The magic question

Are you wanting more ease and cooperation from your kids this week?  I have a magic question that will get you exactly that.  One great thing about this question is that it also works well with other adults.   Another wonder of this magic question is that when people ask you this question you feel honored, cared for, and free to say yes or no.

This question empowers you and your loved ones to communicate openly, honestly, and freely.  It can even help you learn more about your children and their motivations.  OK, are you ready for it?  The magic question is, “Would you be willing to ____?”  Variations on this question might be “Would you?” “Could you?” or “Will you please?”

But a huge part of the magic of the question is that it’s a true request.  When you ask, “Would you be willing to help me carry in the groceries?” you’re actually asking for help, not demanding it.  So be careful with the variations unless you’re sure you’re truly asking.  Sometimes our demands can be subtle and veiled, but they’re demands none-the-less.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of demanding and ordering kids around, especially when they’re resistant and uncooperative.  “Brush your teeth” “Put on your shoes, we’re leaving” and “Stop hitting your sister” are the kinds of demands most kids experience daily.  If you’ve fallen into the habit of making lots of demands of your kids, you’re not alone.  The problem is that the more we demand, the less kids want to cooperate.  And the less kids cooperate, the more we demand.  It’s a vicious cycle, but you have the power to change the dynamics substantially, just by asking the magic question and being OK with whatever the answer is.

I don’t mean to imply that you’ll stop making demands of your kids.  That would be impractical and highly unlikely in any case.  But what if you were to transform just some of your daily demands into true requests?  How might your child feel if after being told to take out the garbage for the past six weeks, you actually ASKED if she was willing to?

It may take a little while for your new true requests to sink in, so don’t be surprised if your kids don’t respond very differently at first.  They may not trust that your new “nicer” way of asking is anything but a better disguised demand.  But if you continue to make some true requests every day, and are actually OK with hearing no from them, pretty soon the young people in your life will begin to feel the difference.  And when they do, something magical will happen.  Almost as soon as kids realize that they can refuse your requests without suffering a negative consequence, they’ll become more and more willing to cooperate.

Children are actually innately designed to cooperate with their parents and other care-givers.  Evolutionarily it was the only way they could survive, right? But when we’ve taken their goodwill for granted they begin to resent us and our demands.   So the way back to their innate good nature is to actually give them the freedom to choose whether or not to cooperate with us.  But luckily for us the deck is stacked against defiance, because cooperating naturally feels better and gets us better results socially.  All kids ultimately want to have a strong connection to their parents and the quickest way to that continued connection is to cooperate.

So this week, give your kids a little extra freedom to cooperate or not, and watch how that impacts your connection with them.  I would love to hear how it works for you!

Have a great week, Shelly


Considering 3 out of 4 of us siblings got brought home by the cops at some point, I'm thinking we may have edged out a win. LoL


Thanks Justin! Welcome to the Awake Parent community :) BTW, who ended up ruling the house?


Brilliant advice! My parents were always demanding me to do things and it got to a point where I viewed them as tyrants. Eventually getting to the point where I thought my sisters were on one team and parents on the other... Competing for rule of the house.

"How can we get out of less stuff"

"How can we trick them"

P.S. Your site is a goldmine of info for parents, I just subscribed to your updates both by email and RSS