PURIM Unmasked

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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

Dear Frustrated,

Yes, it is extremely important to understand what this behavior indicates about the child’s need, and we will explore that here. At the same time, it is extremely important for him to be able to accept authority. Let your children know that people who are able to accept authority are happier than people who believe they should be allowed to do whatever they want. Ask them if they ever saw an angry man in a store yelling at people because things weren’t working out as he wished. Clearly, this man struggles to be happy. When people know that it’s actually good for their growth as a human being to “accept a no,” it makes it much easier for them to accept.

Now, what is your child’s need? Generally, when a child struggles to accept authority he has a deep need for independence. He most likely wants to feel that you think he is super capable of making great decisions. In order to fill that need, ask his advice about things. If you are shopping for paper in Staples ask him what type he thinks would be best. If you are planning a Sunday outing, ask him what his thoughts are, etc. He must feel that you value his opinions. The more he feels that way, the easier it will be for him to comply.

I will offer you two specific strategies that help increase compliance, specifically for children who struggle with authority:

1   Use the words, “Show me how you…” when your child
      is having a hard time listening. 

For example:

“Show me how your face is calm.” (when child is being overly silly)

“Show me how you ask kindly for a snack.” (when child is asking disrespectfully)

“Show me how you put this piece of paper in the garbage.”

“Show me how you put your pajamas on within 3 minutes.”
(then set a timer)

When you use the words “show me” it helps direct the child towards very specific behaviors, which is exactly what the child needs.

 2  Use the “Get a Commitment” strategy before asking your child to
     engage in a difficult behavior. All people are more likely to keep
      their word after they’ve given a commitment.

For example:

If you know that your child struggles to sit at the dinner table, ask him or her first if he thinks he will be able to stay seated until he finishes his corn. If the child answers, “yes” you have just increased the chances of cooperation astronomically!

Try to combine understanding the child’s needs with using effective strategies, and you are on the right road to a much calmer family life with him and all your children.


Dear Tammy,

I have 4 children, and 3 of them listen to adults pretty nicely. My 8-year-old, who is my second child, has such a hard time listening. I’ve taken many parenting courses, so I know that my goal shouldn’t be just to get him to listen, but rather to understand what he needs. It’s just that it is really disruptive to everyone else when he gets into these modes of saying, “No.” I would appreciate any advice you have.


Frustrated Mother of Four