March 16, 2012

How to Make a Request~Reader Mail Part 2

Reader Tania at In the Dovecote sent the following question.  The response is very long and involved so I have divided it into a series of post over the next few days.

On an unrelated note... how/when do you start training your children? 

I'm asking because, today I was reading to Bella and she wanted to eat the book (from the library) I said 'no' and held it out of her grasp, and she started to fuss a bit. Now, I don't know if she was fussing because of that or b/c she was tired (it was almost nap time). We want to be firm and train our children right from the start, but on the other hand I don't want to go overboard and be super strict and harsh. 

Eg. the other week we were at the corner store and a mother comes in with her little boy, about 3. She says 'We are just returning the movie and leaving.' He runs over to the candy and starts to say he wants some. She says 'No, come here.' He doesn't obey. Mom stands at the door for a while waiting. Boy starts to whine. Mom walks over to him and says 'no you can't have candy. Let's go.' Boy picks up a candy and runs to the door, saying he wants it. Mom says no, he starts on a temper tantrum. Mom says she is not going to get out her wallet just to pay for a 5 cent candy. Kid continues to whine. She says 'Do you really want me to take out my wallet just to pay for that candy.' He says yes. Finally mom gives a big sigh, hands the cashier .5 as she says 'He just HAS to have that candy!' and the child walks out all happy he got his way. 

My thoughts: Mother should have gone over to the the boy and taken him out of the store the moment he ran over to the candy. Even IF he had a temper tantrum. But my idea is that if he had been trained correctly in the first place, he wouldn't have bothered trying to have a 'temper tantrum'. 

What do you think? Sorry if you've already written a post about this, please just direct me to it. Thanks :o) 



Hello, again.  As we continue our discussion on when and how to begin child training, let's again review the situation described in Tania's letter above.  There are so many important training factors to consider in this situation.

Training your children on the proper way to make a request

A sweet please, not whining and not begging, and a clearly stated request is the only acceptable way to ask anything of anyone. End of story.  Beyond the training period there are no second chances.  If a child does not ask right the first time they will receive a no.  "Mama, may I please have a piece of candy?"  That is the way it must sound.  If the child fails to ask this way, Mother may respond by saying, "No, you did not ask properly."  Mother should then demonstrate the way she would like the request to be stated and end the discussion with an encouraging hug and, "Next time be sure to ask properly so I can consider saying, 'Yes.' "

Be careful to consider the request before responding

As moms we can get busy and distracted and respond before we have really weighed the question. Many times we say "no" when "yes" would have been acceptable or "yes" when really "no" should have been the answer simply because we don't stop to consider the question. There are so many times I must say, "no".  I like to look for opportunities when I can say "yes".  It is nice to be the fun guy once in a while.  Let's save "no" for when it is truly necessary.  

It is important, except under extreme situations, not to make a habit of changing our answer once given.  It confuses our children and gets them into the habit of thinking if they persist we will give a different answer.  This can inadvertently set them up for whining and begging.  Both bad habits we don't want to train into our children.  

I don't mean to say we should be permissive. Not at all. Consider this example. Sammy has asked for a piece of candy. Now, as a general rule, we do not allow our children to eat candy. It just isn't good for them.  We also have a lot of allergies and kids wearing braces.   Therefore, typically, the answer would be "no".   Now, if I don't stop to think about the situation I would just spit out "no" and go on. However, perhaps, Sam hasn't had a treat in a long while and he has been particularly helpful with my errands that day. None of the children wearing braces are along on this trip and the treat he asked for does not have chocolate or nuts in it so we needn't worry about his allergies. Why not say "yes" this once, reward him for asking politely and feel like a hero when I hear his sweet, "Thank you, Mama!"

Likewise, sometimes we say "yes" automatically when the answer should have been "no" or we should have gotten some more information before answering.  Consider this.  Before I took him to town, Samuel went to the bank with Pa.  I must ask another question.  "Samuel, did you have a lollipop at the bank today?"  Samuel would say, "Yes, he did."  And then I would reply, "That is probably enough treats for today, then."  Samuel, will then politely say, "You are right, Mama.  Thank you for thinking about it."  We go on about our shopping.

Now, I think practice is so important here.  Role play this through at home.  Then when you get to the store your child will already know what to expect.  This application is useful for just about any situation in which your child will make a request of you.

A child must be taught the right way to respond 

Again, role playing is so useful here.  A child must be taught to accept "no" as cheerfully as he accepts "yes".

I like to do something like this.  Have a handful of treats, say jelly beans.  Have the child request one using the acceptable way to make a request.  "Mama, may I please have a jelly bean."  First, Mama responds with, "Yes, thank you for asking the proper way."  Give child a jelly bean.  Child will respond with the proper, "Thank you, Mama."  And while she eats it up you will discuss how the Bible tells us sweet words are like an honeycomb.  And when we ask properly we receive a reward.  I like to include some discussion about the immediate reward, a jelly bean.  And long lasting rewards, knowing how to treat people right and being known as one with a sweet spirit.  And the eternal rewards, "If we ask Jesus for a request that is in His will, He will give it to us."

Next, is to teach the proper response to "No".  This time let the child know you will respond "No" and what response you will expect.  "Thank you for your consideration, Mama."  or "Thank you for thinking about it."  or whatever response you would like to hear from your child to acknowledge that she is cheerfully accepting your answer.  Make sure the child repeats the response to you before you begin so you are certain she knows the proper response.

Then have her again make the proper request.  You respond, "No" or "Not right now"  or some other simple negative response.  It is important not to give an explanation at this time because you do not want to train your child to believe they should expect an explanation from you.  Your "no" should be all they need to hear.  At this time, if the child does not respond offer a gentle reminder by whispering the practiced response in her ear and asking her to repeat it.  Do this over and over until the child firmly has it down.

At the end of these sessions, I like to reward the child with a jelly bean for their obedience and well learned response.

Now, let's look at the example you gave and see how the situation could have played out differently.

#1 If this child had practiced previously, this would have been a non issue.

#2 If the  mother made a habit of saying what she meant and meaning what she said, it would have also been a non-issue.  However, that is clearly not the case.


  1. I completely agree- I love how you train them to say 'Thank you for thinking about it' etc. Role playing is a great idea too.

    1. And role playing is so much FUN! We like to practice with stuffed animals, dolls, puppets... you name it. Everyone gets in on it.



  2. I really appreciate this post -- you gave some very clear guidance regarding child training. Like Dove said, I also really like the trained response to a "no" answer.

    1. Val,

      I am glad you stopped by. That really is the key... kids so much want to do what is right. Their natural desire is to please their parents, if only for selfish reasons... they love praise. But many times they just don't know what is expected of them. If we don't tell them, somebody will and it may not be what we want them to learn.