Try this little trick to get children to do what you ask

Try this little trick to get your children to do what you ask

If you feel like it’s always a battle to get your children to do the things you ask them to do then I have something interesting for you to try.

A lot of the time the reason children argue back and refuse to do as they’re asked is because they want to assert some control over the situation.  So the trick is to find ways for them to have some choices and some power, while still ultimately getting them to do what you need them to do.

This little trick in particular can increase the chances of your children doing the thing you’re asking them to do.

Try this little trick to get children to do what you ask


The trick is to use what is known as the ‘but you are free’ technique.

Basically this is where you ask your child to do something, then let them know that they’re free to say ‘no’ or do something else.  So if you’d like them to eat the peas on their plate you would say “I’d like you to eat your peas, but you’re free to leave them if you want”


It sounds a bit crazy, but just knowing they have the choice to say ‘no’ will make them more likely to actually do what it is you’d like them to do.

This has been proved time and time again in studies.

In fact a review of 42 different psychology studies, involving 22,000 people, suggested that this technique can double the chances of someone saying ‘yes’ and doing what we ask.


The theory is that when we phrase things like this, using the ‘but you are free’ technique, our children don’t feel as if their freedom to choose is being threatened.  They feel as if they still have the power to choose what to do, and so they’re less likely to push back on what they’re being asked to do.


Try it next time you want your child to tidy up their toys.

Instead of just telling them it’s time to put them away, you say “I would like you to tidy up your toys now, but you’re free to carry on playing”.  You might need to explain a bit about why you’d like them to tidy up now, but chances are they’ll stop playing quite quickly and start tidying up.


Now, it might not work every time.  Like with any parenting technique it depends on all sorts of factors.  Like the task you’re asking them to do, the thing you’re asking them to stop doing, right down to the mood they’re in that day.

But it has to be worth a try doesn’t it!

reasons to be generous

3 psychology-backed reasons to be generous

When you think about your children, what traits would you like them to grow up to have?

I would imagine that ‘kind’ and ‘generous’ are quite high up that list.  These are qualities that we hope they’ll have, to make a positive impact on the world around them, to bring some happiness to other people in their lives.

What’s interesting though is that are lots of benefits to the person being generous too.

Here are 3 psychology-backed reasons we should all be generous more often.

3 psychology-backed reasons to be generous


Being generous makes us happy

Researchers have spent a lot of time looking into what is known as the ‘paradox of generosity‘.

What they’ve found is that, while it might not seem that it would be the case, being generous and giving our time, money and energy to other people can in turn make us feel happier.

A study at Harvard Business school found that being generous and giving causes our brains to release all sorts of feel-good chemicals like endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin.

It really does seem to be true that doing good makes us feel good, and this is built right into our neurochemistry.  It’s a real innate part of being human.


Being generous gives us a health boost

As well as making us feel happier, being generous can also lower our stress and make us healthier.

Researchers have found that when we feel like we’re being tight with our money and time it really stresses us out.  Whereas when we’re more generous our heart rates go down and we feel much calmer.

A study by researchers at Stony Brook University School of Medicine found that being generous can reduce our blood pressure by the same amount as medicine and exercise.

It does more than that though.

Generosity can also help to improve chronic pain management, reduce anxiety and lower the risk of dementia.

Pretty impressive stuff.


Being generous can improve our relationships

It makes sense that when our partners are generous towards us we’ll feel happier, loved and more content in the relationship.

But the person who is being generous tends to feel better in the relationship too.

A study was carried out that looked at generosity and its effect on marriage, and the researchers found that when one person was generous, both they and their partner expressed high levels of marital satisfaction.

So if we want to improve our relationships with our partners, and even our children, we can try being more generous with them.  And this doesn’t have to mean buying them things all the time.  It can involve being more generous with our time, our attention, and our affections.


One thing to remember with this though, is that it can’t be a one time deal.

To really get all the benefits we need to be generous on a regular, on-going basis.  It needs to become a habit and a way of life.


When we’re more generous everyone benefits.

The people who receive our time, money and energy feel good.

We feel good.

And we teach our children a valuable lesson about sharing and generosity.

Be careful with the labels we give our children

Why we need to be careful of the labels we give our children

I had a parent/teacher consultation the other evening, discussing how Rhys is getting on in year 3.

One of the things we talked about was how he sometimes struggles with new pieces of work in class, because he’s not sure if he’ll be able to do them.  He was resistant to try a new piece of maths work recently.  And it was because he didn’t immediately know how to do it.

