When children resist your requests, there are a variety of parenting tools you can use. Sometimes it is wise to give children limited choices. Other times it works to use “I Messages”.  And sometimes you can set boundaries using the 3 step method outlined below. This is a really great way to ask them to stop what they are doing without getting into a battle. It also validates their child-like need to do certain things like run or yell.

Remember that whatever tool you use to engage cooperation, only say it one, two or three times. It can be easy to say, “I only serve food to people sitting at the table” then switch to one method after another if the first one doesn’t work. In my view, begging or pleading with your child to comply isn’t great. You are in charge. If they don’t listen and this is an important rule to you, then apply a consequence. See “CONSEQUENCES: NATURAL AND LOGICAL” for more on consequences.

How you say it matters. Make sure there is no sarcasm or rudeness in your voice. You are the adult and can self-regulate. Firmness and being respectful are not mutually exclusive.

If you have been repeating yourself a lot until now, you can be honest and say, “Until now, I have repeated myself a lot. I am going to ask just once or twice going forward.” They may not believe you and be surprised when you enforce the limit. The first few times you use this method, they might give you a really hard time. If they start yelling, you can say calmly, “I think you are wondering if screaming will change my mind. I am not changing my mind”.

Children feel safer if you are in charge. They feel this when you say things calmly and assertively- not passively or aggressively.


STEP 1: Acknowledge their feelings.

STEP 2: Tell them the limit

STEP 3: Give them an alternative

Example 1:

Your child won’t come to dinner because they are splashing their hands in the sink.

STEP 1:  “It is fun to play in water.”

STEP 2: “But you must come to dinner now.”

STEP 3: “You can play in the water after dinner.”

Example 2:

Your child is kicking the table at dinner.

STEP 1: “It is fun to  move our legs and even kick things.”

STEP 2: “Stop kicking the table. Feet on the floor.”

STEP 3: “You can go kick a ball outside later.”

Example 3:

Your child is yelling or talking loud.

STEP 1: “It is fun to talk loud.”

STEP 2: “Use your quiet voice inside.” (Model what voice level is appropriate because your child might have a different definition of the word “quiet” than you do.

STEP 3: “You can go outside now and yell. Or you can go outside when we are done and yell.”

If these methods are still not working, your child may be in a revenge mode. Take a look at the  “PARENTING CHEAT SHEET” article. Parenting is much more than getting your child to comply when you want something done. Look at the other articles for rounding out different ways to parent your child.

Forrester, M. & Albrecht, K. SET for Life: Social Emotional Tools for Life