The Power of “Let’s”

Nobody likes to take orders, no matter how old they are. But let’s face it – in every family, someone has to be in charge, decide what needs doing, and then dole out the duties. When it comes to how successfully those orders are received though, a lot depends on how they are given.

While children are growing, they work on developing self control and self discipline. It isn’t an instinctual thing and it takes years of effort to grow those skills. In the meantime, watching T.V. or playing outside has way more immediate payoff than, say, doing homework or cleaning up a messy room.

So it’s not too surprising that when you say, “Get your room picked up!” or “Go get dressed,” your small fry might try to put it off – and off — for minutes to hours. Right? And then what do we do? Sometimes we shout. Sometimes we nag. Sometimes we give up. Almost always we resent the lack of jump-to-it-ness that we were hoping for and end up feeling frustrated.

We have another idea that you might like to try. We’ve found that when it comes to giving commands, you get a better result when you employ a little psychology – and that involves invoking the magic of “let’s.”

It’s a technique that is brilliant in it’s simplicity and it works. For real! Don’t believe us? Okay, well, next time, instead of shouting out the order, “Go do your homework!” try “Let’s get you set up for your homework.” Instead of, “Go get in the tub!” try, “Let’s get going on bathtime.”

The word “let’s” changes the command from one that involves your child alone, to one that involves the two of you together.  It doesn’t mean that you are taking on what should be his responsibility, it only suggests that you will be involved. And that can be in a small or large way, depending on his age and level of ability, which is totally appropriate.

It also makes the chore, whatever it is, sound less overwhelming and more fun. Little ones love to CO-operate and are usually quick to take you up on your offer, even if it means they have to stop doing something else they like. That’s just how cool they think YOU are!

When you start to use “let’s,” the focus is on helping them learn how to disengage from one thing and reengage with another; how to be responsible for their own care; and how to participate in household tasks – instead of a battle of wills. And the job gets done with a more willing attitude.

Isn’t that what you were going for to begin with? After a while, new skills are learned and healthy habits locked in. So go on, mamas and give “let’s” a try – you’ll love the results!



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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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