Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s 4 Ways to Change the Habit Your Kids Really Can’t Stand

Parents start off the day by telling their kids what to do (time to get up…make your bed…stop teasing your sister…eat your breakfast…clear your plate, etc…all within the first hour of the morning!). After 10 years, it can be hard to change this mistake parents make, so we just continue this habit, telling their teens and sometimes even their adult children what to do!

To avoid getting stuck in this unattractive controlling type of behavior, try to limit the instructions you give your children. One way to do this is to refrain from saying what doesn’t need to be said.

4 Ways to Change the Habit Your Kids Really Can’t Stand

Here’s how:


1) Don’t repeat instructions you’ve already given.

2) Don’t tell your child to do something he know he has to do or that he regularly does by himself (i.e. don’t remind him to brush his teeth if this is something he does every night automatically).

3) Try to change your direct approach into a passive one on occasion. For instance, instead of saying “You need to pack your lunch tonight,” you could try, “I’m sorry, honey, but I can’t pack your lunch tonight.” Let him figure it out, rather than telling him what has to be done.

4) Finally, just experiment with NOT telling your child what she should do and see what she does herself; if she does the right thing, lay on the praise to reinforce her initiative. If she doesn’t do it, try winking/pointing/handing her something instead of giving her the full verbal instruction. If that’s not possible, use a one-or-two-word reminder rather than a full sentence of bunch of sentences (i.e. “Your cup,” vs. “You need to take your cup off the table and put it in the dishwasher.”). These strategies will still leave you with plenty of instructions to offer, but your sensitivity to the issue will certainly help you in the long run.


About Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych

Sarah Chana Radcliffe, a mother of six children and wife of 40 years, is a psychologist based in Toronto, Canada and author of 8 books including “Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice” (published by Harper Collins) and the most recent “Make Yourself at Home.” She writes a weekly column in Mishpacha Magazine and speaks publicly on these topics.

You can subscribe to receive her posts (such as this) on parenting, marriage, and personal well-being directly by signing up at or by sending an email to

You can also connect to Sarah on her Facebook Parenting Page , where she provides support for the parenting journey, and on Pinterest, Twitter ( and Instagram.


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