Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Movie Night Fight

How to speak in the "language of your kids" to get them to listen to you.

Every Sunday, we try to have a family movie night.

I say try, because every now and then it ends up in disaster with everyone angry at each other.

Yesterday was one of those ones.

You see, it was my turn to pick the movie. "No Frozen or Super Mario Bros tonight," I decided.

So I made the mistake of picking one of my favorite family movies, 1964's Mary Poppins.

But poor Mary didn't even have time to umbrella fly in before the trouble started...

"I don't like this movie, it is scary," my 6 year old son started.

"Mary Poppins is not scary, honey. Look, there is Mary Poppins sitting on the cloud."

"No, it is scary. You can't pick scary movies," my son said, not even looking at the TV.

"I can, because it is my turn to pick a movie," I replied. I was not going to back down, I decided.

"I want to pick the movie," he decided...

And so started our movie night fight, to the orchestra accompaniment of "A Spoon Full of Sugar".

Although we didn't end up watching Mary Poppins (or any movie for that matter), the incident did remind me about something that Karen Thurm Safran shared when I spoke to her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Karen is the author of Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It, and in the interview she shared her “Mary Poppins mindset” for finding the fun in every chore.

Karen also spoke about why kids resist when you ask them to do something, and how to "speak in their language" by using playfulness to get them to cooperate.

If you’re like Mary Poppins, and you make a game of it, then all of a sudden, you’re speaking their language. It’s kind of like going to Italy and trying to talk to someone when you don’t know Italian. If you learn the language, then you can communicate. It’s the same with kids: you want to speak their language, and their language is play.

Karen Thurm Safran

What I really liked about the interview is Karen's practical tips for finding fun things to do in boring activities, and how she used to turn boring activities into games for her kids.