Mom, You Explain Too Much
Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Written by Sarah Hamaker
Have you ever found yourself in this situation with one of your kids?
“I’m losing my patience with my kid. I try to explain why he needs to do what I said, but he just keeps negotiation. Then I snap and yell at him. We both end up in tears…yet we repeat this cycle again and again.”
As moms, we feel internal and external pressure to always explain your motives to your child. We want our children to understand our reasons, as if they were actual capable of that kind of logical thinking.
They’re not capable because their brains are not fully developed. They won’t be able to truly understand our reasons and our explanations until they are fully adults.
Which leads me to the solution to breaking the endless cycle of Tell a kid what to do, he complains/negotiates, you explain, he argues some more, you snap and yell…
The solution is so simple, so easy, you’ll be shocked. Ready?
That’s it. You actually do NOT owe your child an explanation why he or she has to do what you just said.
What happens when we start to explain our excellent reasons behind the directive? Frustration mounts in parent and child. Because when we explain, we open the door for argument and negotiation, which leads to shouting.
Why do we reach the end of our rope when our child argues with our instruction after we’ve taken the time to explain, usually in minute detail, why he should obey?
Because we really want to hear our child say when we explain our reasons: “Gee, mom. When you put it that way, of course I agree with you/will do X.”
That ain’t gonna happen, mamas! That kind of logical thinking won’t happen until said child grows up and has children of his or her own, then the grown-up child will call his mom and say, “I’m so sorry for all the arguing I did as a kid.” Because then, and only then, he’ll understand exactly why you told him to do X and all of your excellent reasons.
Moms, we need to shave ourselves some angst and stop explaining as much as possible.
But because I know it will be a hard habit to break, you need some replacement phrases. Here are a few of my favorites:
Because I told you so.
Yep, I’d probably feel that way if I were a kid.
Or you can simply develop The Look—you know, the one that says you’re a mountain and will not be moved.
Now, if your child really has a hard time not arguing, you can invoke the Chair of Wisdom but only sparingly and with great caution. The Chair of Wisdom means you sit down in a comfy chair, set a timer for 5 minutes, then tell the child to say all the things he or she needs to say in response to your directive. You respond with general murmurs of listening, like hmmms, head nods and other noncommittal responses. Because remember—you’re not changing your mind! All you’re doing is giving your child a chance to vent in a controlled environment.
When the timer goes off, you restate the instruction and leave. Chances are, your child will feel heard and simply do the task.
For those moms who fear this type of response will lead to the dreaded “blind obedience” that will turn our children into little robots, fear not. I encourage you to discuss why obedience is necessary, why a child should obey and other subjects from time to time, so you can disciple your children in your family values.
In other words, there’s a time and a place for explanations…but it’s not when you’re child is refusing to do what you told her to do. End the cycle of instruction-argument-yelling-tears and give your child the gift of not expecting him to be an adult thinker before his time.
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach