Do I ask too much of my kids?

187 days of not yelling, 178 days of loving more to go! 

Dear Sarcasm,

While I love you, and oh do I love you, the truth is you often hide something really deep that I need to look at. My post the other night about how to get my kids to listen to me was a perfect example. In the middle of writing that sarcastic rant about the challenges of getting my kids to listen to me (read here), I had a deep thought, a few questions really. And these questions kept pestering me to think about them these last few days so tonight, I had to give it a go. I had to go deep and not hide under you. See you soon though I am sure…

The Orange Rhino


In all my questioning of how to get my boys to listen to me better, in all my reading of how to get my boys listening to me better, never once did I read, or stop and think…

Do I ask my boys to listen too much? Or in other words,

Do I ask my boys to do too much?
Do I ask so much that they are tired of having to listen to me request them to do things?
Do I ask so much of my boys that when I speak all they hear is “blah blah blah, blah blah?”

Because I have to admit. I ask my boys to do a lot. Not just expectations, but actions, behaviors. In fact, I don’t think I stop asking them to do things all day. Don’t play guns. Don’t say mean words. Don’t hit. Don’t push. Don’t spit. Stop when someone says stop. Clear you plate at meal time. Stay at the table at meal time. Try to make your bed. Try to clean your room. Please put your shoes away. Please don’t leave toys on the stairs. Please don’t slam doors. Please use your inside voice. Please come here for a second. Please put your toys down it’s time to leave.  Can you help me with this? Can you help me with that?

Oh. My. God.

I am tired just writing out all the things I ask them to do. I get tired just thinking of all the times I ask them to stop what they are doing in order to listen to me so that they can do what I WANT. WHEN I WANT IT. HOW I WANT IT.

Shoot, I would get tired of having to listen to me talk all day. Wait, I DO get tired of listening to myself talk. I DO get tired of giving “directions” all day long. I know my job as a parent is to teach my sons, to guide them how to become good sons, good brothers, good friends, good neighbors, good people all around and with that does unfortunately come a lot of requests on my part and a lot of listening on their part.


And I know that many of the things I ask do need to be heard, do need to be listened to, do need to get done.

But still…

Maybe, just maybe, my sons have a hard time “listening” because I truly ask too much, because I bombard them all day long with requests, instructions and expectations about how to act? Maybe my sons have a hard time “listening” because they are simply OVERLOADED with information from me and opt to tune me out because they both need and want a break?

I mean gosh, there is a list of 10 actions, JUST 10, that I could do (supposedly) in order to have children that listen better (read here). Just 10 things and I feel too bothered to be bothered to do all 10, to remember all 10. And I am an adult!

For my boys, the list of things I ask them to do is a heck of a lot more than 10. It’s more like a 50. And I bet if I actually tracked it, it would be more like 100.

I know how 10 items makes me feel.
I can only imagine how 100+ items makes my kids feel. And they are kids. KIDS!

So truly, I have to stop and think, am I ASKING MY KIDS TO DO TOO MUCH? Too much so that when I do speak, they tune me out because they are tired of listening and having to respond…again for the umpteenth time that day?

As I think about it I think the answer is NO. Wait, YES.

NO a lot of what I ask is necessary and part of becoming a responsible, nice, respectful, loving, good person, being asked to do things, lots of things, it’s part of the territory of being a kid. But at the same time….

YES they are just kids and listening is hard work for them…um, it’s hard work for me as a quasi-adult! I could afford to not get so miffed when they don’t listen. I could afford to take it less personally, to be more empathetic and to remember how much I ask of them AND how much they already do! I could afford to lighten up a bit, to stay focused on the big items I want them to listen to and respond to but perhaps stop nagging about the small items.

I could afford to, no I WILL, try to stop and ask myself more often, is my request necessary? Can I chill out? Can I let my kids be kids? And maybe, just maybe, if I chill out and ask less of my kids, they will listen better when I do ask. It’s a fine line, asking too much of my kids and asking too little, but it’s a line I need to explore because I have a hunch that I am too much on the too much side.

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7 thoughts on “Do I ask too much of my kids?

  1. Very much agree with this, and it something that has also been on my mind. I am trying to be more conscious about editing myself in giving corrections, making requests, issuing orders 🙂 etc… because it occurred to me that part of becoming nice, responsible, productive adults is managing themselves and learning through cause/effect and consequence. It’s the old saying- you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. I’m starting to think that to be a better parent, I have to get out of the way a bit and let them figure out that they are thirsty on their own.

    • Yes learning through cause/effect is so important. As I watch one of my boys constantly do something that will definitely keep him from having friends I think, I can only tell him so much. One day, sadly, he’ll experience it himself and realize he should change his behavior.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. I have had this “ah ha” moment too! I find myself (often times after the fact) telling myself “don’t sweat the small stuff.” I may not stop myself every time, but if I repeat that then I hope to at least stop myself next time and the time after. It can be hard to not react by the end of the day when you have spent all day reacting to one thing or another. Your suggestion of taking pictures has been a long time tactic for me! I love photography and I find I laugh more after I take a picture of whatever they are doing. Taking a picture breaks away that “yell” moment and allows a mellow moment to talk to my child about what happened and why we shouldn’t do it again.


  3. This. Is. Me.
    Wow, I can’t tell you what a breather it is to see that you struggle with this, too – and how you put such good words to verbalize this. I know other mothers must struggle with this, too. THANK YOU for writing this. It is another game-changer for me.
    I must ask: why do you think we ask so many things and get so fired up about little stuff – why do we shoot orders or criticism or requests to them left and right?
    Personally speaking, I think I do it when I feel a lack of control – whether it be about myself, or my marriage, or anything. That’s when I become the dictator parent and start shooting out orders of do this, do that, don’t do this or that.
    Does that resonate with anyone?

  4. Yes, kids are being kids but the problem I encountered today (my first major stumble of the week) is that I’m tired of always being mom. I’m a stay at home mom which means I’m on the clock 24/7. Constant pinging of kids being kids. I do try and take breaks of various sorts but the reality is that I’m dealing with them most of the day and it is not their fault that I just want it all to stop for moment to let me think without another child coming at me with their needs. By evaluating my triggers and realized what causes them, I feel I can eliminate some of the stressors by expecting the result and changing things before it gets to that point.

  5. So I don’t really feel like I succeeded yesterday. I didn’t yell, but my goal was more to quit sniping (since I got actual yelling under control several years ago). This has been really difficult since my kids are out of school. But last night I read something about how we put expectations on our kids that are for adults – which is what you are saying, I guess I just needed to hear it differently. She (Glennon Doyle Melton) also said that she puts a paper bag over her head when she gets frustrated with her kids (she keeps them on all levels of her house). It closes her in and helps her concentrate on her breathing. I think I am definitely going to try that. It seems like something that would snap me out of my stress & frustration. I am also going to put up orange rhinos in my house that say things like “kids are just kids, they are not adults” to help me keep that forefront and center. What really got me yesterday was that my son was upset & scared by a movie (in a theater) that wasn’t scary but he started screaming so I took him out. We had to stay out for the remainder (about 40 mins). Instead of comforting him, which I should have done, I was annoyed, frustrated, stressed & embarrassed so sat on my phone while he “played” the arcade games. I knew I was wrong, but when I read those words later I realized I was expecting him to behave like an adult, and he is not. He’s five, and he is sensitive by nature. I failed, and what gets me is that he really just needed comfort and I denied him because I was annoyed (and embarrassed). I need to put all those feelings aside and instead focus on the fact that my kids are not adults, therefore will not behave as such. I am trying this today, since yesterday I couldn’t find something that I knew would stick and since I didn’t practice at all.

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