Commands – Is There a Better Way to Communicate?

Dad is following 7-year-old Kenny to the shower. Kenny is dragging his towel on the carpet. Dad says, “Pick up your towel!” Kenny turns around and sees that the towel is on the floor. He picks it up and walks to the bathroom.

Is there anything wrong with this exchange? Actually, there is. If you stop and think about Dad’s parenting style maybe you could figure it out. Is he being authoritarian, permissive or a breakthrough parent? How would you improve on dad’s communication skills?

You aren’t sure? Well, let’s look at the situation more carefully. If you believe the adage – when people know better they do better – let’s apply it here. What is wrong with dragging a bath towel on the floor? It gets dirty. People like to dry off with a clean towel. It’s more hygienic that way.

Dad uses commands to structure his son’s behavior. “Stop teasing the dog.” “Put your toys away.” “Take your bath.” “Do your homework.” “Turnoff the TV.” “Do this – don’t do that!” Maybe there are a thousand or more commands that parents use to guide their children, but commands are the hallmark of the authoritarian parent. Such parents make orders and their child is expected to do as they have been commanded. The subordinate (in our case – Kenny) isn’t expected to do any thinking for himself. Dad just tells him what to do.

What if dad changed his communication style to statement sentences? What difference would that make? “Kenny, your towel is dragging on the floor.” Dad states a fact. Once Kenny’s awareness is stimulated he can choose himself to either pick up the towel or continue dragging it.

If he solves the problem by picking it up – Dad might say good choice or nothing because Kenny solved the problem and doesn’t need reinforcement.

If Kenny looks perplexed, like “What is the big deal if I drag my towel on the floor?” Dad might say, “I don’t think you would want to dry off with a dirty towel after you get clean in the shower.” Now Kenny has more information than he had. He can choose himself to pick up his towel.

If you avoid doing children’s thinking for them, they are more likely to increase their critical thinking skills and their IQ. When parents expect children to analyze information and come to a reasonable and rational solution to problems, you are likely to be surprised at how  many times they will do it.

By not using commands continuously – you can save them for when they will have the greatest impact. Stop! No! Don’t do that! These commands have a special meaning – especially when a child is on a perilous path.In these cases after the urgency stops, explain why you ordered them the way you did – so that they can understand why – which further develops their thinking skills.