Do You Question Your Kid Too Much?

by kate on February 9, 2021

What if I could tell you how to make your home more peaceful?

Would you like to read something like that?

How would you like to reduce conflict in your house, to have your child actually listen to you the first time you speak?

Will you keep reading?

But wait, OK? I don’t sound like an authority, do I? Why on earth would you believe anything I just said? How many questions can I ask you before you just tune out??? And can you hear your inner voice rising at the end of each questions, further weakening everything?

Ahhh. Questioning our kids to deafness.

There is a common misconception in families today, that families are democracies. They aren’t. Families are dictatorships. Now the dictator - you - can be a benevolent dictator, but you are a dictator all the same and that’s how it should be.

Or you can think of yourself as the Kind and the Queen if you’d like. That’s a little more regal and it plays perfectly into your little prince’s or princess’s conception of his or her toddler self.

The point is, the parent holds the power. Period. And it’s your job to not give that power away by asking questions. Because when you ask, you hand over your power to the one answering. Just think, the answer can be, and often is, ‘no.’ So the chase begins with a battle of the wills and ends with the parent trying to regain the power. All because of questions.

What’s with all the questions?

Let’s start with the why because until you understand what you’re doing, you cannot change it.

As adults, we equate freedom with choices, especially in America where consumerism has evolved to a point where we are bombarded with choices at every turn. The more choices the better - just stand in front of any milk aisle and you’ll see - organic, 1%, 2%, whole, raw, lactose free, soy and on and on. Now think of your self as small as a toddler and picture that same aisle. “I just want milk!”

As parents, it’s our duty to teach our children how to make choices eventually. Until then, we make the choices for them.

In a broad sense - and everyone has their own biography, so this is generalizing - we offer choices because we think it feels better to make a choice. It’s empowering. I decided! I’m the decider! But that’s imposing our issues on our children.

Children are not little adults. To them, choice is scary. They look to us to make the environment safe and secure so they can work on their work.

Taking the reins: changing questions into actions

Now on to changing questions into loving language.

Replace, “would you like…” with “it’s time to (fill in activity)”

Don’t say “will you please” say “now you may”

Not “can you” but “we will now”

Own it. Plant your feet solidly in the ground and be the complete human to emulate. You teach them more about making choices by making the choices, not by having someone else (them) do it. Even more important, children learn inner authority from observing your authority.

Stick to it. This may be hard to hear, but it takes 3 weeks to form a new (or break) a habit. So stay strong.

Your thinking “what???? No questions???” And no. No questions. Well, there is 1 question that is valid to ask. ONE. “Where does it hurt?” And even that doesn’t have to be a question. “Show me where it hurts.”

See, you can do this.

photo credit: Marco Bellucci

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  • Adventures In Babywearing

    This is great- a very good guide. I hope this is how I am with my kids but will watch myself more closely for sure.


  • Penny W.

    Oh, you got me on that one. My husband speaks once and the kids jump. Sometimes literally! But then I think maybe the fear him, and I don’t want that relationship with them, so I’m the kind one. I feel I am in charge but when I assert myself I go from Nice Mommy to Mean Mommy. Why is that? Is my attitude change so drastically different? If they don’t respond to Nice Mommy asking them to finish up X because it’s time to do X; how do I get them to respond without being the Drill Sargent?

    I’m going to pay more attention to my language and see if I am asking too many questions. Great post!

  • kate

    @Penny. I so hear you on the Mean Mommy vs. Nice Mommy feeling. I was talking with my daughter’s preschool teacher and she was helping me to channel my inner authoritarian on a more constant basis. Not Drill Sargent per se, just more clear and present with my own authority. It’s really helping to not repeat myself. Well, to be honest I hear myself repeat things and then I get up and actually physically move my children instead of repeating again. As a result, my girls are listening much more closely. Also, I don’t feel like I have to switch into Mean Mommy Mode. Try it. Here’s a simple thing: speak slower and look them in the eye when you talk to them.

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