Talking Better with Our Kids – Blog #3
A Chess at 3 Blog Series
Welcome back everybody. This is the last week of Chess At Three’s first blog series, “Talking Better with Our Kids.” Thanks for everyone’s likes, comments and shares on this blog. We would love to do more of these blog series so if you got something from these blogs it would mean a lot of us if you shared with a friend!
The winner of last week’s blog contest was: @Charminglyslp on instagram. Here is her winning blog post:
Great Job Charminglyslp! If you want to enter our blog contest all you have to do is follow the instructions on the bottom of the blog and make a post like this!
The first week of #TBWOK was about realizing all the suggestive questions we are asking our kids, and the frustrating communications that result. Week two of #TBWOK was about replacing those questions with the phrase “it is time.”
Up till now we’ve only been using the phrase “it is time,” for things our children already want to do. This technique puts a positive association with the phrase in the child’s mind.
This week we are ready to use “It is time” for something that your child doesn’t really want to do. Try find a natural occasion like, “It is time to go to school,” when it is actually time to go to school.
Adult: “It’s time to go grocery shopping.”
Adult: “The grocery store closes in 30 minutes, and if we don’t leave now, we won’t have any food for breakfast. Let’s hurry.” (Gently helps child up to put shoes on)
Adult: “Come on, it’s time to go grocery shopping.”
Child: (Gets up to put shoes on)
In this example, “It is time” is supported by a concrete reason: “The grocery store closes soon, and if we don’t go now, we won’t have food.” This reason provides a buttress to the authority of “It is time.” Eventually, we will want to drop all supporting reasons from “It is time,” because providing reasons implies that the child should agree with you before consenting to go with you. In the future, you want the authority behind “It is time” to be so strong that your child obeys simply because you used the magic words.
As you’re integrating this phrase into your life, it’s important to have a 100% success rate for both you and your child. Using the magic words but not following through gives your child a inconsistent precedent as to what “time” it actually is. As your child begins to hear the words “It is time,” he or she will become more and more accustomed to following your directions. But if you only follow through some of the time, your child will still hold onto some hope that they can argue and challenge your directions. So before you utter “It is time,” make sure you have the resources onhand (e.g., enough time or energy) to follow through and make it a reality.
The first rule of magic is: Never do the same trick twice. Performing a magic trick again is a bad idea because now the audience knows what to expect and where to place their attention. The best magicians move quickly from one trick to the next, never letting their audience have enough time to gather their thoughts to notice what is happening. While someone is still wondering what just happened, the magician is preparing for the next trick, leaving them at least one step behind.
I have another phrase that works wonders with my daughter. It’s a good companion to “It is time.” If you simply repeat “It is time” all day, it might lose its potency. “It is time to eat breakfast, it’s time to clean up your toys, it’s time to let Daddy watch TV”—you get the point. It gets annoying.
Here’s another phrase I use with my daughter:
Scene: Wife is working late, my daughter and I are at home, she has barely eaten any of her dinner, and her bedtime is quickly approaching. I need her to quickly eat so we can begin the bedtime routine.
Dad: “Honey, look at me.” (Wait for eye contact) “Here is the plan.”
Dad: “We’re going to finish your dinner…”
Dad: “Brush our teeth…”
Dad: “Put on PJs.”
Dad: “Read a book…”
Dad: “...and go to bed.”
Daughter: “Okay.” (Begins eating food)
“Here is the plan,” has very similar qualities to, “It is time.” In both cases, the parents remove themselves as the authority and, therefore, as someone with whom the child can argue.
But this requires precise language. Saying, “Here is my plan” could ruin everything. The parent now sounds like they are submitting something for approval rather than defining the child’s reality. “Here is my plan,” opens up all sorts of choices for the child: “I disagree with your plan,” “I don’t want to do your plan,” or even, “I don’t care about your plan!”
And if you really want to torture yourself, you could try, “Should we make a plan?” Couching this as a question undoes everything we’ve learned and takes us back to page 1: “Do you think it’s a good idea to change your diaper?” Stop asking your kids so many questions!
It’s not your plan. You don’t necessarily like the plan, either—but it is the plan, and it is what will happen. Pepper your parenting with these phrases in place of suggestive questions, and your life will be 1,000 times easier!
The phrase “It is time” isn’t too difficult to understand, but implementing it into your already busy life will take some effort. So I’ve come up with two scenarios that can playfully remind you of the ideas we’ve discussed in this chapter.
