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Changing your "Why?" to "How" can help your parenting!
Parenting Power Admin March 14, 2013 No Comments

Changing your “Why?” to “How” can help your parenting!

Three little letters

Doesn’t seem like much – three little letters. Three little letters can make a big difference in our daily lives. In his book, WOW A Handbook for Living, Zen Ohashi shares, “When a problem occurs, it is only natural to look for the reason why.”


As parents, we may ask that question a lot.

Why did you hit your brother?

Why won’t you do your homework?

Why aren’t you listening to me?

Why can’t I make my child do this?

Why am I such a bad parent?

Why is my kid showing such disrespect?

There are no shortage of why questions? The answers though, may be beyond our grasp OR at least beyond our vision, especially if we are emotional when asking them.

“Why?” is one of the least effective parenting questions one can ever ask. Many kids will respond with, “I don’t know.” It is pretty unlikely that you are going to hear a child express, “Well, I’m feeling a little low today, I didn’t quite get enough protein at lunch, my friend punched me on the bus and I’m a really mean little kid.” Most of the time, they don’t know.

So what other three letter word might get us to the change we want to be in the situation? Zen Ohashi suggests, “Instead [of why], when a problem presents itself, the first thing to do is to begin the habit of saying HOW.” In parenting, this can make a big difference.

How can I (we) change this behaviour?

How can we get the homework done without an argument?

How can I change what I’m saying to stop that from happening again?

How am I going to make it happen?

Once we ask that question, we have hope. There is forward movement (which is all any of us have anyway). It’s ok to take information from the past: we get in a fight about homework regularly. My nagging isn’t working. Then we move to a place of responsibility: How am I going to do this differently? How do I want this to look?

We can also use this three letter word with our children:

“How else can you talk to your sister so she will want to help you?

“I want one thing and you want another , how can we solve this problem?”

“How can we get from a food-covered table to a table where we can play cards?”

“How can we get you from a place of panic to a place of confidence in math?”

Even if we don’t know all of the answers to the “how” questions, we can usually find the first step on the path to the answer. One step at a time works.

How can we stop this argument from happening over and over again?
I can stop by asking the same question I ask every afternoon that starts the argument
I can imagine how else the situation could play out (HOW do I want this situation to work?)
I can ask my child how she wants the situation to work
I can offer my child a new script
I can clarify expectations and consequences
I can take the time to teach how I want it to look
I can reach out to those not blinded by the emotion to guide me with more efficient strategies.

One little three letter word -How can lead to many different answers, moving us from a place of victim to a place of responsibility.

Three little words: Why versus How… So simple…


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