These Aren’t the Cookies You’re Looking For…

21 Jan

Last summer I enjoyed a father-son camping trip with two of my friends. As I kicked back next to the fire tossing an occasional potato chip and jerky strip to my son, I listened to the conversation with our boys.

Do you want some pasta?


Do you want some juice?


Should we go check out the lake?




It’s almost sleepy time. Ok?


My mate put it best when he said, “I’ve never been so rejected in my life.”

I’ve been a Dad for almost four years and I’m starting to understand that giving my boys too many choices or phrasing everything as a question isn’t fair to them. I’m not talking about being a military sergeant or not giving them choices. It’s just easy to be too accommodating or to have a ‘keep the peace’ attitude all the time. My boys need to know how the real world works. I don’t get an insurance bill in the mail that says, “Pay this amount when you can. Ok?” Seriously, I bet if you put a quarter in a jar every time you say ok? to your toddler that you’d have enough for a bottle of bourbon in three days.

Get in the car ok?

Here’s some toast ok?

We are leaving soon ok?

Put on your shoes ok?

It’s a proven fact that a toddler’s brain is wired to be selfish. Asking instead of telling gives them more power to be selfish. We’ve all seen it. Kids reject stuff they like because you’ve given them a choice. I think having a tone where they constantly have a choice confuses and actually overwhelms them.  Giving them power and empowering is part of our jobs as parents but sometimes it’s simply time for bed, time to eat, and time to put on their damn shoes. Last year I toned down the questions and the use of ok, and it seems to be working. I know parenting like marriage is fluid and ever-changing so who knows, a different attitude and tactic may be called upon in this next year. Maybe some Obi Wan and a little Skywalker?

You will eat this bagel. You will eat it now.

We are leaving. We are leaving now.

These aren’t the cookies you are looking for.

And if all else fails—gas ’em!

* * *

Ryan Chin is the creator of Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows, a multimedia memoir about his teaching experience in New Zealand.  The book is available on Amazon, iTunesand locally at Powell’s Books.



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