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

"To win without fighting is best"

A better alternative to "consequences" or "punishment" for getting your kids to listen to you.

This morning, I was fighting with my son about my "unfair" rule of no TV before school.

After dropping him off at school, I was still upset and angry, so I opened my copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general who lived about 2500 years ago. He wrote the The Art of War to teach other generals how to win wars.

I read it when I am upset after fighting with my kids. It calms me.

One of the most important lessons that Sun Tzu teaches is that the best way to win a to prevent the war in the first place.

"To win without fighting is best."

Sun Tzu - The Art of War

Reading this quote this morning made me think of something that Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta shared when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Dr. Chelsey is an expert at educational neuroscience, social emotional learning, educational equity, and building calm, cooperative family relationships.

And just like ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, Dr. Chelsey also recommends that the best way to get your child to listen to you, to "win the war of cooperation," is to not fight.

That doesn't mean that you can't be strict or have firm boundaries. It just means that instead of thinking of better ways to punish your child, you start thinking of better ways to understand them.

Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta explained it this way:

You can hold just as firm of a boundary with positive language as you can with threats, or with consequences, or anything like that.

So, I want to make sure that I’m always asking “What does this child need in order to move more easily through the morning? What kinds of experiences do they need?”

Not, “What kinds of consequences do they need to get out the door?” I’m just asking myself “Why this?”, and “Why right now?”, and “What do they actually need?” Do they need the home to be quieter? Do they need me to be closer? Do they need to do some of the getting ready in the evening? Do they need a picture board?

I just want to flip the frame, so it’s not like “They’re not listening.” It’s like, “Oh, we’re going to figure this out, but we might need to switch things up a little bit.” It’s usually more about the parent than it is about the child.

Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

In the full interview with Dr. Chelsey, she shares a technique she calls "Re-casting" that you can use to correct your child's behavior in a positive way, without drawing attention to their negative behavior.

She also explains why using "Re-casting" allows you to move away from nagging, and helps improve your relationship with your child, making it easier to get them to listen in the future as well.