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Could You Repeat The Question?


Schmutter-011813

Ignored, Flatbush, NY

Dear Ignored,

A lot of experts say that this is because kids want a feeling of control. If they don’t get to decide what to do, they feel helpless. So experts say that you should present them with options that are acceptable to you. For example, you can ask them, “chicken or vegetarian?”

But you actually know the answer to your question: Kids like repetition. They find it soothing. That’s why you have to read them the same bedtime story every night, as if one day the characters will decide to do something they didn’t do the first 500 times. And that’s why your kids keep asking you to throw them in the air again and again even though your arms are clearly falling off. And that’s why you have to play the same songs over and over in the car until you want to jump out the driver’s side door. Kids like repetition. (I said that again, for the kids.)

And this is also why, when I get my kids a new DVD, they say they’d rather watch the old one again. There’s nothing they’d rather get for Chanukah than another copy of the same DVD they already have.

Kids have to know what’s coming. It gives them the illusion of control, to be able to predict what’s going to happen next. You have to realize that in general, kids can’t predict anything, because they pretty much just got here. That’s why whenever you’re driving on the highway, they’re always totally shocked when they see cows. Everything in the world is a surprise to them.

And that’s why when you tell them to do something, you have to say it more than once. It soothes them. They’re always like, “What’s Mommy going to tell me to do next? Get in pajamas? What an unprecedented turn of events! She never tells me to get in pajamas after supper on a school night!” That frightens them. But when you ask them to do something and they don’t listen, they know that the very next words out of your mouth are going to be exactly the same words you just said. That’s how they predict the future.

The typical parent question is, “How many times do I have to tell you?”

The answer that your kid doesn’t say is, “As many times as you’re willing to. The more the better.”

“How many times do I have to tell you not to color on the walls? Now go get some tofu and clean it off.”

Of course, some parents try to beat this system. They say, “This is the last time I’m going to tell you.” But the kids always call their bluff. They think, “I bet if I still don’t do it, you’re going to tell me again.”

So their goal is not to do what you say until right before there’s a punishment. And they can always see the punishment coming, because you precede it with, “1…2…3…”

That’s predictability.

Have a complaint for “You’re Asking Me?” You might have to repeat yourself.

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