What This Situation Is Like for Parents


You’re not asking for much. You’re asking your child to get dressed in the morning, or do their chores, or be nicer to their sibling — all things that they know they’re supposed to do. 

…So when your child pretends they don’t hear your reminders to get their pants on and brush their teeth…

…Or when they keep doing something that you’ve just asked them 10 seconds ago to stop doing

It can be extremely frustrating. And you feel helpless because you just don’t know how to get them to act responsibly.

And you’re running out of patience. (Or perhaps you ran out of patience long ago!)


What This Situation Is Like for Children


It’s not that kids don’t know the rules. Usually they know what they’re supposed to do. 

… It’s just that often they’re distracted by something else when they’re supposed to be getting dressed and brushing their teeth.

…Or their big feelings get the best of them, and they just can’t “be good,” no matter how much people tell them that their behavior is unacceptable. (That just makes it worse because then it feels like no one cares about or understands them.)

So they “misbehave” and get in trouble… but because they are lacking tools to do something different, they just do the same thing again the next time.



How It Usually Goes

When A Child Won’t Do Something They’re Supposed to Do 


Scenario: Jonah’s dad told him that he was supposed to stop building his fort at 4:30 so he could get ready for soccer practice. However, when his dad checks on Jonah at 4:35 he is still making his fort. 

Dad: Jonah! It’s 4:35!

Jonah: So?

Dad: So?! You’re supposed to be getting ready for soccer!

Jonah: But Dad! I’m right in the middle of this fort.

Dad: I don’t care. I told you before you started that you’d have to stop.

Jonah: Can’t I just finish?

Dad: No, Jonah. You have to learn to be responsible.

Jonah: We never start practice on time though!

Dad: That doesn’t give you a right to be late.

Jonah: It’s stupid that I have to be there. I’ll probably be early and no one else will be there.

Dad: Jonah! I do not like the way you’re talking. You stop building or I will take down your whole fort!

Jonah: Dad, no!

Dad: Then just do what you’re supposed to do.

Jonah: Fine! (Jonah kicks down the fort and hits things as he leaves to go change.)


How It Could Go When

When A Child Won’t Do Something They’re Supposed to Do 


Scenario: Jonah’s dad told him that he was supposed to stop building his fort at 4:30 so he could get ready for soccer practice. However, when his dad checks on Jonah at 4:35 he is still making his fort. 

Dad: Jonah! It’s 4:35!

Jonah: So?


[expand title=”CALM”]

Jonah’s dad is frustrated that Jonah pretends he doesn’t know the significance of the fact that it’s 4:35. Jonah had previously acknowledged that he needed to stop at 4:30.

However, he also knows that insisting Jonah is wrong will not get him out the door. So he calms himself down and focuses on understanding why Jonah didn’t stop at 4:30. [/expand]


Dad (walks to where Jonah is and says): Soccer.

Jonah: Aw Dad, I’m right in the middle of this.

Dad: I see that. That’s a really cool roof. And I can tell you’re building the wall right there.


[expand title=”CONNECT”]

Instead of telling Jonah why he should be getting ready for soccer instead of focusing on the fort, he takes a moment to get into Jonah’s world with him. He recognizes Jonah’s work because he knows Jonah will be less resistant if he respects Jonah’s point of view. [/expand]


Jonah: Yeah. That’s why I don’t want to stop.

Dad: I can understand that. I wish we could stay longer so you can finish it.

Jonah: I can!

Dad: Actually, we’ll be late if you do. But since you’re right in the middle of building that part…

Jonah: Yeah?

Dad: So that you don’t forget what you were building, do you want to tell me your plans while we’re in the car?

Jonah: Yeah, so I was going to…

Dad: Wait one sec. Go get dressed first and then I can’t wait to hear.

Jonah: OK (he walks off to get dressed).


[expand title=”CORRECT STEP 1″]

Jonah’s dad realized that transition from something engaging to getting dressed was difficult for him. Therefore, he was able to help him transition out by getting into his world with him and helping him transition out of that world by letting him talk about it as they walked to get dressed. When he found the “need” under the behavior, he was able to give him a tool to be successful. [/expand]


…And if Jonah STILL won’t stop to go get dressed:

  • Jonah’s dad needs to re-state his boundary: “It is time to get dressed.”
  • Jonah needs get upset and let out his Yuck, ideally using healthy Yuck Release Strategies
  • While Jonah is letting out his Yuck, his dad doesn’t need to do much… if he wants Jonah to get through his Yuck Release more quickly, he will show him that he can handle his disappointment when he sets a boundary.
  • Once Jonah has released his Yuck, he will be able to act responsibly and do what he needs to do.


[expand title=”CORRECT STEP 2″]

Jonah’s dad recognizes that Jonah will NOT act positively, think rationally, solve problems while in Yuck.

He needs to release his Yuck so that he can get out of his “defiant” state and do the next thing he needs to do.   [/expand]



How to Make the In-the-Moment Strategy Work


The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to be able to handle the situation when your child won’t do what they’re supposed to do, remember:


[expand title=”Depositing into CALM”]

Jonah’s dad will not be able to stay calm if

a.) his own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low or

b.) he has the expectation that Jonah can stop doing what he’s doing when he’s fully engaged in it (and has no way of knowing what time it is)

When he makes sure his own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Jonah’s dad is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CONNECT”]

Jonah’s dad will only be able to connect if

a.) he respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) he understands those reasons (in this case, Jonah will have a hard time transitioning from something he is engaged in).

When he becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, he will be able to connect more effectively.

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CORRECT”]

Jonah’s dad will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool of

a.) He has demonstrated consistently in the past that he means what he says when he tells Jonah to get dressed. (If Jonah thinks he can get out if that somehow, he will try.)

b.) He has made enough deposits into Jonah’s emotional needs that setting this boundary doesn’t put him immediately into Yuck.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior. [/expand]