Once it had been explained to him and he understood what he was meant to be doing he was away.  But there was still this fear initially with him that he would find it too hard.

Which is interesting because he is good at maths.  His brain works in such a way that the order and logic of maths makes sense to him.  He can be quicker than me at times when it comes to doing mental arithmetic questions.

The thing is, I try to be so careful with the way I speak to him about this because I don’t want to just tell him ‘you’re good at maths’.  And this anxiety he’s showing about tackling new areas of maths is exactly why.

Why we need to be careful of the labels we give our children


See, the problem with giving a child a label of ‘good at maths’ is that it puts so much pressure on them to always, well, be good at maths.

They start to feel that they should always be able to do any maths problem easily, because they’re ‘good at maths’.  So if they’re faced with a question that they don’t understand, or don’t know how to solve, they feel bad.  They worry about not living up to this label.


So what I’m trying to make clear to Rhys is that while he may have a natural ability with maths he still needs to learn about it.  He will still find aspects of it hard.  He will still need to work on it and get things wrong sometimes before finding the right answer.

And that all of that is OK.


The impact of labels

The thing with labels though, is that it’s so easy to give them to our children without realising the impact it might have.


If your child is quiet at a birthday party, and wants to stay close to you for a bit rather than jumping straight in to the action, it can be so easy to explain to another parent that they’re just shy.

The problem comes when they hear this about themselves a few times it starts to become part of their story of who they are.  And that can take years to change.

They might miss out on so many fun opportunities because they start to believe that they’re too shy to join in.


So many children might never try something, or discover a new passion, because it doesn’t fit with the label they’ve been given.

The child who is ‘sporty’ might never realise how much they love painting, because it doesn’t match up with the story they tell about themselves as being someone who is active and rough and tumble.

On the other hand the ‘science-whizz’ may not know that they’re actually also really good at rugby, because their label of being academic tells them that sport isn’t for someone like them.


The power of labels

What’s really interesting is the power some labels can have to affect people’s behaviour.

There are some stories on this post about twins that mention the twin who was born first being labelled as a leader, while the second-born twin often gets labelled as being more laid-back.  Now, there is absolutely no reason why the twin who is born first would go on to be leader, the first of the two to try things and so on.  But it does seem that parents often give them this label, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Think about it, if you were told the whole time growing up that you were a leader you most likely would act that way.  You would take the initiative on things, be the one to make the first move and rally other people to follow your lead.  Even if that’s not your nature, you would end up acting that way because that’s the story you’ve been told about who you are.


The issue comes when that story, that label, conflicts with who we really are by nature.

And when we end up pigeon-holed by those labels, and it becomes incredibly hard to break away from them and pursue other interests and show different personality traits.


Encouraging our children without using labels

Once you start thinking about it it can be quite shocking to realise how much we label our children without really thinking about it.

But I don’t think that we need to watch every little thing we say.  None of us are perfect and we can’t expect to never say things to our children that we don’t mean to say.


What we do need to do though is be mindful of the messages we’re sending them on a regular basis.

We need to put the focus on to the effort they put in to their work.  We need to label the behaviour, the actions, the processes, and not the child.

Instead of telling them ‘you’re so good at maths’, we can talk positively about how hard they work to figure out the answers.  We can praise the strategies they use to solve the problems.  This shifts the focus from talents which they might feel they have no control over, to actions that they can work on and use again in the future to tackle different things.


If your toddlers hits another child at playgroup, don’t call them naughty or bad, explain to them that the action of hitting isn’t nice.  A child who is told repeatedly that they’re naughty is really likely to keep doing ‘naughty’ things because that’s who they believe they are.


If your child is good at football, don’t just tell them they’re a great footballer.  Tell them how great it is that they practice their skills all the time.  Talk to them about how they might have a natural flair for the sport but that it’s OK to still find some skills hard to master.  That with practice and perseverance it’ll get easier.


As parents it can really feel like we’re all just a bit doomed at times.  That no matter what we do we have the potential to screw up our children.  And I think we could drive ourselves crazy, worrying about how we word things every time we talk to our children.

So I think it’s important not to be down on ourselves too much about the times we don’t phrase things quite right.  We’re all just doing our best here, figuring it all out as we go along.

The key for me I think is just to try and make sure that the overall message my children hear is that they are so much more than just one trait, one talent, one label.


What are your thoughts on this?  Were you labelled as a child?  Do you think it had an impact on how you acted growing up, or the choices you made?