The Silly Example:
“Jeopardy” is a perennial American game show hosted by the beloved Alex Trebek. Alex is famous for wearing light colored suits, colorful ties—and, until a year or so ago, donning an impressive mustache. Usually on game shows, the contestants are posed questions, and they supply the answers. The twist of “Jeopardy” is that the host, Alex Trebek, supplies answers, and the contestants have to supply the questions that would lead to those answers. Here’s an example of how “Jeopardy” is supposed to be played:
Trebek: “Answer: This country has the largest population in the world.”
Contestant: “What is China?”
But because of the unusual format of the show, contestants are famous for forgetting that they need to answer in the form of a question. The following is a common occurrence:
Trebek: “Answer: This US President famously played a tenor saxophone solo on the Arsenio Hall show.”
Contestant #1: “Bill Clinton!”
Trebek: “Oh, I’m sorry, we cannot accept your answer as it was not in the form of a question.”
Contestant #2: “Who is Bill Clinton?”
With that scenario in mind, here is a silly scene that I use to help remind myself not to ask my children unnecessary questions:
My daughter is enthusiastically playing with toys in the corner as I finish cooking dinner.
“It is time for dinner,” I announce from the kitchen. But as soon as the words leave my mouth, I feel a sharp slap on the back of my hand.
Suddenly, Alex Trebek is standing in my kitchen wearing a grey suit and his old lovable mustache.
“I’m so sorry, Tyler,” Alex mechanically informs. “That interaction was not in the form of a question, and so your daughter could not hear it. Would you like to try again?”
“Alex Trebek is in my kitchen!”
Another slap on the hand.
Alex slowly shakes his head.
“This is ‘Parental Jeopardy,’ and every command you make as a parent must be in the form of a question!”
You rub the back of your hand.
“Why is Alex Trebek in my kitchen?”
“Yes.” (Trebek’s hands slowly return to his side.) “You may continue.”
“Hey honey, I bet you’re hungry. Would you like some dinner?” I call out.
“No, I’m playing with my toys,” my daughter fairly responds.
I longingly look at Trebek.
“Can’t I just tell her it’s time for dinner?”
He slowly shakes his head.
“Honey, you haven’t eaten since noon. Are you starving for some chicken nuggets?”
And then Alex Trebek bursts into maniacal laughter.
“Haha! Another interaction ruined thanks to ‘Jeopardy Parenting!’”
Whenever I find myself asking questions to which I don’t want to hear the answers, I like to picture a menacing Alex Trebek in the background, loudly laughing at the hardships imposed by his “Jeopardy” parenting.
A Normal Example:
My wife and I still catch each other and ourselves asking unnecessary questions to our daughter all the time. Since it is such a hard habit to break, we show a lot of grace to each other when it happens.
So what do we do when we mess up? We lovingly and jokingly say to whomever asked the question, “Well, you did ask.” And then if it’s possible, we try to allow Thalia to follow her wishes as if our question was genuine—for a couple of minutes.
Here’s a quick example:
Me: “Honey, I’m going to the grocery store. Don’t you think it would be fun to come with?”
Daughter: “No, I’m playing with my toys.”
Wife: “You asked.”
At which point I would probably say, “You’re absolutely right.”
I’d wait for 5 minutes and then say:
Me: “Honey, it’s time to go to the store with Dada. Let’s go.”
Daughter: “No, I’m playing with my toys!”
Dad: “Oh, you’re going to be such a great help to me at the store carrying everything. It’s time for us to go to the store!”
Then I’d gently grab her arm and help her get dressed.
And again, the attitude of “you asked” is a loving and playful reminder between two partners who are committed to helping each other improve. If your spouse, or co-teacher, or whoever you’re saying this to has not read this chapter, it can come across as teasing and potentially hurt their feelings.
Week Three of Social Media
The instructions for the third week of the social media contest are simple: make an instagram or facebook post about how #TBWOK has changed you! Maybe it was an interaction with your child, maybe it was an interaction with an adult! The phrases “it is time,” and “here’s the plan,” don’t just work on kids you know!
So make a post, Chess at 3 will choose the best post on Friday! And will announce the grand prize on Monday the 22nd! To be eligible for the grand prize, free Chess At Three for your child’s school, contestants must make social media posts about all three blogs. So if you’re just coming in now, read the past 2 blogs and make some posts!