Sheila's Books
Click on the covers to read more or order autographed copies!

My Webrings

Crazy Hip Blog Mamas Members!



Medical Billing
Medical Billing

For ALL Your Graphic Needs

Dine Without Whine - A Family 

Friendly Weekly Menu Plan
Never say "okay" to your kids!
Mamablogga is wondering about saying please to kids--as in, "put your toys away, please." Is it a good idea? A bad idea? Are you leaving room for them to refuse?

I know what she's getting at, but please doesn't bother me. It's just being polite. It's "okay" that bothers me. And that reminds me of a column I wrote on just this topic a few years ago:

When my oldest was a toddler, we were given a cute little video of cute children singing very cute songs, which made me want to pull my hair out. Naturally, she loved it. In fact, she loved best a song that made me cringe. The chorus went “O-B-E-Y, obey your Mom and Dad!” Feet were tapping; kids were dancing; it was very catchy. My brain, fresh from its sociology degree, rebelled. Tell my child to obey? Wasn’t that squashing her will?

Shortly after these episodes, my darling angel hit two and discovered temper tantrums, biting, and stealing other children’s toys. Once it was no longer purely academic, I quickly learned to embrace the word “obey”.

Our society, however, still largely cringes. We treat our families as if they are democracies where everyone should have a vote.

What should we eat for dinner? Nobody wants veggies? Then chicken fingers it is! We allow our children a voice, because we forget that they are, indeed, children. They do not have the life experience or the emotional maturity to know what is best for them. We do.

It’s not just the concept of obedience that we’ve lost, though. We’ve lost the language. I remember listening in on a conversation once that a mom was having with her 6-year-old son. “Honey, it’s getting to be time to brush your teeth.” The boy kept playing with Lego. “Honey, you’ll need to brush your teeth before you go to bed.” More Lego. “Don’t you think you really should be brushing your teeth?”, this time through clenched teeth. Finally she lost it. “Why haven’t you brushed your teeth!?!”. He looked up, confused, and stared at her as if she were an alien, which, given the colour of her face, seemed to be a distinct possibility.

As you analyze their “conversation”, you can see his point. She never actually told him to do anything. She expressed her opinion about the relative time of day and the necessity of teeth brushing, but she never told him to march his little self down that hall and do something about it. He listened to her, evaluated her comments, and decided to ignore them.

Think about the difference between these two statements: “Billy, go brush your teeth”, and “Billy, go brush your teeth, okay?”. The first is telling him to do something. The second is asking him if he agrees. As soon as we’ve added “okay”, we’ve changed it from a command to a question. I think we do this so frequently because, at heart, we’re just not sure we deserve to be obeyed.

We’re scared of issuing real commands to our kids because it sounds like we’re saying we’re better than they are. That’s making a judgment, and we’re just not comfortable with that. But we are wiser than our kids are. I don’t pick my nose anymore, bite people I disagree with, or lie down in a grocery store and scream. (I do, however, sneak chocolate before breakfast, but that’s another story.)

Our job is to train our kids to become responsible, independent adults. To do that, we have to teach them to curb destructive behaviour. That means we need to be the boss, because kids rarely learn proper behaviour without an incentive. We are the ones teaching them how the world works. If we allow them to always do what they want, they won’t be able to handle adult relationships, hold down a job, or act appropriately in social settings.

Being the boss, of course, will look different as the child ages. As kids grow older, they need to be given more leeway. Telling a child what to do is appropriate at 4; at 14, it’s probably better to set a limit and then talk about why you have that limit. Tell a teenager what to do and they’ll rebel; raise a teenager to respect you, and they’ll be more willing to listen to your limits. But let’s not forget that without any kind of parental authority, society will fall apart. Kids certainly need our approval and our love, but they need our direction and discipline, too. Okay?

What do you think? Have we forgotten how to be parents? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Labels: , ,


At 4:00 PM , Blogger Terry, Ornament of His Grace said…

I agree with you. When you tell your kids to do something, they should know that they are hearing a command and not a suggestion or worse yet, a question. That said, starting off with the word "please", especially when they
are young (i.e. "Please put youe toys away"), is a good way to teach manners so I wouldn't rule it out.


At 10:35 PM , Blogger pedalpower said…

I agree completely. When my husband and I learned not to end with "Okay?" it changed everything. Life is better when you are saying what you mean.

Kids deserve to have moms and dads who aren't afraid to be the do what's best even if they don't like it. They might not like you much right that moment, but eventually they like you better because you are someone they can respect.

Great post.


At 10:02 AM , Blogger Tara said…

I learned about "okay" in college when studying to be a teacher. Same principle, and I've carried it over to parenting! :) Never give a child a choice you'r enot ready for them to take. Asking them if it's okay for them to brush their teeth just gives them the option of telling you no!


At 11:20 AM , Blogger Jordan (MamaBlogga) said…

I agree! I've been trying to replace "okay" with "understand" as my tag question (which is what it really is, and what I mean by "okay").


At 3:06 AM , Blogger Julie said…

Oh yeah! I fully agree. "Please" is great with kids in the context of "I'm telling you courteously", but "okay"? No way!

What helps, also, is teaching them to give eye-contact and a response when you speak to them. Like little Lego-boy...


(Eyes up,) "Yes, mom?"

"You've got five more minutes to play, and then it's time to brush your teeth and go to bed."

Then he has a choice...

"Okay mom", or consequences.

My friend had a classic response to her kids...

"Well, you can either brush your teeth and go to bed, OR you can have a SPANKING and THEN brush your teeth and go to bed!"

Amazing how quickly they caught on!

Post a Comment
<< Home

About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

See my complete profile

Follow This Blog:

 Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Follow on Twitter:
Follow on Facebook:

Important Links
Previous Posts

Popular Archived Posts
Christian Blogs
Mom Blogs
Marriage/Intimacy Blogs
Blogs For Younger/Not Yet Married Readers
Housework Blogs
Cooking/Homemaking Blogs
Writing Links
Blog Design by Christi Gifford

Images from

Related Posts with Thumbnails