There is a question that many parents ask their children. And it’s a question that rarely gets a satisfactory answer. The question is “Why did you do that?” This question is often uttered when reacting to a behavior that is of concern to a parent. When I hear this question asked to children, I usually hear one of three responses. The most common response is “I don’t know”. The next most common response is an excuse (e.g. “She did it first!”). Then sometimes it just instantly turns the child to tears or a tantrum. I don’t think I have ever heard a response to this question that could be deemed as positive. Most parents don’t ask this question really expecting a great answer. It’s a question asked usually because the parent just isn’t sure what else to say. I recommend to parents that instead of focusing on the prior behavior that has already occurred, they should focus on future behavior plans. So instead of “Why did you push your sister?”, a parent could ask “What’s your plan for next time when your sister frustrates you?”. Instead of asking “Why did you drop cereal all over the floor?”, you could ask “What’s your plan for next time when you pour your own cereal for breakfast?” and instead of asking “Why didn’t you do your homework?”, you can ask “So what’s your plan for next week’s spelling homework?” Focusing on the future rather than the past makes for a more positive interaction and also helps improve behavior.
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