Kid Activities
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Don't Ask Kids "Why?"

October 24, 2009 18:01 by Barbara Shelby


Thought of the Month

Don"t ask children "Why" they did something! Instead find out--"What's the problem?"


This is a topic that could be covered in depth; however, as Kid Activities "Thoughts of the Month" go, it is a brief tip page...a reminder for us when dealing with challenging issues of children and inappropriate behavior.


 When a child behaves inappropriately in some way, often the first words out of our mouth is "Why did you_____?!"

First... Frequently, the child doesn't know why he/she did it! If you ask you may get an--
    • I don't know...
    • I wanted to...
    • The dog did it; Tom did it; I knew he would do it first; etc, etc, etc.


Second: When a child gives you a reason, it validates the behavior. He gave you a reason--so this now makes it O.K.

Children start to develop excuse-making habits as soon as parents/caregivers begin asking them the question: "Why did you do that?" 

At first it is quite innocent;  however, as children get older they often begin to use excuses and blaming in order to avoid being held accountable for inappropriate behavior. This isn't something we want kids to take into adulthood. We want them to take ownership and responsibility for actions.

 • Children don't want to get blamed for something ...

They don't want a consequence...

They don't want to face disapproval

Whatever the problem, implement appropriate behavioral management. There are so many things that could make us want to ask "why". Depending on the behavior we could instead...

• Talk about the behavior. If the child needs to cool down-have them do so-- and then say something such as "I saw what happeded. Now let's talk about it."

• Investigate--see what's going on; what happened-and what happened before that!

Use redirection

Remove the child from the area

Use natural or logical consequences--Example: Susan tore up someone's paper, she needs to fix it.

Is conflict resolution needed?

Don't ask "Why?" Let's get into the habit of saying,
"What's the problem"?  It will help children learn to identify the thing they actually want to work on or change.


 #Third...Asking "why" -- may tell the child you don't have a clue! Humorous but true!

You may also be interested in Why NOT to make kids say they're sorry!




September 15, 2009 19:34 by Barbara Shelby


Who doesn't know a child or two who whines?! This is one of the most prevalent irritants to adults, as well as one of the most simple to handle. With some children, it can become a major issue.

 Whining develops into a habit because it gets attention. It's a learned behavior. It's most prevalent from ages two to four, but can last longer. Children have needs and whining can develop as a communication form to get those needs met. How long it lasts depends on how the adults in the child's life handle it. 


 Some Quick Tips:

How do we take care of it?  By simply refusing to respond to it.

• If a child is not ill or suffering from a speech impediment or handicap that makes it difficult to speak--ignore it! If the whining child's basic needs are being met, tell the child you will not respond to whining.

Most children will stop when you say something such as, "I can't understand you unless you talk to me." "Tell me what you want". Or "I don't like it when you talk to me like that. If you want a cookie, say it like this..." Then model the exact tone and words you want the child to use.

In severe cases, you may need to tell a child to go and whine in another room and when they are ready to talk, you'll be happy to listen to them. On a personal note, I've had the experience with one child (grandchild, age 3) who got into the habit of whining. When she started speaking to me, I calmly said, "I want to hear your 'Sarah voice'-not the whining voice." In this case, it worked after the third reminder. I seldom hear the whine anymore. Sarah (not real name) learned the difference between a whining tone and a regular speaking tone. (We also need to be good role models ourselves--and keep the whine out of our own voices!)

Give tons of attention when behavior is appropriate. Kids crave attention-and they quickly learn what works to get it! Give attention to appropriate and positive behavior, not to behavior that is undesirable!
Barb Shelby


You may also be interested in  Building a Child's Self-Esteem  which also incudes "How to Praise a Child"...


What to do when a Child Curses

August 25, 2009 22:52 by Barbara Shelby

Thought of the Month 

 Cursing among kids is more prevalent today than ever before! In a recent survey, four out of five teachers said that student's behavior was worse than ever; children as young as three are using bad language. Fortunately, it is a problem that can be addressed in your home, program or classroom.

 • Keep your cool when kids use bad words. Think for a moment before responding. Children are finding their place in the world. They are going through...What can I do? What can't I do? (And even...What can I get away with?) Some children may curse to see what kind of a reaction they will get from you. Even a very young child who doesn't know the meaning of the word may simply use it because it is known to shock adults. It may also have received attention in the past.

 If you stay calm and control your reaction, you take away the shock value of the swear word and render it ineffective. The young child may forget the incident and entirely forget the word. If the child is older, calmly but firmly say "It's not Ok to use that word here."

• Make a game of it and offer alternatives! After isolating the word(s) used, encourage children to think of appropriate alternatives. Start off with some substitutes; you can say words such as "shoot!" "darn" "phooey"... Next challenge the child to come up with other alternatives. This is especially effective if the child is cursing from frustration and trying to express an emotion. If this is the case, say I see that you're upset, but the word you used bothers people. Hopefully you'll be hearing "fudge" or "rats" in the future!

• If your are working with children and none of this works -- and the words continue in the future, tell the child you will need to talk to their parent about the inappropriate language. This consequence in itself may squash the verbiage.

•  If you are a parent, silence the source. Make a point of setting up 'house rules' where everyone must use acceptable vocabulary in front of the kids. Children model the language and behavior of those around them-be sure your home is a haven of words you want your child to use.

 If the words are coming from television or video games-consider censoring what is being watched and played. You can activate your TV's V-chip-as well as control computers. Is it coming from a friend or school? Talk to the child's teacher or parent.

•  Reward positive behavior by noticing when a child stops cursing. When you hear a 'substitute' word being used instead of the 'real' word,'  notice it and remark "Ahh, you didn't use the bad word--good for you." Receiving attention for appropriate behavior  goes far in reinforcing change.

 As a side note-also watch for children using words such as stupid, dumb, gay, retarded, etc. when referring to people! These words are also inappropriate and extremely mean and hurtful! Teach children they are NOT OK to use...

Barb Shelby