Asking vs. Complaining
Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – – Counselor’s Corner –
Are you an asker or a complainer? —
A complainer might say –
I’m so tired of picking up your wet towels after you shower. You never help. You’re so lazy!
An asker might say –
Would you please hang your wet towels on the towel rack as soon as you finish showering every time?
I understand that when problem behaviors continue to occur that people (especially parents) get tired of asking and therefore start complaining about it. Unfortunately, that rarely works to improve the behavior. And the negative side effects include the offender tuning you out or, if he or she listens, has lower self-esteem. And it likely raises your blood pressure and puts you in a foul mood. In other words, no one wins.
So what’s a parent to do with a child who isn’t cooperative when asked to do chores or responsibilities around the house?
First, realize that there should be at least five times as many positive praise-type statements in the home to negative comments’like reminders, lectures, reprimands, fussing, etc. If it’s not at this level, the mood in the home often feels stressful and uncooperative. People often talk and act disrespectful to one another. It would pay off to make sure that you are not just commenting on the bad stuff, but recognizing and praising good attitudes, behaviors, homework, chores done, etc. Say please and thank you more. Model respectful language.
Second, don’t use your mouth as a consequence by nagging,it will not work. If you’ve asked the child 50 times to do something there is absolutely no reason to think that 51 times will be any different. Therefore, after the initial request and one (and only one!) reminder, there needs to be a consequence (some privilege removed). An example might be: Since you have failed to hang your towels on the towel rack after showering, your consequence is no TV tomorrow. Make sure to remove a consequence of importance (riding bikes, playing outside, computer, phone, going to bed early, etc.) that fits the age of the child. Also try to make the consequence fit the problem behavior,neither too large or too small in importance,and attach a time limit.
Recently I had a mother take away ALL privileges from a 15-year-old son who would not bring his dirty laundry downstairs for washing nor take the clean, folded clothing back to his room. She was right to give him a consequence; however, she overdid it and the result was a hostile, very uncooperative teen who knew this wasn’t fair. It’s like giving someone life in prison for failing to stop at a stop sign.
Finally, realize that consistency is of key importance. You can’t let the child sometimes get away with it and sometimes not. Your child will almost always gamble that you won’t follow through this time. And all of the above tips may take a month or more to see improvement.
Remember: ask for what you want rather than complaining about what you don’t like!
Copyright © 2010, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please check out my other column Savor the Moments.
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The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.