear to school, whether they want cereal or oatmeal for breakfast and which books from their bookshelves they want to read at night.

But I also embrace the power of the declarative sentence.

Not everything is open to negotiation. And, certain questions invite the wrong answers.

If you ask your child, “Are you ready to go to bed?,” chances are, they’re going to say no.

HOME IS THE NEW FIRST GRADE – Teach Your Child to Count to 10 – Early Learning Method

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