I need – I Want

I need/I want:  The power phrases “I need” and “I want” will help you provide guidance. Tell the kid exactly how you want him to act. You don’t necessarily have to put “I need” or “I want” in front of it, but keep it in your brain because it helps you focus on the action you want to see. Examples:   

  • (I need) bottom on the chair, feet on the floor.
  • (I need) quiet feet, quiet mouth, hands to yourself.
  • (I want) eyes on me.
  • (I want you to) put the game controller down and get your shoes on because it’s time to go.

It’s not time to:  Use this power phrase to redirect an action and help with transitions. I use this frequently with transitions for younger kids.  “It’s not time to play with the snake; it’s time to go back to class”.  Or if you’re running late and the child is focused on fixing his broken army man, you say, “it’s not time to fix your army guy, it’s time to go to school. We can work on that first thing when we get home”.  Or if the kid has her nose buried in a handheld game, you say, “it’s not time to play your game. It’s time to eat dinner”. 

This is where I jump up and down about a schedule and chore chart. There needs to be certain times of day set aside for electronics, television, homework, play – all of it.  You and I both know he’ll keep his head buried in video games all freaking day if you don’t limit the use. Set one hour a day (the same time everyday!!!) for your child to do the electronic stuff. Don’t wimp out about the consistency and discipline.  He WILL stop playing when time is up. Otherwise, I guarantee there will be fights over “You never let me play!” or “I’m just about to finish level ten – don’t mess me up” or “I promise I’ll do my homework later”! 

With a set schedule, the kid knows exactly what to expect.  It puts limits on demands, gives him responsibility, teaches organization and prioritizing skills, and gets him out of that electronic funk! There is definite value to the hand-eye coordination and strategy skills honed by games, but there is more to life than that!! If you have a kid that resists transitions and fights you on anything he doesn’t want to do, SET UP A SCHEDULE AND CHORE CHART!!! You probably need it even more than he does! Get with it.  When you have a schedule, it’s super easy to say, “it’s not time to,” without arguments. The child knows the routine, knows what to expect, and knows you will be consistent.

Don’t worry about it:  Ooooh, mercy. Kids are always getting their undies in a bunch about what other kids are doing. “He’s looking at my cards!”  “She’s not standing in line.”  “He’s supposed to be doing math, not reading a comic.” It gives me a headache just thinking about it.  And my pat answer: “Don’t worry about what he’s doing” or simply, “Don’t worry about it.”  Cut off the concern and don’t engage the comment. If it’s something that needs to be addressed, pull the other kid aside later, but don’t dive head first into the busybody, I-don’t-like-what-he’s-doing game. Who the heck has time?   

He/She doesn’t have to:  This power phrase is a constant for me. “She’s not playing with me!”  “She won’t share!” Well guess what.  “She doesn’t have to!!”  Life isn’t all about you and your wants.  Give it a rest.  So I’m constantly explaining, “She doesn’t have to play dolls with you”.  “She’d like some alone time and you need to respect that.” This one is especially important with siblings because they need to learn how to respect each other.  “Yes, you don’t like it when sibs don’t want to do what you want to do, but that’s life! Get used to it!”

Just remember to provide parental guidance and flip it around for the upset kid. Explain, “remember yesterday when Julie was bothering you to play?  You wanted some time to do your puzzles, right? Would you have wanted me to make you stop and go play with her?”  Get that dialogue going and get them to see another point of view.  Turn it around so they understand how it would affect them if the tables were turned.  They can abstract, but you still have to give constant examples so they can piece it together and learn.

It’s okay if:  This power phrase is similar to “don’t worry about it?” and “he doesn’t have to.”  Use it when you want to provide a better explanation. “It’s okay if she likes pineapple on her pizza. We don’t need to make fun of it.”  Or, “It’s okay if he needs scrap paper to work out his math problem.” Or, for younger kids, “It’s okay if he pours sand on the grass. He’s a guest, and it won’t hurt anything.”