Expert Parenting Advice
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Why the obvious answer is often wrong

Why the obvious way of getting your kids to cooperate often backfires and just makes the situation worse.


Rmhermen at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was reading about Richard Buckminster Fuller this morning.

He was an American inventor and philosopher, and was called "one of the greatest minds of our times."

One of the things he designed is a light-weight house design he called the Dymaxion House. This house looked almost like a dome, and was designed to be almost entirely self-sufficient, with features like using a central mast that allowed for using natural winds for cooling and air circulation, and a special shower that used fine-mist to preserve water and energy. It was also very cheap to produce and assemble.

All of this back in 1930.

But what caught my attention was a quote from Mr Fuller:

Everything you've learned in school as obvious becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There's not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.

—R. Buckminster Fuller

Because this is something that I've come to realize more and more - the "obvious" solutions are often not the best.

For example, when we interviewed Julie King for our book How To Get Kids To Listen, she explained why the most obvious way of asking your kids to do something is often not the best.

Julie King is the co-author, of two best-selling books: How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7, and, How To Talk When Kids Won't Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance, and Other Challenges of Childhood.

Here's what she said:

Let me start by saying that it seems like the most efficient way to get a child to do something is to tell them directly, "Put your shoes on," "Get in the car," "Leave the cat alone." And the problem is that when we tell them something to do directly, we're working against ourselves because we create resistance.

Kids don't like to be told what to do. In fact, people don't like to be told what to do.


So, the challenge for us as parents is to figure out how do we make it more likely that our kids will want to do what we want them to do without creating more resistance?

Julie King

When you want your kids to do something, the "obvious" solution is just to ask them. But according to Julie, the obvious solution often just builds up resistance, and makes it less likely that your child will listen to you.

In our interview, Julie shares what you should do instead to increase the chance of your kids cooperating with you.

She also shares some very good tips on how to manage your own negative emotions when your children start behaving badly, something that I have gotten a lot of value from.

You can find the full interview with Julie King - How to use playfulness to get your child to cooperate (even when you aren’t feeling playful) - in our ebook How To Get Kids To Listen, available for free download here.