Get creative to get your children to cooperate with you

Get creative to get your children to cooperate

I think it’s pretty safe to say that every parent out there has battled with their children at some point to cooperate and do what they’re asked.

It might be that you want them to get their shoes on so you can leave the house.  Or brush their teeth before bed.  Or tidy up the toys that they’ve spread all over the living room.

Whatever the particular task is, when your child isn’t in the mood to do it it can be really hard to get them to cooperate.

There is something you can try though that will help make it more likely that they will cooperate with you.

Get creative to get your children to cooperate


If you can make the activity fun, and more like a game, there’s a far better chance your child will cooperate with you on it.


Lets say you have a toddler who doesn’t want to brush their teeth.

You could try to explain how important it is that they do it.  That the tooth fairy will be sad if they don’t look after their teeth.  You could promise them a trip to the park if they do it.  You could get frustrated and end up shouting and then feel bad.

Or you could get creative.

You could tell them a story about pirates that have stolen some treasure and the only way to help the princess get it back is by brushing their teeth.  Or you could come up with a silly tooth-brushing song that you sing each time, with special dance moves to go along with it.


The same thing goes if you want them to tidy up their toys.

Play them a special ‘tidy up time‘ song to make the whole thing more fun.  Or challenge them to see how quickly they can put all their toys back in the basket.  If you can make a game of it, rather than making it a chore, your child will be much more likely to cooperate with you.


You can use this technique for all sorts of things that your children might not always cooperate with you on.

  • Sing a fun song or play upbeat music while they get dressed for school in the morning.
  • Make a game of throwing their dirty clothes into the laundry basket.
  • Play catch as you practice times tables.
  • Tell them a story or act out scenes from their favourite film to keep them walking home from the shops.  We live up a hill and Nerys used to pretend to be Elsa running up the mountain singing ‘let it go’ to make it back to the house without complaining.
  • Challenge them to get their shoes and coat on before a timer runs out.


Whatever it is that you want your child to cooperate with, try to get creative and use your imagination to bring your child into a world of make-believe and play.

I’m not saying they’ll always go along with it.  But by making these tasks more fun there’s a much higher chance that they will cooperate.  And while you might not always be in the mood for singing and playing and being silly, going down that route is pretty much always going to be better than nagging and getting frustrated.

The games don’t need to be complicated, and your stories can be completely nonsensical.  It really doesn’t matter.  As long as your child is having fun and distracted from the reality of the boring task you’re asking them to do you’ll be on to a winner.

Try this trick for saying no to your child without them getting upset

Try this trick to say no to your child without them getting upset

One of the most exhausting parts of parenting toddlers and young children (other than being up half the night with them) is the constant requests.

Requests for snacks.  In particular bowls.  With a drink in that one special cup.

Requests for videos on YouTube.  Not that video.  The one they watched last Thursday.

Requests to go the park.  And the swimming pool.  And to soft play.

Requests for you to read their favourite book with them.  Again.  And again.

Some days it feels like it doesn’t stop.  And while a lot of the time we can happily say ‘yes’ and give them what they’re asking for, sometimes the answer has to be ‘no.

Try this trick to say no to your child without them getting upset


The thing is, children don’t really like hearing the word ‘no’.  It makes them feel upset.  Or angry.  Or both.

Which is valid to be fair.  No one really likes to be told ‘no’.  And if your toddler really wanted a snack in that special red bowl and you said no then they’re bound to be a bit frustrated by that.

There is something you can try though, to say ‘no’ in a way that has a much higher chance of a happy ending for everyone.


The trick is to say ‘no’ without actually saying the word ‘no’.

You can even do it by saying ‘yes’ instead.


What I mean is, if you child asks you for that snack but it’s 5 minutes from dinner time.

Instead of saying, ‘no, dinner’s nearly ready’ you can say ‘yes, but you need to eat your dinner first’.


Or if they are at your feet asking you to read that book to them while you sort the washing out.

You can tell them that yes, you will read the book to them but you need to finish sorting the washing first.  Instead of just giving them a flat ‘no’ or a vague ‘we’ll do it later’.


Even little children will understand if you give them a clear answer of what needs to be done first or instead of the thing they are asking to do.


For the most part anyway.

Of course there’ll be times when they still get upset and angry that you won’t give them what they want straight away.  But wording your responses like this really will keep the odds in your favour that they’ll accept it with less frustration.

Just cutting the word ‘no’ from your response can be enough to stop children from pushing and arguing back.


Do you find it hard to say no to your children?  Do you find they get really upset and frustrated when you do say no?

