When asking a child to do something positive, like go to bed or to stop doing something negative, like whining, some mothers and fathers routinely attach the word “OK?” to the end of their response.
It sounds like this:
“It’s time for bed now, honey. OK?”
“I want you to stop whining and use your big girl voice, OK?”
This is bad practice. Why?
First of all, there’s no need for the extra comment. Requests should be kept simple, short and straightforward.
Second, the “OK?” is not a benign comment, it’s a troublemaker. The “OK?” communicates to the child that the parent is anxious about whether or not the youngster is going to cooperate.
Kids can sense this anxiety in their parent’s voice immediately, even though the child may be only two or three years old. The “OK?” tells the child right away that the parent is vulnerable and unsure of herself or himself.
Third, the troublesome “OK?” implies that at this point the child has a choice in the matter.
Now how many kids like to go to bed at night or actually want to stop whining? Not very many.
So combine the kid’s natural aversion to cooperating with the parent’s uncertainty and what do you get? You get the potential for a bad scene complete with arguing, yelling and tantrums.
So next time you want a child to cooperate and you need to make a simple request, DO NOT put “OK?” on the end of it!