The “Demands” of Discipline, Part 2

In the last post, readers were invited to add Demanding as one of the “grades” to earn on their Effective Discipline Report Card. (As a reminder, the “Cs” on the Effective Discipline Report Card are for being, Calm, Clear, Confident, Compassionate and Connected).

Stop asking “Okay?” and ask  “Do you understand?”

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and Grandmother Development

Demanding means that parents accept their responsibility to tell children things they must do.

Knowing they have the right and responsibility to demand that their children do certain things can empower parents, knowing they do not need the child’s approval. Demanding doesn’t have to be harsh or rigid, as we will discuss when we get to the “Fs” of the report card, which speaks of being flexible when disciplining.

After disciplining, stop asking “okay?”

A key word for parents to stop using when demanding that children do something is adding, “Okay?” after stating what is expected.

  • “You need to get into your pajamas now, okay?”
  • “We are going to need to leave the playground in five minutes, okay?”

That little word “Okay?” may imply that the parent is open for negotiation and is looking for the child’s approval.

For children, it may imply that they have the right to say “No to a demand and may see it more as a negotiable request in which they have a say.

Parents may switch to the phrase, “Do you understand?” which usually is what they mean by “Okay?” 

If parents have had struggles with children following a demand they have made, they can add to the interaction, “Tell me what you are going to do so we both know you understand.”

Parents can also think about whether compliance with the demand needs to be immediate or if there is some flexibility about when something must happen. “You must clean up all the crayons right now” versus “All the crayons must be cleaned up before you can watch any TV.”

Parents can show that they are compassionate even as they demand certain things:

  • Yes, I understand that you don’t want to stop playing your game. It’s hard to stop when you’re having fun! But I need you to…. Do you understand? Tell me when… has to happen so I know we both are clear.”
  • Parents can also incorporate countdowns when demanding a shift in behavior.  This is especially helpful with younger children. The parent might say things like, “You need to be ready to go in five minutes.”
  • “It’s been two minutes and we will be leaving in three minutes.”
  • “Okay, we now have one minute until we have to leave.”

As the authors in Black Parenting state: “Transitions between activities often provoke tantrums and because small children love routines and consistency, it’s important to give them time to prepare for change. Countdowns and goodbyes work amazingly well in helping young children move from one activity to the next.” [Page 117]

Parents need to have a plan for how they will respond if children defy them.

Children need to know that demands are expected to be met. If they are not met, parents are prepared to impose appropriate consequences that ensure the child understands they are required to do something.

It’s expected that they will, in fact, do it and that parents will respond appropriately if they do not comply.

Invitation to reflect:

  1. To what extent are you able to accept your responsibility to demand things from your child as part of being an effective disciplinarian?
  2. Can you see the logic behind not using the question “Okay?” and switching to “Do you understand?”
  3. Do you have a plan for how you will respond if your children refuse your demands?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network


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