Give this trick a try and see if it helps you and your family!

Try this one little trick to remember everything you need to take out with you

Never forget things when you leave the house again with this one little trick

Have you ever got to the office and realised that you left your door card or work ID at home?  Or remembered as you arrive at school with the children that you were meant to return a form for something, that is now sitting on the dining room table.

We’re all so busy, with so many thoughts running through our heads and so many important things to keep track of, that it can be so hard to remember everything.

So next time you need to make sure you don’t forget anything important when you head out of the house in the morning, try this one little trick to help you remember everything.

Never forget things when you leave the house again with this one little trick


Write out a list of the things you need to take with you and stick it to the back of your front door.  This way as you head out the door you can scan it quickly and make sure you have everything you need.


There are actually a few ways this can work for you, depending on how forgetful you normally are.

If you’re really quite forgetful and often find once you’re out that you’ve left something at home, then you can write out a list of all the things you generally need to have in your bag and then stick that to the back of the door.

This list might be quite short.  If you’re going to work for example, you might just need to remember your wallet, phone, keys, ID, door card and lunch.

It might be a bit longer if you’re a parent and you’re heading out somewhere with your baby.  In this case your list might include your wallet, phone and keys.  Then it would also have things like nappies, wipes, change of clothes, muslins, bottles, dummy etc.

Whatever you normally need to take out and about with you, put it on the list and then stick it somewhere you can quickly scan it before you leave to make sure you have everything.


If you’re generally pretty good at remembering the regular bits and pieces, but have days where there are extra things you don’t want to forget, then keep a pile of post-its and a pen near the front door.  Then the night before you can note down what you need to remember in the morning and stick the post-it to the back of the door.

This could be things like a permission slip that needs to be taken to school.  Or the book that you promised to lend to a friend.  Or your gym kit if you’re planning on working out during your lunch break at work.


If you’re not a fan of post-its then you could get a little whiteboard or notice board that you can put up in the hallway or by the front door for jotting down reminders.  Or you could even get a magna doodle like the guys had in friends to scribble down one-off things you need to remember.


Whichever way you choose to do it, the principle is the same.

Make a written note of the things you absolutely need to remember to take out with you, and put it somewhere you’re guaranteed to see it before you head out the front door.

A very simple trick I know, but sometimes the simple, obvious ones are the most effective!

Try this to make a new habit stick

Try this one little trick to help a new habit stick

People, in general, are creatures of habit.

Our brains like to use shortcuts to work as efficiently as possible, and this often means we do the same activities in the same way over and over again.  Because they’re easy and familiar and comfortable.  These habits make our lives easier and let our brains focus on other things.

The thing is, it can be so hard to get a habit established in the first place.

If there’s a new habit you’d like to start then try this little trick to help it stick.

Try this one little trick to help a new habit stick


Commit to the new habit for 30 days.

It will take some effort but if you can push yourself to do your new thing every day for about 30 days that should be enough for it to stick and start becoming easier and more automatic.

That first month of conscious effort is all about retraining your brain, forming new neural pathways and conditioning yourself to the new habit.


The trick here is the same as the one I wrote about for getting started with a new exercise routine.  You need to make it as easy as possible for yourself to do the new thing every single day for that first month.

So say, for example, you want to start taking multivitamins.  If you’re not in the habit of taking them it can be really easy to forget to do it.  But if you put the bottle next to the kettle you’ll see it each morning when you go to make a cuppa and be reminded to take one.


Or if you want to drink more water then, again, make it as easy as possible on yourself.

Set a reminder on your phone to go off at regular intervals throughout the day, prompting you to drink a glass of water.  Get one of these water bottles that helps you track how much you’ve drunk so far that day.  If you have a bullet journal then use that to keep a record of how much you’re drinking.  Put a glass or a bottle next to the kettle so if you go to make a coffee you’ll be prompted to have a glass of water first/instead.


It might be a different type of habit that you want to create.

It could be that you want to start painting after years of hiding your creative side.  Again, make a point of drawing or painting something, no matter how small, every day for a month.

You can quite often find challenges on Instagram that will help push you with this one.  And doing it every day will remind you how much you love it, how great it feels to be in the flow of creating.


Chances are once you’ve made it through that tricky first month of establishing a new habit it should start to become easier, and almost second nature.  If it’s a habit you’ve started for the right reasons then you’ll probably find you miss it if you do stop for some reason after a month of doing it every day.


What new habit would you like to introduce to your life? 

Have you tried committing to it every day for at least a month to give it time to stick and really become part of your routine?